Posted: 25 May 2012 01:23 AM PDT
According to a recent story in The Charleston Gazette, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has, in recent years, made great strides in stopping the westward spread of the raccoon variant of the rabies virus. And a promising new vaccine, typically distributed in packets dropped from airplanes, may eliminate raccoon rabies altogether.
The news came via a presentation by Richard Chipman, Assistant National Rabies Management Coordinator for USDA’s Wildlife Services (yes, that Wildlife Services), and several of his colleagues at the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Conference in April.
“Chipman said the vaccine, called ONRAB, has helped eliminate raccoon rabies in the Canadian province of Quebec. He also said that tests last year in southern West Virginia showed it to be even more effective than V-RG, the vaccine currently being used.” 
According to an abstract posted on the NEAFWA website, field trials began last September and Wildlife Services “anticipate[s] expanding trials in FY 2012 to strategic areas for further evaluation toward broader geographic use of this vaccine in the future.”
This is big news for TNR advocates, as a report of 2010 rabies surveillance data complied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (from which the map below was taken) explains: “Most (82.2 percent) of the 303 rabid cats were reported from states where raccoon rabies was enzootic, with two states (Pennsylvania and New York) accounting for nearly a third of rabid cats reported during 2010.” 
[Note: As the report makes clear, “because of difference in protocols and submission rates among species and states, comparisons of the percentages of rabid animals between species or states are inappropriate.”  Unfortunately, TNR opponents often overlook or ignore this important caveat.]