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Bath Residents Express Concerns About Plan To Euthanize Animals To Halt Rabies Spread

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
Richard Chipman of the USDA answers a question during a meeting Thursday night in Bath on a plan to halt the spread of rabies.

Dozens of Bath residents questioned state wildlife officials Thursday about a proposal to trap and euthanize animals in the city to deal with an outbreak of rabies.More than 100 residents packed into an elementary school cafeteria to hear the details of the plan, in which the city is partnering with state and federal authorities. The agencies propose trapping, euthanizing and testing skunks, raccoons and foxes.

Resident Elizabeth Starr said she views the plan as an overreaction. "I often see this first reaction is to kill, without considering all the other alternatives. And there are plenty of other alternatives out there where the science is great today."

Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public
Maine Public
Kevin Connors speaks at a meeting Thursday in Bath on a plan to euthanize animals to control the spread of rabies.

Other residents said that they would support a plan of vaccinating animals instead of trapping them, but wildlife officials said that would be more complex and expensive.

Many expressed concerns about how the plan would affect nursing females. But Scott Lindsay, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says that's why the department chose to launch the program in March.

"If we do see evidence of animals that have indications that they are nursing, then that’s something we’ll take into consideration," Lindsay said. "But we specifically decided to do this during the month of March because there would not be a time when it resulted in orphaning."

Last year, there were 18 fox attacks on people or pets in the city, and 16 animals total tested positive for rabies.

The City Council is scheduled to revisit the plan at a meeting on Monday night.