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Raccoon rabies hasn’t been seen in Ontario since 2005.

Amy Sancetta/AP

Ontario is set to start dropping more anti-rabies vaccine as part of its new phase in its fight against the virus, which has so far been found in 70 raccoons and skunks.

Chris Davies, head of wildlife research with the province's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, said they plan to drop the vaccine in early April because the warm weather means the animals will become more mobile.

In recent months, 51 raccoons and 19 skunks have tested positive for rabies, mostly in the Hamilton region.

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"The numbers are what's to be expected," Davies said. "In 1999, the (rabies) outbreak peaked in Year 3 and we're only six months in here."

Davies said 65 of the cases have occurred in Hamilton, four in nearby Haldimand-Norfolk and one in the Niagara region.

Raccoon rabies hasn't been seen in Ontario since 2005 and the ministry believes the virus somehow hitchhiked to Ontario – an American raccoon, possibly in the back of a tractor trailer – and thereby avoided the invisible barrier of vaccines set up by the province.

The raccoon rabies re-emergence in early December only came to light after two large dogs – Lexus and Mr. Satan – got into a fight with a sick raccoon in the back of an animal services van.

That raccoon tested positive for rabies and the dogs were held in quarantine after being inoculated against the virus.

The ministry carpet-bombed a large swath of southwestern Ontario with vaccine baits – more than 200,000 – immediately after the first reported case.

Since then, Davies said, the ministry has been testing dead animals for the virus.

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The first reported infected skunk came in mid-February.

"Again, we expected this, we expected to find infected skunks, but they are all within the zones we baited for vaccines, so we believe we're in good shape," Davies said.

Davies said they will also drop vaccines north of Stratford, Ont., where the fox strain of the rabies virus was found in a cow.

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