The twentieth Texas rabies airdrop begins this week, and the successful program will be branching out this year, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  For the past twenty year, special equipped Twin Air prop planes have taken off from airstrips across south and west Texas every January, and have dropped roughly 2.5 million doses of vaccine laced with grey fox and coyote bait on hundreds of square miles of Texas.


  "It has successfully eliminated the canine strain of rabies, and almost completely eliminated the fox strain of rabies in Texas," said Christine Mann of the Texas Department of State Health Services.


  So this year, officials will add a new target for the airdrop.


  "We have been so successful that we are testing an effort to use it to vaccinate skunks," she said.


  Officials say coyote rabies has essentially been pushed out of Texas, and the incidents of rabid grey foxes has been severely diminished.


  The vaccine is contained in a small plastic packet coated with fishmeal crumbles to make it attractive for wildlife to eat.  The vaccine has proven safe in more than sixty species of animals and is not a danger to humans.  But officials say if you see one of the yellow bait packets you should not handle it because wild animals will not eat something that has a human scent.


  The first planes in the 2014 airdrop will take off from Del Rio on Wednesday.  The effort will take about three weeks.


  "Skunks and bats are now the animals in Texas most likely to have and spread rabies," said Dr. Laura Robinson of the Health Department.  "Early tests involving skunks have been promising, and we're hopeful that expanding our study area will help show us the best way to eliminate skunk rabies in Texas."


  Despite the success of the program, officials say pet owners should still have their pets vaccinated against rabies.