Bath Police Department received its accreditation certification from the Maine Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (MLEAP) last night at the City Council meeting. In attendance to present the award were Deputy Chief Kevin Lully of Augusta PD and Executive Director Ed Tolan of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. Deputy Chief Lully served as the team leader of the assessment team for the MLEAP program.
The Maine Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is a voluntary process where police agencies in Maine prove their compliance with Maine Law Enforcement’s current Best Practices or Standards. These standards were carefully developed by Maine Law Enforcement professionals to assist agencies in the efficient and effective delivery of service and the protection of individual’s rights.
The Maine Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) developed the Accreditation Program to assist Maine agencies in meeting their professional obligations to the citizens of Maine. An appointed Committee of Chief Law Enforcement Officials or other executive level sworn members who hold Active Membership in the MCOPA as well as other critical partners identified by the MCOPA Board of Directors from across the state developed the Accreditation Program and identified the Standards for Maine Law Enforcement. This committee conducts reviews of an agency’s efforts and awards “Accredited” status. Being “Accredited” means that the agency meets or exceeds all the identified Standards for Maine Law Enforcement Agencies. These standards cover all aspects of law enforcement operations including use of force, protection of citizen rights, pursuits, property and evidence management, and patrol and investigative operations.
Former Chief Michael Field started Bath Police Department towards the path of accreditation around 2019. Current Chief Andrew Booth and his accreditation team, consisting of Deputy Chief Michelle Small, Det. Sgt. Richard Ross, and civilian employee Shelby Chamberland, finalized this years-long process earlier this year. The work consisted of a complete update of the department’s policies and procedures manual following the best practices and current legislative changes, updating physical aspects of the police department facility and equipment, and modernizing training. This included utilizing accreditation-oriented software, PowerDMS, to manage our policies, training and certification requirements, as well as contracting with Dirigo Safety LLC for consultation and oversight of the accreditation process.
“Every member of Bath PD helped us get to where we’re at with this accreditation. It shows our commitment to providing the best possible police services to our community. We intend to maintain this accreditation to further professionalize our department, mitigate risk, and stay current with best policing practices as set forth by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s Board of Trustees. I am very proud of this Department and our officers.” -Chief Booth
Bath Police Chief Andrew Booth has appointed Sergeant Michelle Small to become Bath PD’s next Deputy Chief, filling the vacancy created by his promotion to Chief of Police last week after the retirement of Chief Michael Field. Small will start her new role as Deputy Chief early next month.
Small began her career at Bath PD in 2001, graduating from the 1st Basic Law Enforcement Training Program. She became a K9 handler in 2002 and continues in that role today as a State certified K9 instructor, working alongside her partner K9 Sampson. She was promoted to Corporal in 2013, Sergeant in 2018, and now Deputy Chief. She is the first female officer to achieve this rank at Bath PD.
Small holds a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice, an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice, a minor in addiction studies, and a certificate in community policing, all from the University of Maine at Augusta.
Small was born and raised in Bath, where she currently resides, and has strong ties to the community. Her great grandfather served as Bath’s City Marshall (equivalent to the Chief of Police) in the early 1900’s and her great uncle, Loring Small, served as the Sagadahoc Sheriff in the 1950’s.
Small is a decorated veteran officer, having received numerous awards and commendations for her performance as a law enforcement officer, K9 handler, and patrol supervisor.
“I have the utmost faith in Deputy Chief Small’s capabilities, intelligence, and integrity," said Chief Booth. "I am excited to continue working with her in her new role as my Deputy Chief. We will make a great team and continue Bath Police Department’s legacy of community policing and quality service to the City of Bath.”
On June 2, 2021, Bath City Council confirmed Bath's next chief of police: Andrew Booth. Booth is currently the Bath Police Department's deputy chief, and will succeed current chief Michael Field after his retirement later this month.
Booth joined the Bath Police Department in 2002 as a patrol officer, rising through the ranks of patrol corporal, drug detective, detective sergeant, and earning his promotion to deputy chief in 2019. Booth is also a commissioned officer of the Vermont National Guard, where he is ranked lieutenant colonel.
"I have worked alongside Deputy Chief Booth for 18 years, of which the last year and a half he served as my second-in-command," said Field. "When I choose a deputy chief, I look to the future and see if that person can lead the department as police chief. Deputy Chief Booth is that person. He will reinforce the agency's mission statement and values along with the community's expectations of professional policing."
In 2020, Booth was responsible for carrying out COVID-19 operations, engaging with the police reform movement, and leading multi-agency operations for the Bath Iron Works labor strike. Field commended Booth for handling each with composure and professionalism.
"The interview panel was unanimous when they recommended Deputy Chief Booth to me," said City Manager Peter Owen. "The panel included community members representing agencies that have worked with the Bath Police Department for a long time, and they all felt that Deputy Chief Booth would make an excellent chief. I have great confidence in his ability to lead the department and manage any challenges with the utmost professionalism."
Booth will manage a staff of 25, including 19 police officers.
"Under my lead, Bath Police Department will continue to improve upon the strong community ties and programs Chief Field has been strongly supporting," said Booth. "I have full faith in our personnel and unanimous support from all officers in this endeavor. I have, and will, continue to devote myself toward achieving our goals of public safety for the City of Bath."
The Bath and Brunswick Police Departments have been chosen to join 19 other police departments in Maine and Massachusetts participating in the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative’s (PAARI) One2One: Engagement to Recovery program.
Piloted in the spring and summer of 2020, the One2One: Engagement to Recovery program empowers police officers and community partners to distribute fentanyl test strip (FTS) kits to those in need, as well as provide referrals to treatment and information about other resources available to those who use drugs and their loved ones. One2One is a pilot-tested, evidence-based, police-led intervention project across Massachusetts and Maine that seeks to increase engagement in substance use related services and supports among people using stimulants and opioids who are at risk of fatal overdose. During the pilot program, which was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, every one fentanyl test strip kit that was distributed led to one referral to treatment or other services.
The Bath and Brunswick Police Departments officially joined the program on Wednesday, March 10. Both departments were trained on Monday, March 29 to implement the program in their departments Thursday, April 1.
“Addiction is a terrible disease that affects not only individuals and their families, but whole communities as well,” said Chief Stewart. “We are committed to tackling this problem and are grateful to PAARI for providing us resources to do just that. This partnership will provide people suffering from addiction the services they need to work towards recovery.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 36,000 people died from overdoses including synthetic opioids in 2019.
Nearly half of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S are associated with illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is now used alone and found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit opioid pills. New England is particularly hard-hit by illicit fentanyl, which is highly potent and thus prone to cause accidental overdose. Research has shown that FTS is a feasible, useful tool linked to increased self-efficacy and important safety and drug use behavior changes.
Through the One2One program, PAARI will provide up to 300 kits for each participating police department, as well as training and technical assistance for officers and community partners on how to distribute the FTS kits and utilize the kits to build rapport and make referrals to services.
“Both of our departments currently participate in the Maine OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) Initiative,” said Chief Field. “This additional tool will enhance our efforts to fight the opiate crisis and help those in need. If we can prevent one overdose death, then this program is well worth it. We are deeply appreciative of the guidance, education and materials PAARI is connecting us to through this effort.”
If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, or if you’d like to request a kit with three fentanyl test strips, which can be mailed, dropped off, or picked up at the station, please contact:
Bath Police Department Det. Mark Steele at 207-443-5563 and/or email@example.com
Brunswick Police Department Det. Jerod Verrill at 207-721-4333 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the community are also reminded to always call 911 in an emergency.
The PAARI One2One initiative is in partnership with research partners Brandeis University and funded by Washington/Baltimore HIDTA, the University of Baltimore and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Combating Opioid Overdose funded through Community-Level Intervention (COOCLI) program. For more information about the One2One program, visit paariusa.org/one2one
The City of Bath Police Department has signed an agreement NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Maine to implement a Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Program for its officers.
CIT is the “gold standard” for training officers to work with individuals impacted by mental health conditions; the model was developed in 1988 following the fatal shooting of a man with a history of mental illness and substance use by a police officer in Memphis, Tennessee. The CIT Model has been successfully utilized in law enforcement agencies worldwide to safely and effectively address the needs of persons with mental health conditions, link them to appropriate resources, and divert them from the criminal justice system when appropriate.
Field participated in NAMI Maine’s 40-hour CIT class in 2000. He feels the training is “invaluable” and hopes to have at least half of his officers CIT Certified in the next two years.
“Last year we had 185 adult mental health calls and 21 adolescent calls,” Field said. “A lot of people are suffering. I think it’s important that our officers know how to handle those calls when they arrive on scene.”
To date, nine Bath police officers have taken the CIT course, two have taken an eight-hour course in child crisis training, and eight have taken the Maine State Police Academy’s eight-hour mental health training.
The agreement not only requires voluntary CIT training for selected officers but also the development and implementation of mental health policies. Such policies must speak to how calls involving a person with a mental health condition are to be handled, and how department specific data collection will occur. The agreement also requires that certain HIPAA-compliant data points be shared with NAMI Maine on a quarterly basis, like whether a diagnosis was known and whether a referral for services was made. The data will be used to identify training needs for officers and funding gaps for the mental health system.
Since Bath began collecting data in November of 2020, officers have responded to 40 mental health calls. Field said that at least one officer on every one of those calls had mental health training but that, unfortunately, almost all the individuals were transported to the ED due to lack of immediate access to mental health services.
“It’s too bad because the hospitals are so busy – sometimes the person can be waiting to be placed for hours because there are not enough mental health beds available in the State. That can add to the trauma,” Field said.
Hannah Longley, LCSW, Director of Community Programs for NAMI Maine, is working with around 50 police departments across the state to implement the CIT Program. Departments report to one of eight regional councils; Bath is part of Region 6.
“I love working with Chief Field and Sheriff (Joel) Merry,” said Longley. “Sheriff Merry co-chairs the Region 6 CIT Council and we are grateful to have his support.”
Longley explained that, nationwide, county jails have become the biggest providers of mental health services due a lack of community services. Using the data police departments are now collecting, NAMI Maine will continue to advocate the Maine legislature for increased mental health funding. Longley and Field share the hope that this partnership will give police departments the skills they need to handle a mental health crisis and help divert individuals from the criminal justice system.
Bath Police Department has concluded its criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the knife attack that occurred on December 30th at Middle St. and North St. in Bath.
On that day, a 35‐year‐old, knife‐wielding Bath man randomly attacked a 72‐year‐old man in the street. Responding officers employed less‐than‐lethal means (Taser) to take the suspect into protective custody before any other members of the public were harmed. The suspect was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.
Officer Devin Hook, along with other members of our patrol and criminal investigations division, investigated the assault and, on January 11th, obtained an arrest warrant for Ghaith Malkawi, 35, of Bath. Officer Brett McIntire, with assistance from Brunswick PD, arrested Malkawi in Brunswick this morning. Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Dept. Transport Division brought Malkawi to Two Bridges Regional Jail. Bail was set at $1,000 cash.
Malkawi’s arrest warrant was for the following charges:
We are thankful for the public’s assistance in concluding this investigation and want to reiterate our concern for people suffering from mental health crises, which are an ever‐present issue law enforcement deals with.
- Deputy Chief Andrew Booth
This morning, December 30th, 2020, at around 10am, Bath Police Department responded to the area of Middle St. and North St. for multiple reports of a man with a knife assaulting another man in the street.
Bath Police patrol officers immediately responded to the area, arriving within minutes, and saw several neighbors pointing down the street towards an adult male armed with two knives, acting irrationally, and posing a significant threat to public safety. Officers ordered the man to drop the knives and after the man refused, successfully deployed a Taser, striking the male and rendering him immobile until he was placed into handcuffs.
It was apparent that the armed male was suffering from a severe mental health episode. Bath Fire Department EMS units responded to assist our officers. Officers placed the man into protective custody and transported him to Midcoast Hospital for treatment.
Subsequent investigation has determined that the 35‐year‐old suspect had randomly confronted the 72‐year‐old victim in the street and attacked the victim with the knife, resulting in minor injury to the victim. Neighbors who witnessed the assault called 911. There is no known relationship between the suspect and victim.
There is currently no threat to the public.
This was a critical incident for our officers and the public. We are thankful for the public’s assistance in quickly calling 911, Sagadahoc County dispatchers’ efforts in relaying important information to our officers, and of course, our officers’ heroic actions in subduing the male before anyone else was hurt. This could have been a much more serious incident. Our officers utilized their training and equipment to safely take the subject into custody.
A criminal investigation into this event is being conducted. We are withholding the names of the individuals involved pending the completion of the investigation and for privacy concerns of those involved.
- Deputy Chief Andrew Booth
The following excerpts are taken from the December 11, 2020 Press Release issued by the Office of Governor Janet T. Mills:
With widespread community transmission and increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Maine, Governor Janet Mills today signed an Executive Order (PDF) that simplifies and strengthens the enforcement of the State’s face covering requirement. Moving forward, owners and operators of all indoor public spaces – regardless of the type of entity or size – must not allow those who refuse to wear a face covering to enter or remain in their venue. Previous Executive Orders had required enforcement in some but not all public settings.
The Executive Order also clarifies that claiming a medical exemption is not an excuse to enter or remain in an establishment without a face covering. This comes in light of reports from retailers of individuals abusing the exemption. Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities exist to protect such individuals as well as others from COVID-19 in public settings.
Additionally, municipalities, which are authorized to enforce the use of face coverings on streets and sidewalks, in parks and in other public spaces like town halls where individuals gather, are also required to deny entry to indoor public spaces to those who will not wear face coverings.
A Message of Community Support from the Brunswick, Bath, and Topsham Police Departments and Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office
Brunswick’s loss of a young person to suicide late last week has been felt across our region. During a year which has already placed a great deal of stress on individuals and families across the country, increased levels of anxiety and depression are apparent. As we enter the winter months, please keep conversations open with the people in your life, particularly youth.
When a community loses someone to suicide, there is often a rush of emotion and questions. Why did this happen? Could this have been prevented? Rather than trying to answer questions which have no clear answers, make prevention your focus: create support structures for your loved ones, and learn how to have an open and honest dialog about this difficult topic.
When you speak with your children, ask them how they are really feeling. You don’t need to have a response or an answer to everything they say; sometimes listening openly is enough. In the words of Jamie Dorr, Executive Director of the Midcoast Youth Center, “Youth need to know they are not marginalized; that they are important, that they matter and how they are feeling matters. Talk with young people in your life in a caring, non-judgmental way; ask them how they are doing.”
Help them realize that the struggles they are facing will not last forever; there is help, and there is hope. Be aware of warning signs, like substance use, noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits, withdrawal from family or friends, or doing worse in school. If you are concerned about the safety of your child, connect them with immediate help by calling or texting the Maine Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112, take them to the local emergency room, contact their on-call pediatrician, or connect with your local School Resource Officer.
Our School Resource Officers are also available to offer help and support for your child:
Bath SRO: Chuck Reece (Morse High School)
Brunswick SRO: Chris Balestra (Brunswick High School) and Kerry Wolongevicz (Brunswick Junior High School)
Topsham SRO: Gabrielle Mathieu (Mount Ararat High School)
We at the Bath, Brunswick, Topsham Police Departments and Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office extend our support to the Brunswick community, and to any family affected by suicide. We will continue to spread education and awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. Let’s work together to strengthen our communities.
Brunswick Police Chief
|Michael W. Field
Bath Police Chief
|Marc R. Hagan
Topsham Police Chief
|Joel A. Merry
Sagadahoc County Sheriff
Midcoast Youth Center
Midcoast Youth Center, located at the former Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark, provides a diverse array of programs and services designed to improve the lives of youth and prevent youth suicide in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick, and Harpswell.
G.E.A.R. Parent Network
Through parent-to-parent sharing of experiences and knowledge, G.E.A.R. Parent Network empowers parents of children with behavioral health needs to build on their family’s strengths and to advocate for their family’s needs.
Support by phone at 1-800-264-9224
For teens struggling with mental illness or substance use, Day One provides the most complete continuum of youth and family-based services in the State of Maine. The MISSION of Day One is to improve the health of Maine by providing substance use, mental health and wellness services to youth and families.
NAMI Maine Teen Text Support Line
Teens can talk about their feelings and get support from another young person by texting (207) 515 – 8398. This is available every day from 12pm – 10pm. This peer support text line is for youth 14-20 years old and staffed by individuals under 23 years of age. Learn more about NAMI Maine.
Families CAN! (Midcoast Maine Community Action)
Families CAN! uses evidence-based programs, providing enrichment opportunities to parents, caregivers and educators about topics affecting families with children from birth through the teen years.
FrontLine WarmLine (for school staff/teachers)
A new volunteer phone support service, the FrontLine WarmLine, helps Maine health care workers and first responders manage the stress of serving on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The FrontLine WarmLine is available 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week by calling (207) 221-8196 or 866-367-4440. Text capability will be added soon.
These are just a few of the many resources available in our communities. To be connected with more resources, dial 211 on your phone, text your ZIP code to 898-211, or visit 211maine.org.
With the winter season upon us, we would like to remind everyone of some of the community programs offered by the Bath Police Department:
Good Morning Program: If you are an older adult 60 years or older, disabled and live alone in Bath, then this is a perfect free program for you! This program allows you to call in every morning between 8am and 10am to check in with our friendly receptionist. If we don’t hear from you, we will call or stop by to make sure you are okay. This program is especially important now during the cold winter months, COVID isolation, and pending holidays. It is a way to stay connected and ensure our participants' safety and well-being on a daily basis. Learn more: Good Morning Program Application
Sand Buckets for Seniors: The Bath Police Department's "Sand Buckets for Seniors" program is made possible by the generous donation of buckets from local hardware stores and sand from Bath Public Works. If you or someone you know are a Bath resident, 65 or older and would like some sand for their walkway call our receptionist at (207) 443-5563.
Child Car Seat Installation: The Bath Police Department provides free installations of child car seats. We currently have one (1) officer certified to install them. If you are interested, please contact Officer Devin Hook and make an appointment.
The City of Bath is encouraging residents and visitors to review U.S. and State of Maine CDC guidelines for a safe celebration of fall events, like Halloween.
The CDC has labeled traditional trick-or-treating, and indoor activities, such as costume parties and haunted houses, as “higher risk.” In past years, the City has closed several streets to vehicle traffic to facilitate trick-or-treating. The City has decided against any road closures this year.
“We recommend that people adjust their Halloween plans to reduce their risk this fall,” said City Manager Peter Owen. “Trick-or-treating is such a fun event in Bath and it is certainly disappointing that this tradition will look different this year. We hope everyone is able to adapt their plans to enjoy the holiday, while staying safe.”
View U.S. CDC Halloween guidelines by clicking here.
View State of Maine CDC Halloween guidelines by clicking here.
On September 27th 2020 Bath Police responded to the new Morse High School building site for a report of vandalism called in by the construction crew. The vandalism consisted of broken windows, graffiti, tampering with construction supplies, and significant damage to school furniture that was stored pending building completion.
Additionally, further graffiti was found today that likely occurred again over the weekend.
The damage estimates exceed $1000 and detectives from the Bath PD Criminal Investigation Division have taken over the investigation, which remains active at this time. They are currently working several leads and have collected evidence for analysis.
“It is unfortunate that this damage has occurred to the new school and we have taken additional measures to prevent and deter further vandalism. I expect a successful investigation will conclude and the perpetrators held accountable”—Deputy Chief Booth
Anyone with information pertaining this case is asked to call Det. Sgt. Richard Ross at 443-8367 ext. 3.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ Wildlife Services has released the results of their integrated wildlife damage management program in Bath.
The program, which took place from March 16 to March 30, 2020, was designed to reduce population densities of locally abundant rabies vector species (species known to carry/transmit the rabies virus) to mitigate the ongoing human-wildlife conflict in the City.
Questions about the report should be directed to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ Wildlife Services at (207) 629-5181.
The City of Bath has launched a new online payment system to promote remote access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasize safe interactions between residents and staff as the City prepares a reopening strategy.
MuniciPAY, a third-party electronic payment processing platform, is specifically designed for government, education, and utility industries. Users will be able to make their real estate tax, personal property tax, and/or tax club payments to the Treasurer’s Office using MuniciPAY, and pay for Police Department parking tickets, parking permits, and accident/incident reports.
“As we prepare to reopen City buildings to the public, residents should continue to access services online, over-the-phone, and by mail as much as possible,” said City Manager Peter Owen. “It is the City’s intent to provide the public with convenient means for making payments to the City, as well as promoting social distancing during these times.”
Residents can access MuniciPAY from Finance and Police Department web pages on the City of Bath website, and from the City’s Online Services webpage: https://www.cityofbathmaine.gov/OnlineServices
The City plans to release a full overview of updated procedures and services before its planned June 1 reopening. In the meantime, details about City operations are available at https://www.cityofbathmaine.gov/COVID-19CityServices.
For Immediate Release: April 8, 2020
Media Contact: Lindsey Goudreau at 207-443-8330 or email@example.com
BATH, Maine (April 8, 2020) – A trapping program conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Bath concluded on Monday, March 30. The program, approved by City Council in February in response to an influx of rabid animals which resulted in 18 fox attacks on people and pets, was designed to reduce the density of animal species that may carry rabies (such as gray fox, red fox, skunk and raccoon) in the City.
The trapping program, which utilized box traps, was implemented and coordinated by the USDA. Domestic animals (3 cats were inadvertently captured) were released into the custody of the Bath Police Department’s Animal Control Officer, who facilitated their quick return to their owners.
In total, twenty-four raccoons and four skunks were captured and humanely euthanized using American Veterinary Medical Association-approved methods. Twenty-six non-target animals were captured and released. The trapping program was conducted in March to prevent orphaning young born in April, but trained USDA staff still inspected adult females for signs of lactation. No such animals were captured.
Testing is currently underway to determine whether any of the captured animals were infected by rabies. Two gray fox, three skunks, two brown bats, one muskrat, one brown rat, and one raccoon which were found dead (e.x. roadkill) or euthanized separately from the trapping program in Bath were also collected for sampling.
The full report from the USDA contextualizing and analyzing the results of the program and data collected will be released to the public in June. The City will have no additional information to share regarding the trapping program until the report is complete.
The City will continue to work with State and Federal agencies on an integrative plan to address rabies, which will include public education efforts and coordination of low-cost dog and cat rabies vaccination clinics. City Council has also convened a rabies response task force to research options and create a multi-faceted strategy to comprehensively address the rabies public health and safety issue in Bath, including research into the viability of a long-term, regional, oral rabies vaccination program.
The City is closely monitoring the spread of coronavirus (COVID-1). For what-you-need-to-know information, please take a moment to review this one-page CDC fact sheet: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
We will keep residents apprised of the situation as more information becomes available.
The safety and health of our residents is the foremost concern of the City of Bath. The City is actively coordinating with USDA officials regarding the effort to trap rabies vector animals. This effort results from multiple rabies attacks and exposures reported over the past 13 months. A public meeting to precede trapping will be scheduled as soon as the details are provided from USDA. The date of this meeting will be released on the City website, the City Facebook page, and via press release.
Please refer to the press release below for more information:
MDIFW, USDA Wildlife Services, City of Bath Working Together On Rabies Issue In Bath
AUGUSTA, Maine (February 13, 2020) -- The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is working with the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the City of Bath on an integrative approach to address important human health and safety concerns surrounding rabies. A focused, localized trapping effort by USDA Wildlife Services is proposed as a management strategy to reduce wild animal population densities in the area. Details of the plan are being finalized, and there will be a public informational meeting to discuss the plan once it is complete.
Rabies is a naturally occurring disease that affects mammals, including people, primarily through a bite. Rabies is fatal if left untreated, but vaccines are extremely effective when medical treatment is sought soon after being exposed to an infected animal. Certain species of wildlife are more susceptible to rabies and have high tolerance for living in close proximity to people, such as raccoons, skunks and foxes. Bats are also considered high risk for rabies because they are sometimes found in homes, and although a small percent carry rabies, their bite marks are small and easily overlooked. Trends in the number of rabies-positive animals has been similar over the last 10 years in Maine. The risk of encountering an animal with rabies is still very low.
However, some areas of mid-coast Maine have been particularly hard hit by rabies in recent years. In 2019, the City of Bath, with a population of over 8,000 people, received 72 suspicious animal calls, 26 sick animals were dispatched by officers or citizens, and 16 animals tested positive for rabies. Of the 18 fox attacks on people or pets, 11 attacks resulted in a person being bitten or scratched. The unusual number of aggressive fox attacks on people and domestic pets has raised human health and safety concerns, and prompted the proposed focused trapping effort. Sick animals and attacks continue to be reported in 2020 in Bath and the nearby communities of West Bath and Phippsburg.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t the government vaccinate wildlife for rabies?
The short answer is that it is ineffective and costly to spot treat high rabies areas. USDA Wildlife Services rabies program in Maine follows the guidelines set by the National Rabies Management Program. The goal of the program is to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies and eventually eliminate terrestrial rabies in the United States through an integrated program that involves the use of oral rabies vaccination targeting wild animals. The approximate cost for the project in Maine is $500,000, and >80% of that cost is associated with the oral rabies vaccination (ORV) baits used to treat raccoons and other wildlife. Wildlife species account for >90% of all reported cases in the U.S. each year. The costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies conservatively exceed $600 million annually in the U.S. Thus, the cost-benefit ratio associated with ORV for wildlife is significant. The greatest economic savings per year (approximately $58 million) comes from preventing spread and keeping rabies from gaining a bigger geographic footprint.
Rabies elimination is a long-term goal that will include current and novel strategies but will require sustainable resources in order to succeed. Currently, the distribution of rabies in Maine is primarily in the central and southern areas of the state but there are cases in some areas of northern Maine as well (primarily Aroostook County). Before management efforts are focused in the southern part of the state, we need to eliminate the risk of further rabies spread in northern Maine. Maine is one of 14 eastern states in which USDA conducts rabies management activities. Each year, over 8 million vaccine baits are distributed in the Eastern U.S. Our goal is to first shut the door on high risk spread corridors throughout the eastern U.S., including the area we are currently working in Maine, before we can start to incrementally eliminate rabies at the local level.
It currently is cost-prohibitive and logistically not feasible to drop ORV baits statewide in Maine or any other state. The targeted area for ORV in Maine has not changed significantly from last year and is located in northeastern ME, along a portion of the border with New Brunswick. We know that smaller, more focused ORV projects (e.g. at the town scale) fail to get the desired management result because rabies continues to circulate in the surrounding untreated areas and may quickly spread back into the treated areas infecting animals that did not pick up a vaccine bait.
Why has rabies increased so suddenly in gray foxes in Bath?
The spread of disease in an animal population increases as that animal population density increases. In an area like Bath, where it is not possible to hunt or trap, some animal populations have grown unchecked, and a disease like rabies can spread rapidly through a high-density population. Rabies is a cyclical disease and it is not uncommon to observe localized outbreaks in a specific area for a period of time that eventually decline.
Has trapping in a small, populated area been done before?
Yes. Focused trapping efforts are utilized for a variety of reasons, including public health reasons and for endangered species protection, among other reasons. The operations planned in Bath are not specifically for rabies control. Wildlife Services is a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and provides Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts that threaten the Nation’s agricultural, natural, and property resources and human health and safety. Wildlife Services uses and recommends an integrated wildlife damage management approach, including nonlethal techniques, in addressing problems and conflict involving wildlife.
The program for Bath is intended to reduce local animal densities for human health and safety. This may have an effect on the rabies issue as the animals that will be removed are those that are common raccoon rabies vectors.
What kind of traps are being proposed to be used in the Bath area and how long would trapping last?
Cage traps are being proposed, which would allow animals other than raccoon, skunk and fox to be released. Traps would be checked a minimum of 2 times each day and not set during extreme cold temperatures. The trapping effort will be completed by the end of March to prevent orphaning young born in April.
How many animals will be killed?
The number of animals caught will depend on the number of traps set, the length of time they are set, and the weather. Animals are not caught in every trap set every night. Raccoon, skunk, red fox, and grey fox caught in traps will be euthanized and tested for rabies. There is no way to test for rabies on live animals because the test requires brain tissue.
How can people protect themselves and pets from rabies?
• Vaccinate both indoor and outdoor pets and livestock.
• Do not approach, handle, or feed wildlife; or unknown domestic animals.
• Do not move wildlife from one area to another, as this can spread rabies.
• Feed pets indoors.
• Secure trash and compost.
• Consider removing bird feeders and planting native plants to help the birds, without attracting rodents and other creatures that often lead to conflicts.
• Seal areas around your home where animals might take up residence or hide, like crawl spaces under sheds or decks.
• If confronted with an aggressive or sick animal, make noise and use whatever you can to protect yourself.
• Report sick, stray, or strange-acting animals.
• Contact a healthcare provider right away, if bitten or scratched by an animal.
• If you wake up to a bat in the house, call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821
Learn More on Living with Wildlife: https://www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/wildlife-human-issues/living-with-wildlife/index.html
The City’s blue is going green: The Bath Police Department has purchased its first hybrid vehicle; a 2020 Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid.
“As the City begins to look at our carbon footprint, we should be looking at ways to reduce it,” said Chief of Police Michael Field. “By purchasing a hybrid police vehicle, we believe it will significantly reduce our fuel usage and still allow us to serve the community well.”
Officer Brett McIntire researched the vehicle, which he estimates will save the City thousands of dollars over its lifetime.
“The oldest car in our fleet has a total of 9,229 running engine hours,” he said. “5,825 of those hours were spent idling. It burns nearly a half gallon of fuel per hour when sitting at idle. The hybrid cruiser, on the other hand, burns less than a quarter gallon of fuel per hour while sitting at idle.”
The hybrid’s electric motor allows the gas engine to turn off while the car idles. McIntire estimates that the City will save more than $3,500 over the life of the vehicle just in idling fuel costs. If you add the hybrid’s superior fuel efficiency (the hybrid currently averages 17 mpg as opposed to 13-14 mpg in department’s non-hybrids) the savings start to add up.
McIntire said the department will keep track of the hybrid’s performance over the next year. If satisfactory, the department may decide to transition the rest of its six-car patrol fleet to hybrid models.
“Right now we replace a car every 2 years, when it has about 100,000 miles on it. Those are hard miles; lots of stop and go, different drivers, traffic stops; lots of wear and tear. Even though the hybrid was a bit more expensive to purchase, the engine hours saving by the electric motor should extend the life of the vehicle another year or so,” said McIntire.
Bath joins police agencies from across the country, including the New York Police Department (which purchased its first hybrid police responder sedan in 2019 and aims to convert all of its 10,000 vehicles to electric or hybrid within the next five years) on the cutting edge of hybrid and electric technology.
Photo: Off. Brett McIntire (Left) stands in front of the new hybrid with Cpl. Jason Aucoin (Right), who outfitted the cruiser.