NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An uptick in the number of rabid, wild animals has officials in New York on the watch — and taking action.

They are now in the process of immunizing raccoons and other rodents with some creative techniques.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, on 140th Street in Jamaica, Queens, visits from raccoons and possums are not only a nuisance; in some cases, the critters are unwanted house guests.

“We just see them coming from the street, crossing with the rats, and they come up upstairs,” one man said. “They make a big hole in the upstairs and live upstairs (in the attic).

“My biggest fear is the disease that they transmit.”

That’s where Andy Clapper’s team comes in.

Clapper helps oversee a bait program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in south Queens, Brooklyn and parts of Nassau County. Its mission is to vaccinate raccoons to prevent rabies from spreading.

“In the bait itself is an ORV, or oral rabies vaccine,” Clapper said.

The bait is hidden in small, brown cubes that smell like fish to attract the animals. Inside the cubes are small packets that contain the vaccine.

“The raccoons reach in … ¬†to get the bait, pull it out and consume it,” Clapper said.

“They won’t swallow the packet. Most of the time, they’ll just chew on it,” he added.

Clapper said the agency targets green areas and raccoon habitats.

A first for New York City, officials plan to drop more of the cubes from the air over Staten Island on Wednesday, just as they have done in other communities.

The Agriculture Department says the bait is not harmful to pets, but it may cause vomiting.

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