Oral Rabies Vaccination Bait Drops Occuring in Walker County

Chattanooga, TN – Over the next several days, you may notice a helicopter flying in a pattern over Walker County.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is dropping oral rabies vaccination baits across our community and others, in an effort to protect people and pets — by preventing rabies in wildlife.  

Operating out of the Chattanooga Airport, USDA teams are currently targeting urban and suburban areas in Walker, Catoosa, Hamilton and Bradley counties.  They stock each helicopter with bait to toss into wooded areas while airborne. The baits are about the size of a ketchup packet and are coated with fishmeal.  

USDA distributes more than 10 million baits across 17 states every year.  This year, 1,270,000 baits will be dropped across Walker and surrounding counties.

Walker County sits right in the middle of the bait zone, which means after the USDA makes bait drops by helicopter to the northern end, (PIC) they will return in a couple of weeks to spread baits across the southern end using a fixed wing plane.


While not harmful for pets, officials say you should leave these baits alone unless found in areas where children play.

Because of efforts like this, there hasn’t been a positive animal rabies case in Walker County since 2014.  


Is My Tree Dying? UGA Extension Addresses Tree Flagging in Walker County

Rock Spring, GA – You may have noticed, trees across the region have started changing, and not for the better.

“We are seeing some early leaf drop,” says Wade Hutcheson, UGA Extension Agent for Walker County.  “I hate to tell you, unless we get some rainfall and some cool nights and bright sunshiny days, we’re not going to have very much fall color again this year.”

Hutcheson explains what we’re seeing now is limb dieback, often referred to as flagging.  The extended period of dry weather has impacted the transportation of water throughout the tree, also known as transpiration. 

“A tree loses an enormous amount of water on a daily basis.  It’s estimated that a mature tree will use or lose 20 gallons of water per trunk diameter.”  Hutcheson adds, “If we are prone to invest especially in specimen trees, or those sentimental mature cant live without this tree because my grandfather helped me plant it a long time ago, remember that the best thing we can do for water through this time is long slow watering.”

Hutcheson recommends soaking the tree’s root system every 7 to 10 days.  He says one watering is better than two… provided its long enough to seep into the hard, clay surface and wide enough to make a difference.  “To water a trees root system, it can be two and a half to five times the canopy, the width of the canopy is the width of the dripline.”

Other tips include watering during the natural dew period to prevent the spread of disease and placing mulch near the trunk of a tree, but not on it, to help conserve moisture.  Hutcheson warns, “It’s going to take a good couple of soaking rains of an inch to an inch and a half or more to recharge our soil moisture to where we need.”

Other issues like insects, pruning and flare damage from lawn mowers and weed eaters can all affect how a tree performs in dry weather conditions. 

If you have concerns about the health of your tree, UGA Extension in Walker County has a great publication entitled “Is My Tree Dying,” which you can pick up a copy of in their office on Napier Street in LaFayette or view it online at extension.uga.edu.  The publication walks you through a full assessment of what to look for on your tree to determine the health of your tree.




High Fire Danger Could Impact Open Burning Season

LaFayette, GA – With the arrival of October, Georgia’s seasonal burn ban, which impacts Walker and 53 other counties, comes to a close.  While burning is allowed from October 1st through April 30th, residents need to obtain a permit and be aware of what is legal and illegal to burn.

Fire Inspector Jeff Roerdink with Walker County Fire Rescue says “the things that you can burn right now are pretty much going to be natural vegetation. Which means, if you had a tree fall down on your property you can burn those limbs, you can burn those leaves.”

Burning construction materials, like treated lumber or shingles, is prohibited… as well as tires, plastics and household garbage.  “Garbage is a definite no go,” says Roerdink.  “There are a lot of chemicals in the trash we generally throw out, like plastic bottles, that would put off gases and smoke into the atmosphere that is harmful for people to breath.”

There is no cost to obtain a permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission. Simply visit GaTrees.org or call 1-877-OK-2-BURN. Permits are good for one day, from 8:00 a.m. to sundown. If caught burning without a permit, you could be fined.

This year, due to drought conditions, Georgia Forestry will be issuing permits on a day to day basis in an effort to prevent wildfires.  The decision to burn will be based on the weather and permits may be restricted due to the fire danger forecast.

“There’s a five step fire danger system used nationally, and right now Georgia is in the four to five categories, indicating very high fire danger,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Chief of Protection Frank Sorrells.

When you do burn, Roerdink suggests taking a few precautions to keep your burn pile from getting away from you.  “Keep it down to a small pile. And keep a 25 foot clearance around that area so if you are burning, it’s not going to get away from you. Make sure it’s down to the soil, bare dirt.”

You should also keep water and a shovel close by and never leave your fire unattended.

For additional information about open burning, permitting requirements and fire conditions, visit GaTrees.org.