USDA officials educate public about ongoing rabies vaccine drops
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to educate the public about the rabies vaccine drops that began mid-october.
The drops, which involved dispensing baited rabies vaccines into wooded areas, took place the week of Oct. 12, but officials are trying to educate the public on what the effort involves, and what to do if they encounter the vaccine.
The bait drop focused on the rural areas of Catoosa, Walker, Dade, Chattooga, and Murray counties.
On Oct. 2, USDA Wildlife Services Rabies Biologist Daymond Hughes gave a presentation on the matter during the Catoosa County Board of Commissioner’s meeting. He covered not only the baits being dropped, but also how the public should handle situations of rabid animals, road kill, and other wildlife issues.
“Our mission is to be leaders and provide federal leadership in managing human/ wildlife conflicts,” Hughes said. “We’re part of the National Management Rabies Program, and as an agency, we provide technical assistance free to homeowners, land owners, companies, municipalities regarding problems with wildlife. Sometimes they can answer questions over the phone or go out for site visits.”
Hughes says his agency has been working with the Catoosa County Animal Shelter in gathering samples from animals to test for rabies, with a specific focus on raccoons.
“Our goal is to stop the western movement of rabies,” Hughes said.
Hughes explained that the baits were dropped from planes and helicopters flying about 500 feet above the ground.
The process, which is done annually, included 2.5 million baits being dropped in the state of Georgia in 2017.
Hughes says that in addition to the baiting, he travels around taking samples from animals trying to gauge if and how many rabies cases might be in the area.
“I spend a good bit of my time driving up and down the road looking for road kills fresh enough that I can take a sample off of them,” Hughes explained. “If you see anybody on the side of the road in a pickup truck throwing a coon or something in the back of a truck, it might be me. I’m out there trying to find any possible positives, but negatives tell us just as much. If I’m picking up a number of animals in the county and all of them are negative, then that’s a good sign that we’ve kind of got rabies on the run, or that it’s out of the county.”
The USDA and GDNR are trying to educate the public so they’ll know the vaccines are out there, and to ease any worry about the baits potentially harming pets that happen to find them.
“The baits were tested on 20-30 different species,” Hughes said. “They’re coated with a fishmeal as an attractant. Pets could get sick if they ate a lot of it, just like we would if we ate a lot of something we’re not used to, but the vaccine itself won’t hurt the animals. They did extensive testing, it’s safe.”
Hughes encouraged residents to contact him via email at daymond.w.hughes@usda. gov if they have any wildlife issues, especially road kill, due to how valuable the information can be to his research.
“If I’m available, I’ll gladly go pick the animal up because it’s a great help to me,” Hughes said.
Fort Oglethorpe officials recently approved a deductive change order for the first phase of its U. S. Highway 41 sewer project near the new Food City development, but are delayed in installing the final piping.
During the Fort Oglethorpe City Council meeting on Oct. 8, Public Utilities Director Phil Parker explained the change order and the reason behind the piping delay.
“This phase one change order is from Brown Brothers Construction,” Parker said. “Essentially this is closing out the project. It has reached substantial completion, we’ve done the final walkthroughs, and after the tally and final reconciliation of all the numbers, this is a reduction in the contract price of $29.42.”
The nearly $1.4 million project was awarded to Brown Brothers Construction last October.
While any reduction in cost, even a $ 30 one is good, officials are trying to save more funds by not jumping the gun amidst delays.
“The developer is trying to determine the final grades of the roads out there,” Parker explained. “That has left us with 255 feet of force main that we cannot install until they make final grade to where the road is going to be.”
Parker said it would be counterproductive to move forward with the piping if grading changes would alter piping layout.
“What we don’t want to do is put in that 250 feet of pipe and then have to come back around and move it because they’ve cut the grade down on the road more,” Parker said. “Until they figure out their grade, we’re sitting on 250 feet of pipe to install, which will essentially complete the project.”
Parker says the pipe will go in the ground pretty quick and said the grading plans are tied to the traffic signal being put in.
“Our engineers have been pushing for a final grading plan, but we’re waiting on that information from them.”
Per the agreement of the development, Food City is the one responsible for the road and the grading.
Parker said, and the council supported, standing pat until the details are worked out.
“We need to know what the grade of the road is going to be so we know how deep to put the force main,” Parker said. “There’s no point in us putting it in and then having to dig it out and move it. Essentially, that would just cost us more money.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rabies Biologist Daymond Hughes educates the public on rabies vaccine drops during the Oct. 2 Catoosa County Board of Commissioner’s meeting.
Fort Oglethorpe Public Utilities Director Phil Parker discusses the first phase of the U.S. Highway 41 sewer project during a recent Fort Oglethorpe City Council meeting.