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Sun04202014

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Floodwaters can force snakes and other pests into homes

Floodwaters can displace animals, especially snakes, and force them into your home as they seek dry land.  Floodwaters can displace animals, especially snakes, and force them into your home as they seek dry land. The Shelby County Health Department is encouraging citizens to remain alert and avoid all contact with unwelcome animals. During a natural disaster, snakes may be forced from their natural habitats and move into areas where they would not normally be expected. Be cautious of snakes that may have sought shelter in your home.

If you must be in floodwaters, be aware of snakes that may be swimming in the water. As you begin the cleanup process, watch for snakes or other reptiles that may be hiding under debris or other objects.

Bill Maily, area wildlife agent with Mississippi State University 's Extension Service, said any time a building has been flooded, people should enter it with extra caution.

“Snakes and mice or rats are just like people; they will seek shelter from a storm,” Maily said.

“If they are in flowing water and encounter a tree or structure, they'll likely climb up for a dry spot. If they find a house, they may go up to an open area under the eaves.” When floodwaters recede, Maily said there may be an increase in snakes and rodents outside homes near piles of debris, around stalled automobiles, near or inside outbuildings or any area that offers shelter.

Ben West, assistant wildlife professor at MSU, said if homeowners are controlling rodents in the home, snakes will not remain for long. They will leave in search of other food.

“Flood conditions can cause new infestations of insects, rodents and other pests that can cause health problems for humans and livestock,” West said. “Use flashlights to inspect closets, basements, storage areas, bins and shelves with extra caution. It's as important to avoid rat bites as you would want to avoid snake bites.”

West said snakes can only strike within two-thirds the length of their body, so a 3-foot snake could reach up to 2 feet away. A person who is bitten should try to look for characteristics to determine the type of snake it is. Venomous snakes will leave two distinct puncture wounds, and nonvenomous snakes may leave marks more like scratches.

“Victims of venomous snake bites should try to get to the hospital as soon as possible. If you are not close to a hospital, wrap a constricting band between the bite area and the heart to slow down, but not stop, the blood flow. Do not apply a tight tourniquet,” West said. “In general, it's better not to waste time with first aid; just head to the hospital.”

Trapping or poisoning can eliminate rodents. The anticoagulant poisons (warfarin, pival, fumarin and diphacinone) require at least four days of successive feeding before the rats begin to die. Rats will continue to die for two weeks or longer after consuming bait.

“Insects such as flies and mosquitoes can multiply at alarming rates after torrential rains, so people should be aggressive in removing standing puddles and containers filled with water. Appropriately dispose of garbage and animal carcasses,” West said. “Repair or replace screens, windows, doors and vents as soon as possible.”

As cleanup activities take place, people are likely to encounter aggressive beds of fire ants outside and on occasions inside. Invasions of buildings and vehicles may occur during periods of heavy precipitation and flooding.

If you are someone you know are bitten by a snake DO the following:

• Try to remember the color and shape of the snake. Identification can help guide the treatment of a snakebite.
• Keep the bitten person still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is poisonous.
• Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
• Dial 911 or call local Emergency Management Services (EMS)
• Apply first aid only if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away
• Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart

DO NOT do the following:

• Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it (this may put you or someone else at risk for a bite)
• Do not apply a tourniquet
• Do not slash the wound with a knife
• Do not suck out the venom
• Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water
• Do not drink alcohol as a pain killer
• Do not drink caffeinated beverages

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