Use Extreme Caution When Clearing Debris
AUSTIN – As flood waters from Harvey recede and those affected begin to sort through the damage left in the wake of the storm, biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say encounters with various wildlife are to be expected.
“People should be aware that snakes and other wildlife, including skunks and raccoons, may approach or enter yards and houses seeking cover or higher ground,” said John Davis, TPWD Wildlife Diversity program director. “Over time, displaced wildlife will return to their usual habitats.”
Common sense precautions should be practiced; be aware that snakes and other animals may seek shelter in debris piles and caution should be used during cleanup efforts. Houston is home to diverse wildlife that go into people’s homes and yards 365 days a year regardless of rain, wind, and flood, so displaced alligators, snakes, bats, deer, and snapping turtles are something that Houstonians are used to seeing.
“A snake in the yard is not a cause for panic,” he says. “They don’t want to be there, either, and if left alone will usually leave on their own. You’re more likely to come upon a skunk, a mound of fire ants or a wasp nest in a brush pile than a venomous snake. If you do have an encounter with a problem snake, seek help from local animal control or licensed snake removal experts.”
During floods, alligators may disperse into areas where they aren’t normally observed, according to Jonathan Warner, TPWD Alligator Program Leader. He offers the following advice for encounters with alligators:
“Alligators are wary of people but keep your distance,” said Warner. “Never approach, harass or feed an alligator. When water levels recede, the alligator will likely disappear as well.”
Gators are critical to the health and balance of aquatic ecosystems in southeast Texas. They’re also a protected game species.
Davis said it may be some time before short term and long term impacts to wildlife as a result of the storm can be assessed, but stress that wildlife populations are fairly resilient. “These species evolved with hurricanes and floods, so they will recover.”
While emergency rescue operations are active, wildlife experts are urging the public to focus on helping people and reporting dangerous conditions of our neighborhoods rather than reporting displaced wildlife. Dispatch teams and hotlines are being used to coordinate emergency first responders. Wildlife, in the meantime, are equipped by nature to take care of themselves in most situations.
Tips and precautions about encounters with wildlife are available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/rehab/orphan/.
TPWD wildlife biologists remind private landowners across the state of federal farm program benefits through the Texas Farm Service Agency that may be available to help eligible ranchers and farmers recover from recent heavy rains and flooding. For more information on disaster assistance programs and loans visit www.fsa.usda.gov/ or contact your local FSA Office. To find your local FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.