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SNAKES AFTER A STORM OR FLOOD

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General

Black rat snake Like other residents in the path of a major storm, snakes can become displaced and left homeless. They may seek shelter and food inside houses, storage sheds, barns, and other buildings. Damaged structures are more accessible to snakes and floodwaters may carry some snakes indoors, onto trees and elsewhere. Displaced snakes may also be found under debris scattered by the storm or in debris piles created during cleanup efforts. Despite their "reputation", snakes (both poisonous and nonpoisonous) are beneficial because they help control rodents which are also displaced by storms and can become a nuisance. Whenever possible, avoid harming a snake.

Tips for working in areas where snakes may be found

Outdoors:

  • Wear heavy work gloves and boots (at least 10 inches high) or snake leggings (if available) when working in areas cluttered with debris. Watch where you place your hands and feet when removing or cleaning debris. Look carefully before you stick your fingers in/under piles of debris that have sat for any length of time. Be particularly careful when stepping over logs or other obstacles where you cannot see the other side. Watch for snakes sunning on fallen trees, limbs, and other debris.
  • If you encounter a snake, step back (watch where you step to avoid tripping over storm debris). Snakes will often assume a defensive posture (curled to strike) but will usually move out of the way to avoid you as well.

Indoors:

  • If you find a snake in your house, don't panic; try to confine the snake to a small area of the house. Nonpoisonous snakes can be captured by pinning the snake down with a long stick or pole, preferably forked at one end, and then removed by scooping up with a snow or flat-blade shovel. If you are uncomfortable about removing the snake yourself, try to get help from a neighbor or someone in the community who has experience handling snakes. As a last resort, you may need to kill a poisonous snake. Club it with a long stick, rod, or other tool. You can pin it witht the broad edge of a flat-blade shovel and cut off its head. Never attempt to kill a poisonous snake with an object that brings you within the snake's striking range (usually estimated at about one-half of the snake's total length). A pistol or rifle may seem to be a simple way to get rid of snake, but discharging a firearm in or around areas where people are busy cleaning up storm debris is dangerous, potentially lethal, and often illegal.
  • Seal all openings around the house a quarter-inch and larger to exclude snakes. Check areas such as corners of doors and windows, crawlspace doors, gaps around water, HVAC, or other utility pipes. Holes in masonry foundations should be sealed with mortar to exclude snakes. Seal holes in wooden buildings with fine 1/8-inch mesh hardware cloth and/or sheet metal. Remove debris from around the house as soon as possible. Such clutter attracts rodents, lizards and insects on which many snakes feed and also provides shelter for the snakes. Keep vegetation along the foundation closely mowed.
  • There are no pesticides that can be used legally to kill snakes. Repellents and traps work with limited success, but the currently registered repellents are not intended for indoor use (including in a crawlspace) and may not be effective outdoors when the ground is very wet and/or covered with debris.

Finally

  • If you are bitten by a poisonous snake, don't try to treat the bite yourself. Go to the nearest hospital/urgent care facility or contact local emergency medical services about obtaining immediate treatment . Try to make a mental note of the appearance of the snake for identification and treatment purposes. Snake-bite kits are helpful, but they are best used by trained medical personnel.
  • Learn to identify nonpoisonous and poisonous snakes. Information on snake identification can be obtained from your county Extension office or from your state's wildlife department.



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