Be Alert! Poisonous Snakes & Other Wild Animals May Be Displaced & Confused After Flooding

After severe weather and flooding, snakes other wild animals (from mice to alligators) are forced into places where they usually are not found. The following are some tips to help protect you, your family, and your pets from harm.

Photo by Judy Rogers.
  1. Know how to identify poisonous snakes common to your area.
  2. This alligator was found in a parking garage off the Katy Freeway! Photo via Doug Delony, KHOU

    Be alert for snakes, alligators, and other wild animals in unusual places. They may be found in or around homes, barns, outbuildings, driftwood, levees, dikes, dams, stalled automobiles, piles of debris, building materials, trash, or any type of rubble or shelter.

  3. Keep a heavy stick or some other weapon handy, especially while cleaning up storm debris.
  4. Search the premises thoroughly for snakes before beginning any cleanup or rescue operations. Snakes may be under or near any type of protective cover.
  5. Wear heavy leather or rubber high-topped boots, and heavy gloves, especially while cleaning up storm debris or working around your yard. Wear trouser legs outside boots. Be extremely careful around debris. Use rakes, pry bars, or other long-handled tools when removing debris. Never expose your hands, feet, or other parts of your body in a place where a snake might hide.
  6. Carry a strong light after dark.
  7. Explain to children the dangers of snakes under storm or flood conditions, and the precautions they should follow. Do not allow children to play around debris or near standing water.
  8. If you kill a poisonous snake, use a stick, rake, or other long-handled tool to carry the snake away for disposal. Snakes may bite even when they appear dead.
  9. If you realize you are near a snake, avoid sudden movement, which may cause the snake to strike. If you remain still the snake may leave. If the snake doesn’t move away from you, slowly back away from it.
  10. If someone is bitten by a poisonous snake, call 911 or go to a hospital ER immediately.
Animal-Safe Wildlife Control, “A Humane Approach to Pest Control” Tomball / 832.386.5411 / View Website

Controlling Snakes

To get rid of snakes in buildings and to prevent other snakes from entering:

  1. Never attempt to remove a snake by yourself, especially if you’re not sure whether or not it’s poisonous. Always contact a local animal control service.
  2. Remove snakes’ food supply. Eliminating rats and mice from an area often discourages snakes.
  3. Remove snakes’ hiding places. Get rid of lumber piles, trash piles, high weeds and grasses, and debris.
  4. Block openings where snakes might enter buildings. Snakes can pass through extremely small openings and usually enter near or below ground level. Be sure doors, windows, and screens fit tightly. Search walls and floors for holes or crevices. Inspect the masonry of foundations, fireplaces, and chimneys; plug or cement cracks. Plug spaces around pipes that go through outside walls. Fasten galvanized screen over drains or ventilators, or over large areas of loose construction.
Copperhead Snake

There are no sprays, dusts, or poisons that have legal registration for use around homes or farms to repel or kill snakes. Low places under houses are likely to trap water, which provides a harborage for water moccasins. Outdoor sheds and barns are also ideal places for snakes to hide. These areas should be drained if possible.


Homeowners returning to areas inundated by floodwaters are likely to encounter infestations of insects, rodents, snakes, and other pests that can cause numerous health problems for humans and livestock.

The coypu AKA river rat or nutria is known to inhabit Houston and The Woodlands area waterways.

Rats and other rodents may move into homes and outbuildings to escape floodwaters. Search likely harboring places in your home and farm buildings. Carry a flashlight and approach closets, basements, storage areas, stairwells, bins, and shelves cautiously.

Do not endanger yourself. Guard against rat bites. If you are bitten by a rodent, try to capture or kill it, and take it immediately to a health authority to check for rabies. You may need medical treatment.

Rats that cannot be eliminated by clubbing or trapping, destroy by poisoning. Zinc Phosphide is a rat poison to use if there is no danger of small children or pets contacting them. This material kill rats quickly. The anticoagulant poisons (warfarin, pival, fumarin, and diphacinone) are safer to use around small children and pets, but require at least four days of successive feeding before the rats begin to die. Death of rats continues for two weeks or longer after consuming bait.

After the infestation is controlled, conduct a careful cleanup program. Remove trash piles, and avoid piling up lumber, trash, or damaged furniture or equipment on the ground. Store materials on platforms or shelves 12-18 inches above the ground. Make every effort to deprive the rats of food, food scraps, hiding places, or harborage. Clear outdoor harborages after rats are under control–never before–since rats may be driven into the house for refuge. It’s also easier to choose proper places to put bait before cleanup.

Clean up piles of garbage and debris both indoors and outdoors, and cover garbage cans tightly. Store foods in glass or metal containers in cupboards. Set traps and poisons in strategic locations, and maintain them even after you have stopped an infestation. Dispose of dead rodents as you would livestock carcasses.

Pest Control 

Use the following preventive measures, and apply pesticides if necessary. Do not overreact to emergency conditions, however. Use pesticides only in the areas and amounts specified on the labels. Keep them out of the reach of children, pets, and livestock.

Insects & Spiders

Photograph by Mark Chappell of University of California, Riverside

Insects multiply rapidly because post-flood conditions provide many favorable breeding sites. Mosquito, fly, and other insect outbreaks can reach alarming rates quickly.

Avoid potential health problems by eliminating breeding spots. Cesspools, cisterns, trash containers, and rain barrels should be covered. Drain standing puddles, marshes, and containers filled with water. Use insecticides to treat standing water and sanitation pits. Dispose of garbage and animal carcasses as recommended. If you use manure as fertilizer, spread it thinly so that it dries quickly.

Repair or replace damaged screens, windows, doors, and vents that allow insects to enter your home and farm buildings.

Use household sprays indoors and apply an insecticide to window screens. In heavily infected areas, use commercial outdoor sprays, and wear protective clothing and insect repellant. An insecticide supplier can recommend chemicals and application procedures.

By Dr. Edwin Jones, Extension Wildlife Specialist

Edited slightly to add information relevant to the Greater Houston Area.

Article courtesy of Mississippi State University

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