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How to stay safe if you encounter wildlife after a flood

By Olivia Miltner, AccuWeather staff writer

Floods are a natural and important part of many ecosystems. However, they can significantly impact both people and wildlife, causing damage and even death.

Although displaced critters will vary depending on where a flood happens, here are a few recommendations for wildlife encounters after a flood.

1. Deer and other large animals


White-tailed doe and fawn in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Okla. (Flickr Photo/Larry Smith)

Wildlife affected by floods can generally be placed in two classes: those that are mobile and those that aren’t, said Bruce Stein, the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) associate vice president for conservation science and climate adaptation.

Smaller, more sedentary creatures that naturally live in floodplains underground can usually handle floods while staying in place, Stein said.

In contrast, larger wildlife such as deer, alligators, turkeys and feral pigs move to avoid floodwaters, and this is when wildlife can start coming into conflict with people and communities.

“Wildlife doesn’t always move into places where people are living. Often times what you’ll see is that they will move into high ground that then at the height of the flood become islands, which is fine in terms of avoiding floodwaters themselves but can actually create some additional issues for wildlife,” Stein said, pointing to potential poaching, predation or disease transfer that can come from unusually high concentrations of animals.

Instead of interacting with or feeding displaced animals, even if they appear abandoned, Stein and other experts recommend letting wildlife be, as they will typically return and “recolonize” their original habitat.

Residents can also contact local authorities, such as the local animal control office, for help handling displaced animals.

2. Fire ants

Fire ant raft

A large fire ant raft. (Flickr Photo/Maggie)

Fire ants like to create floating colonies during and after floods. They may stay in these rafts or hide out in debris piles until they are able to return underground, so watch out because their bite can cause pain and blistering.

3. Rodents

Rodents can be attracted to “sources of food, water, and shelter such as garbage, dirty dishes, and debris,” as well as other dead animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

These critters can spread disease and harm property, so remove any potential sources of food or shelter and wash pans and other kitchen utensils as soon as possible.

4. Snakes

Water snake

Mississippi green water snake. (Flickr Photo/Greg Schechter)

Snakes are one of the most common creatures people think about after a flood. They can be found swimming in water or hiding under debris, and they should be avoided. The CDC recommends backing away slowly if you see a snake.

“Keep your eye out for snakes and avoid them, but also don’t overreact. Not every snake is poisonous; in fact most snakes aren’t poisonous, and snakes do an awful lot of good in terms of keeping rodent populations down and other sorts of things,” Stein said.

In the case of a snake bite, try to remember what the snake looked like. Call 911 or local emergency services, and keep the bitten person calm and still. The CDC recommends situating a person so their heart remains elevated above the bite wound.

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5. Mosquitoes

The U.S. rarely sees mosquito-transmitted disease epidemics after a natural disaster, and most mosquitoes do not carry communicable diseases.

However, flooding can increase the number of mosquitoes in an area, so residents could still contract diseases like Zika, West Nile or dengue fever if they were already present before the flood.

Ward off pesky mosquitoes with repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin, wear long sleeves and pants and drain any outdoor standing water.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

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