Controlling rodents, snakes and other nuisance wildlife after a storm or flood.

  • Rat snake molting in the Missouri Ozarks. Photo by Bob Warrick. Shared under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0).
    Rat snake molting in the Missouri Ozarks. Photo by Bob Warrick. Shared under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Floods and severe storms can leave more than just people homeless. Displaced snakes, rodents and other nuisance wildlife often will seek shelter and food in areas close to people, said Bob Pierce, MU Extension fisheries and wildlife specialist.

Heavily damaged structures are particularly attractive to displaced animals because they offer a number of accessible entrances, said Pierce. Animals may also find shelter under debris, including debris piles created during the cleanup effort.

“To make your property less attractive to nuisance wildlife, be sure to remove debris from around your home as soon as possible and keep grass and other vegetation closely mowed,” Pierce said. “Get rid of potential food sources such as household trash and waste grain.”

Keep critters out of your home by sealing any openings that are a quarter-inch wide or larger. This includes entrances to attics or eaves, which squirrels can use to get inside. Check places such as corners of doors and around water pipes and electrical service entrances. Seal holes in masonry foundations with mortar and holes in wooden buildings with fine 1/8-inch mesh cloth or sheet metal.

To get rid of nuisance rats and mice, you can use snap traps baited with peanut butter and oatmeal. “To control large rodent populations, use a registered rodenticide in areas where you observe rodent activity,” Pierce said. “Be sure to use a bait station when using a rodenticide. This will protect the bait from the weather and prevent nontarget animals from eating the bait.”

MU Extension guides G9442 and G9444 provide recommendations on controlling house mice and on the use of bait stations.

Controlling snakes can be more complicated. There are no legal poison baits or fumigants registered for controlling snakes, and snake repellents may or may not be effective, Pierce said.

“In most cases, snakes are a valuable resource to have, as several species consume rodents, which will help keep them under control,” he said.

In addition, most Missouri snakes aren’t venomous. (For information on identifying venomous snakes, see the MU Extension publication “Snakes: Information for Missouri Homeowners,” available for free download.

Still, even bites from nonvenomous snakes can be painful and might result in infection, so you should be careful during cleanup.

“Watch where you put your hands and feet when moving debris,” Pierce said. “If possible, don’t place your fingers under debris you’re trying to move.” In heavy debris areas, wear snake-proof boots at least 10 inches high. Never step over logs or other obstacles unless you can see what’s on the other side.

If you do come across a snake, step back and let it go on its way. “Snakes usually don’t move fast, so a person can easily retreat from its path,” he said.

If you find a snake indoors, try to isolate it within a room or small area.

To capture a nonvenomous snake, pin it down with a long stick or pole and scoop it up with a flat-bladed shovel. If you aren’t comfortable doing that yourself, contact your local animal control office.

If you have to kill a venomous snake, club it with a garden hoe, long stick or similar tool that is long enough that it won’t bring you within the snake’s striking range—about half the snake’s total length.

Go to a hospital immediately if you are bitten by a venomous snake. Because of the risk of infection, you should also seek medical attention if a bite from a nonvenomous snake breaks the skin.

The MU Extension guide “Solving Wildlife Damage Problems in Missouri” (G9425) provides additional information on preventing and controlling nuisance wildlife. It is available for free download.

Photo available for this release:
Rat snake molting in the Missouri Ozarks. Photo by Bob Warrick. Shared under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

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