Hurricane Harvey is likely to cause a “migration” of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other snakes common to the Texas coastline near Rockport, Port Lavaca and Port Aransas.
There is no question storms move snakes. Floodwaters push up debris that snakes pile on and they get a free ride sometimes dozens of miles inland.
The area being impacted by Hurricane Harvey has a sizable population of rattlesnakes on the islands along the Intracoastal Canal and higher ground in the marshes as well as abundant cottonmouths.
Snake migration via hurricane has happened before.
In fact it happened nine years ago after Hurricane Ike hit the Upper Texas Coast.
In 16 years (as of 2008) of covering every aspect of outdoors and wildlife in Southeast Texas and having looked for snakes in the region since I was nine, I had never heard of a western diamondback rattlesnake east of Galveston Island.
Immediately after Hurricane Ike (2008) I interviewed a man who killed a large diamondback on Pleasure Island on Sabine Lake 50 miles to the east of Galveston.
Then within two years more and more stories of western diamondbacks in the region started to surface.
A capture reported to us by veteran local meteorologist Greg Bostwick gave us photographic evidence of diamondbacks in the area.
“The snake was captured alive about one mile south of my house in Chambers County and was about 4.5 feet long,” Bostwick said.
The snake was found north of Winnie, and that is not typical diamondback territory.
Shortly before Bostwick’s capture, the late Mike Hoke, at the time director of Shangri-La Botanical Gardens, said a diamondback was found during an expedition a while back at the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge in Sabine Pass.
It surprised him and his team.
There is no doubt snakes will be found in larger numbers in some areas after this storm than many would expect.
Here are safety tips to consider.
#Debris piles should be avoided. They can be thick with snakes as can high levees in flooded areas.
#Snakes can remain hidden in impressive fashion. When returning to flooded homes and beach cabins check every nook and cranny before allowing children or pets to come back in.
#In the event of storm surge snakes will be looking for fresh water. Be cautious around any fresh water source including toilets in homes in impacted areas.
The snakes are not out to get anyone but they are as stressed as anyone so be cautious navigating these flooded zones.
Rattlesnakes don’t always rattle and as I can attest cottonmouths often do not show their white mouth to avoid being bitten.
But when they do they are saying “Don’t tread on me!”
Wise people don’t.
Chester Moore, Jr.