Tag Archives: houston flooding

Rat hordes biggest wildlife threat in Harvey aftermath

“Rats!”

“Thousands of them! Millions of them!”

The famous quote from Dwight Frye’s portrayal of Renfield in 1931’s Dracula shows a crazed man obsessed with large number of rodents.

There is no question that thousands and perhaps millions of rats have been displaced in Houston and outlying areas in the historic flooding of Hurricane Harvey.

And they are the most likely of displaced animals to cause problems.

Rats are excellent swimmers and climbers and while some will no doubt have perished most will survive.

The Houston area has had an increase rat problem this summer as show by this video from ABC 13.

According to the Center of Disease Control rats and their kind are major disease carriers.

Worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites. Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent.

Immediately some locations on high ground will find themselves covered with large numbers of rats. And while rats do not typically “attack” people, stressed ones are more likely to bite. The main threat would be children picking them up and pets encountering them.

Britannica_Rat_-_Brown_Rat

During my coverage of Hurricane Ike in 2008, I learned of a family that stayed in the path of the massive of Hurricane only a few miles from the beach and had to retreat into the attic and eventually the roof. As waters rose, rats inundated the small strip of high ground along with snakes from the nearby marsh.

Rats that can stay together will. They have a very strong social order.

But those separate by flooding conditions are still resilient.

Rodents that survive a disaster often move to new areas. It will take time for rodents to regroup, reorganize their social behavior, become familiar with their new environment, find safe haven, locate food and water, and memorize their movements according to CDC officials.

Colony building and reproduction will begin only when their new ecosystem has stabilized. This typically takes 6 to 10 months under favorable conditions. As the rodent population grows and resettles, people have a greater chance of being exposed to the diseases carried by rodents. Rodent urine and dander also contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive persons and more than 9,000 persons are treated in emergency departments annually for rat or mouse bites.

And something very few people consider is that a large number of rats found in America cities are a foreign invader-the Norway rat.

Dispersed around the world on ships these highly resilient animals can chew through virtually anything. These animals can outcompete native rodents for space and food and will survive virtually anything-including Hurricanes and floods.

CDC officials warn damaged or abandoned homes and other buildings may be infested with rodents.

In the aftermath of Harvey if you see signs of rodents, the building will need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Here are a few CDC tips for cleaning up after rats.

*Do not vacuum or sweep rodent urine, rodent droppings, or contaminated surfaces that have not been disinfected.

*Spray urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a 1:10 chlorine solution (1½ cups of household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water) until thoroughly soaked.

*Let it soak for 5 minutes.

*Use a paper towel to remove urine and droppings.

*Discard the paper towel outdoors in a sealed garbage container.

Make sure and educate children about rats and let them know not to approach or pick up any live or dead. If a child (or adult) is bitten by a rat get medical treatment immediately.

Its doubtful anyone will see “thousands of rats” and certainly not “millions”.

But for those of us who don’t much like these pests it can only take one to drive us crazy or at least feel that way.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Harvey’s Houston flooding will put urban coyotes, hogs on the move

The catastrophic flooding hitting the Houston area now due to Hurricane Harvey’s rain bands stalling will push the significant coyote and feral hog population out into the open.

The drainage ditch systems as well as the green belts near White Oak, Buffalo and Brays Bayou system are where coyotes dwell and use to travel throughout the metropolitan area.

How far do coyotes penetrate into this vast urban zone?

I saw a fresh road kill last year 1/4 mile east of the I-59 exit off of Interstate 10. They will be roaming the streets now and seeking shelter.

Coyote
Coyotes are common through the Greater Houston area from the Katy prairie to the bayou systems down. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

Most of the time coyotes are not a problem for people but when frightened and hungry threats can go up. Coyotes are also a rabies vector and can carry distemper so caution is wise for pet owners.

If you are in an impacted area consider the following to avoid coyote contact:

*Keep garbage inside or at least keep the lid on your cans.

*Feed your dogs and cats inside.

*Do not attempt to feed coyotes or any stray dog you might come across. Some have problems distinguishing dogs and coyotes.

*If your dog has to go walk it on a leash and keep walks short and away from any wooded areas or cover.

In addition to coyotes, feral hogs are an increasing issue in the Houston area with significant numbers along the eastern Beltway 8 corridor, in the wooded areas near Pasadena, Texas City and virtually all of the northern tier communities.

Mississippi_Feral_hog_swimming_(5736777867)
Feral hogs are great swimmer and will find their way to safe ground with no problem. In this case that might mean someone’s backyard. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

Feral hogs can be much more aggressive than coyotes especially when stressed and may be brazen enough to walk through parks, neighborhoods and yards as if they own the place.

If you see a hog during these flooding conditions chances are it it not someone’s pet. Keep in mind not all feral hogs are black. Many are brown, some are white, others spotted and even blonde.

Wild_hogs
Feral hogs are not all black. In fact they can have a range of colors. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

And while they are not out to get anyone, they have no problem letting someone feel their wrath if cornered. Do not approach any hog.

Few Houston area residents realize the depth of wildlife in their communities. Now, due to these catastrophic floods they will get perhaps a very up close look.

Use these tips to ensure both humans and wildlife stay safe during this tragic event.

Chester Moore, Jr.