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Flood Response: Wildlife Response, Safety, and Rescue

After a flood event people are trying to recover and may not consider that many wild animals were also impacted.  Not only are many of our neighbors displaced from their homes but many animals such as mammals, insects, reptiles are as well.  Proper safety measures should be exercised during and after floods.  The following article discusses safety measures as well as rescue measures following the flood.

Rescuing animals seems like an easy and useful thing to do, however it is dangerous and can be harmful. Handling a distressed animal can be very dangerous since they will be scared and defensive, causing bodily harm to rescuers. People attempting to rescue without consent can cause further stress and harm to the already struggling animal. It is very important not to approach or touch any distressed animal for your safety and theirs.  If you feel you can safely rescue an animal in order to provide it help then please refer to the following guidelines:

The following is information provided by the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge regarding what to do for injured or orphaned wild animals.

If you find any injured or orphaned wild animal:

  • Call the ECWR 650-1880 for assistance
  • Use protective gloves or thick towel to place in appropriate-sized box or container with breathing holes.
  • Do not provide food or water as it may harm rather than help a sick animal and interfere with medications the animal may receive at the ECWR.
  • Keep in a warm, dark, quiet place overnight
  • Do not allow children or other people to handle the animal
  • Provide transportation for the animal to the ECWR facility at 105 Santa Rosa Blvd. Ft. Walton Beach 32548. Business hours are 8:00-4:00 daily. If unable to transport to Ft. Walton consider dropping it off for pick up at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital, 1856 Cotton Bay Lane, Navarre 32566. 850-936-4446.
  • After hours emergency number FWC dispatch 1-888-404-3922
  • Stranded dolphin or whale do not attempt to push into deeper water. Call the stranding network at 1-877-942-5343
  • Healthy wildlife should be left alone.

Health Risks from Displaced Animals:

The Florida Department of Health advises Florida residents and visitors to protect themselves against injury from animals that may become displaced because of flooding and storms.

  • Be aware of snakes that may be swimming in the water to get to higher ground and those that may be hiding under debris or other objects.
  • If you see a snake, back away from it slowly and do not touch it.

How to Prevent Fire Ant Stings and Bites

  • Anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should discuss their allergy with their primary health care provider who may recommend carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen). We recommend you also wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.
  • During flooding conditions, colonies of fire ants are capable of floating in clusters or “rafts,” posing a threat to anything encountering them.
  • Colonies can also be formed under rocks, wood or other debris on the ground, edges of bodies of water, trash cans and areas with spilled food or sugary drinks.
  • Expect indoor invasions. Fire ants can easily enter structures through tiny cracks and crevices after a flood. Occasionally, entire colonies will migrate into structures and nest in wall voids, children’s or immobile person’s beds.
  •  Do not disturb or stand on or near ant mounds.
  • Be careful when lifting items (including animal carcasses) off the ground, as they may be covered in ants.
  • Fire ants may also be found on trees or in water, so always look over the area before starting to work.

First Aid for Fire Ant Bites

  • Rub off ants briskly, as they will attach to the skin with their jaws.  Antihistamines may help, make sure to follow directions on packaging and drowsiness may occur.
  • Seek immediate medical attention at an emergency medical facility immediately if a sting causes severe chest pain, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling, or slurred speech.

Preventing Rodent Infestations:

Surviving rodents often relocate to new areas in search of food, water and shelter.

  • Removing food sources, water and items that provide shelter for rodents is the best way to prevent contact with rodents.
  • Dispose of garbage on a frequent and regular basis inside and outside of the home.
  • Thoroughly clean areas with signs of rodent activity to reduce the likelihood of exposure to germs and diseases.

For further information, please contact your local county health department or visit or
The Florida Emergency Information Line: 1-800-342-3557.  For more information, including first aide for the previous mentioned issues click on: RiskstoDisplacedAnimals072012

For more information or resources please contact your local county extension office.