With wet weather expected to continue throughout the summer, the odds increase for residents to come into contact with wildlife they usually don’t find near their homes.
Joe DeBold, urban wildlife biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said these animals will seek safety just as humans do.
“Just the same as when people are moved out of their homes because of a flood, they’re out their element as well, they don’t know what to do, they’re mentally drained and lost,” he said. “Wildlife (is) the same way.”
DeBold said he urges residents to leave wildlife alone as much as they can. If left alone, he said, they will most likely move on. For example, he said some residents may find snakes curled up on their property seeking refuge from the storm. If one finds a snake curled on a motorcycle, for example, DeBold said they should try and not ride it until the snake moves on. If they must ride, he said gently dislodge the reptile with a long object such as a broom handle. Once they begin to be moved, the snake will usually move along on its own with no trouble.
Snapping turtles can also pose a threat for youngsters who come across it not realizing the danger. DeBold said unless a resident trains in visually identifying the various types of turtles, they may not know the difference.
According to the MDC website, conservations describe the alligator snapping turtle as a larger species with a noticeably large head. The upper shell also includes three prominent ridges — one along the center line and one on either side.
The snapping turtle, more common and widespread in Missouri, lacks the three prominent ridges described for the alligator snapping turtle.
Once a snapping turtle bears down on a human’s meat and bones, they will not let go, DeBold said.
This can result in broken finders and damages wrists and hands, among other injuries. Wildlife will do everything in its power to protect itself once it senses danger. Wildlife views humans as a predator simply because of size alone.
DeBold said the MDC published a guide to help in the identification of Missouri’s wildlife. This guide can be viewed at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/search
Letting nature take its course remains the best action. DeBold said society encourages humans to try and save everything in nature. This simply cannot be done, he said, and it will often result in extra stress placed on wildlife.
“When people see something such as wildlife, they automatically think it’s wrong and that it’s abandoned and it has to be saved,” he said. “We live in a society where we think everything we see has to be saved and it simply cannot be done. Nature doesn’t go that way where it saves everything. Nature will manage on its own through disease and other forms of management.”
If a resident comes across a turtle struggling to cross the road, DeBold said to exercise great caution if they pull over to assist. Drivers simply do not pay attention to vehicles on the side of the road and the MDC does not encourage residents stopping on public roads to help turtles, he said.
If the resident can stop safely, he said to move the turtle off the road in the direction it travels. Non-snapping turtle can be held on the outside of its shell while snapping turtles can be grabbed by its tail.
Humans will continue to encounter wildlife, DeBold said. The more the human race sprawls out, the more they will come into contact with these animals. Society must learn to co-exist with wildlife, he said.
“The best thing is to respect them, tolerate them, let nature handle them and just go about our business just living amongst them,” he said.