As Hurricane Ian moves out of Florida, officials are warning residents of a new threat—roaming alligators and snakes.
During major storms, especially ones with the magnitude of Ian, rising water levels and strong winds push animals further onto land. So people may notice more wildlife taking refuge in their backyards.
“Wildlife may become more visible during and after a storm,” the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Twitter. “Please be aware of an extra gator in your pond, snake in your shed, or deer in your pasture.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation gives advice on how to react if residents spot an alligator or other animal lurking after Hurricane Ian. Its most important suggestions are to leave it alone, and if an animal seems to be in distress during the storm, don’t attempt a rescue.
Aside from the snakes and alligators, people may also come across bears, sea turtles, and birds. With wind-blown trash debris covering property, bears will find food scraps readily available. As people are working to clean their communities, they may encounter one foraging. It is important to stay away from a bear that has found food as they become overtly aggressive when people approach them in that situation.
Wildlife Officials Ask People to Keep Away From Wildlife that Shifted During Hurricane Ian
Florida is also in the middle of sea turtle nesting season, which means their nests may have been tossed further ashore in the storm surge. Loggerheads and leatherbacks are among the species that live in the Sunshine State, and they are both critically endangered. So officially are asking people to never disturb a nest or touch an egg if they find them.
“These efforts may have unintended consequences to the incubating eggs or hatchlings and rarely result in eggs hatching,” wildlife officials warn.
Hurricanes also affect seabirds and shorebird habitats. The winds and floods can shift their nesting sites, which is normal and not harmful. But people may notice nests popping up in strange places. As people should leave them as they are.
Luckily, the worst is over for Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian. As of today, it has been downgraded to a tropical storm. But the impact left on property and wildlife will likely prove devastating.
According to Fox Weather, the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4, is the fourth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the state. It ties with Hurricane Charley. In 2004, that storm made landfall in almost the exact same spot as Ian.