Jindal: Flood chasing bears, snakes away from river

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that officials are warning residents to be on the lookout for wildlife fleeing floodwaters.

The governor said four bears have been seen in areas around the rising water, and that state officials anticipate an increase in snake bites as animals move to higher ground.

Jindal said the risk of encountering snakes will be elevated while water is high and even after water levels begin to drop.

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“After the water recedes, pay attention to local officials about advisories concerning snakes and other dangers that can be left behind,” Jindal said.

Louisiana swamps are filled with snakes. Many are not poisonous and don’t require antivenin, an antidote for bites from venomous species.

The governor said state health and poison control officials are working with hospitals in affected areas to ensure that each facility has 12 vials of the antivenin CroFab.

That treatment works to counteract the effects of venom from all of Louisiana’s native snakes, except bites from the relatively rare coral snake, which requires a different antivenin.

Swampy south Louisiana is home to several kinds of poisonous snakes, including copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes and water moccasins.

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 18 deer and a coyote have been seem on the Morganza spillway levee. Deer have been spotted emerging exhausted from the water and running into livestock fences.

“Wildlife officials caution residents to leave wildlife alone so they can recover and they don’t panic, which lessens their chances for survival,” said Jindal.

The Morganza spillway northwest of Baton Rouge was opened on Saturday, pouring Mississippi River water into wildlife-heavy wetlands of the Atchafalaya River basin.

Farther south, the Bonnet Carre spillway about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans was opened last week, sending river water into Lake Pontchartrain.

The bears are most likely a black bear subspecies that was put on the endangered species list in 1992.

Others swamp dwellers likely on the move are alligators — a 10-footer was shot near a suburban New Orleans levee over the weekend — nutria, opossums and raccoons.