The animals may not be pairing up two-by-two and looking for an ark, but floodwaters definitely have area critters on the move.
Jeff Hoffman of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission expects to see everything from deer to turkeys to snakes evacuating the lowlands as floodwaters rise.
Many won’t survive.
“Because they are moving to new territory, they have to cross unfamiliar roads, and that will definitely put them at risk to be struck by cars,” Hoffman said.
@Body Copy RAGGED RIGHT:In Plattsmouth, Sam McCandless said his family have “very interesting viewing” of a variety of creatures that are creeping out of the Schilling Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is bordered by the Missouri River on its east side, with railroad tracks and McCandless’ three acres to the west. Deer, foxes, turkeys, snakes, eagles and vultures are making regular appearances on the McCandless property as they move away from floodwaters to find food.
“We live up on a big hill overlooking the refuge, so occasionally we’ll see different animals, but nothing like we’ve been seeing for the past couple of weeks,” McCandless said Tuesday. “The eagles and vultures sit in our trees, and the deer are eating our flowers.”
The McCandless’ dog, a Shih tzu-bichon named Rocko, is getting some extra exercise, thanks to the encroaching foxes.
“They chase each other around and around,” McCandless said. “He barks at them and chases them into the woods.”
The exodus from the river bottoms could end up pitting animal against animal in a fight for territory as they forage for food, Hoffman said.
Floodwaters are covering thousands of acres of bottom land where foxes dig dens, raccoons hide in hollowed out logs and deer bed down for the night. Some birds nest on the ground, and other animals need dry ground to forage for food.
The flooding also can pit animals against humans, as is the case when deer leave the abundant foliage of the river bottoms and head into cornfields.
“We have not had a dramatic increase in sightings, but as the flooding expands there is more of a chance to encounter wildlife,” Hoffman said. “The deer could end up doing a lot of damage to fields.”
The major risk is on the side of the wildlife, Hoffman said, especially young animals or birds that could be left behind when waters quickly rise.
“Pheasants, quail and turkey might re-nest if their eggs have not hatched, but they likely won’t do so if the hatch has already occurred,” Hoffman said. “I’m afraid we will see an increase in wildlife mortality.”
Pam Wiese, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Humane Society, said residents of the Fort Calhoun area are reporting seeing more wildlife in general. There have even been reports of coyotes howling as they follow their prey uphill from the Missouri River.
Wiese said residents need to keep an eye on their pets if raccoons, opossums or other predators are moving through their yards. She advised residents to bring pet food inside and, if necessary, their pets as well.
“Our people in dispatch have had more people reporting sightings of opossums and raccoons but that’s not unusual because the animals — like a lot of people — are on the move,” she said.
“Our advice is to give them a few minutes and check back because they will probably have moved on.”
Wiese also recommended that garbage cans be locked up to keep marauding, hungry animals away.
“Even nocturnal animals might be more apt to come out in the daytime because they are in unfamiliar surroundings and they are just trying out where they are and what there is to eat,” Wiese said.
“Keep your trash locked up, and they will probably just move on to where there is a food source.”
Animal control officers will not remove a healthy critter from someone’s yard but they should be called if the animal appears to be injured, sick or a public safety concern. Animal control officers can be reached at 402-444-7800.
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