You’ve probably heard about the massive wildfires happening in Texas right now. The fires, which some people are calling the most destructive in Texas history, are being spurred on by heavy winds and bone-dry drought conditions. The blazes have destroyed hundreds of homes near Austin, and thousands of people have been evacuated. What you might not have heard, however, is that the same drought conditions that make the landscape prime for fires might increase human-rattlesnake encounters in the state as well.
It’s a simple formula: The drought conditions make food scarce. And if food is scarce, the snakes can’t get the abundance of fat storage needed to make it through hibernation. So, what do the snakes do? They resort to traveling beyond their normal hunting spots in search of rodents, birds and other edible creatures.
This could conceivably lead the snakes closer to human populations, where water (and, as a result, small rodents) are more abundant.
“The drought has dried all of the grass that the rodents normally feed on. It’s a chain effect, when there are less rodents for the snakes to eat, they will be ranging further and further out from their normal foraging areas,” said Jerry Cates, an expert on Texas snake populations.
AccuWeather.com reports that snakes might also be roaming in the winter months and searching for food, at a time when they are normally expected to be hibernating.