Mississippi River flooding forcing wildlife onto levees, roads

Flooding impact on wildlife around the Mississippi River

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - How would you feel if your home sat underwater for months?

It’s a reality for wild animals living along the Mississippi River who are being bottle necked to higher ground because of ongoing flooding.

As the water rises the amount of habitat space these land animals rely on shrinks in size.

Experts say they end up on levees and roads and that the traveling public needs to be on the lookout and keep our distance.

Mandy Brown lives on the outskirts of Cape Girardeau and has seen a noticeable uptick in the amount of wild animals out and about this Spring.

“They definitely have been moving around,” Brown said. “It’s a little disturbing at times because there is a lot of animals that I see crossing the roads that don't make it."

Brown says she's seen a good mix of wildlife that are unfortunately hit by vehicles and end up on the side of the road.

"I go running a lot and I see a lot of armadillo. I see possum, turtles, a lot of deer,” Brown said. “I see skunks a lot but I don't know if that is just where I live or if that has something to do with the water rising as well."

Kevin Brunke with the Missouri Department of Conservation says acres of natural habitat on the river-side of levees have spent most of 2019 underwater.

"They just have less places to go and so they are more visible. They are not in their natural home ranges,” Brunke said. “Even though deer and turkeys and other terrestrial wildlife may be temporarily displaced and nutritionally stressed, fish and things like that naturally live in the river they are exploring this new habitat and are benefiting from the flood waters to some degree.”

And if you come across a wild animal Brunke says the best course of action is to admire it from a distance.

"Leave it alone and let it get back to it's natural habitat when flood waters recede," Brunke said. “It’s able to make a living, so let it fend for itself. It will figure it out.”

Brown plans to help some of the critters she comes across escape a sticky situation.

“If they are in the middle of the road, maybe help them to the side of the road,” Brown said. “That's about it. Definitely don't take them home as a pet because they are looking for their family."

The Conservation Department is also looking at a new flood regulation that would create five zones in Southeast Missouri to protect displaced wildlife from being pursued or taken during flood events.

The proposal will go through a public comment period this October.

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