Robert Sanders rows past his Holly Grove, Arkansas, home atop Mississippi River floodwaters Tuesday with his dog—aptly named Lucky. Many pets along the Mississippi River and its tributaries are at risk as the river swells, according to a Wednesday statement by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
"The HSUS is prepared to temporarily shelter any animal displaced by the floods; please remember, if it is not safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets," said Lydia Sattler, Mississippi state director for the HSUS.
Earlier this week, the Mississippi River peaked in Memphis, Tennessee, just inches below the all-time record, according to the National Weather Service. Now the surge is continuing south toward the Gulf of Mexico, where New Orleans is bracing for its own crest around May 23.
—With reporting by Brian Handwerk
Photograph by Eric Thayer, Reuters
Heading for Drier Pastures
Cattle look for dry land as floodwaters slowly rise near Turner, Arkansas, on Tuesday. In addition to livestock, wild animals such as snakes and deer have been heading for higher ground—and they may not have suitable places to return to as floodwaters recede.
While most wild animals will survive the Mississippi River flood, for some their habitats could take years to return to normal, said Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Jereme Odom.
"Animals will be displaced for so long that, when the water does recede, it will take a while to get back to their original habitats," he said. "Some may be established elsewhere or displaced so far away that they never get back."
A snake swims in Mississippi River floodwaters in Holly Grove, Arkansas, on Tuesday. As floodwaters receded in Shelby County, Tennessee, this week, county spokesperson Steve Shular noted that "we're starting to see some issues, especially with the snakes"—including venomous pit vipers called cottonmouths, or water moccasins.
"When that water gets into a neighborhood, snakes are going to be searching for shelter and food in homes or sheds or wherever they can slither into," Shular said.
"One of our wildlife managers even spotted deer and coyotes"—natural enemies—"standing on the same levee together."
Photograph by Denny Simmons, Evansville Courier & Press/AP
On May 7 William Owen holds his dog Precious at an emergency center set up at a local mall after being evacuated from flooded Redwood Estates trailer park in Memphis, Tennessee.
Other pets will soon be headed to Natchez, Mississippi, where the Humane Society of the United States announced it would help establish a temporary shelter. The facility will start accepting up to 300 flood-displaced animals Wednesday.