First came the rats, then rattlesnakes in this North Texas city

Four rattlesnakes were captured in Wichita Falls last week.
Four rattlesnakes were captured in Wichita Falls last week. Star-Telegram archives

An increase in rats has led to a more problematic pest in this North Texas city: Rattlesnakes.

Animal control workers in Wichita Falls collected four large rattlesnakes in neighborhoods last week, according to a report by the Wichita Falls Times Record News.

Several pets in the city have been attacked by the venomous snakes, and one of the pets died, the newspaper reported.

A couple hours northwest of Wichita Falls, near Childress, a 2-year-old boy from Grapevine suffered a rattlesnake bite on his leg last weekend, according to CBS 11.

The boy was taken to a nearby hospital, and then flown to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where he’s still recovering. At one point, his leg and foot swelled to nearly three times their regular size, his parents told the TV station.

Officials in Wichita Falls, about 115 miles northwest of Fort Worth, believe the rattlesnake problem in their city is a result of the growing rat population, a product of heavy rainfall and record crop yields, according to the Times Record News.

At the Smith’s Gardentown Farms in Wichita Falls, the rodents have chewed through a couple thousand dollars worth of wiring on forklifts over the last few months.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this amount of rats in our lifetime,” said Steve Smith, the nursery’s longtime owner. “I’ve seen some pretty large ones.”

Their presence, apparently, has created a steady diet for snakes.

“Snakes always follow the food source,” said Fred Hall, an agent with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service in Fort Worth.

But while the slithery reptiles are popping up closer to the Red River, they haven’t marked as big of a presence in Dallas-Fort  Worth.

The emergency room at John Peter Smith Hospital hasn’t seen any recent cases of snake bites, said hospital spokeswoman Kristen Newcomer. Neither has Cook Children’s Medical Center, spokeswoman Wini King said.

Last week, Fort Worth police did wrangle a rattlesnake off a front porch on the west side of town, but Hall’s office hasn’t heard of a snake report in more than a month.

The snakes and their prey typically don’t thrive in Tarrant County, he said.

“Although we have had more rain than usual, we haven’t had the high-water habitat that would drive the snake or rodent population,” Hall said.

Snakes and rats also gravitate toward large brush piles, Hall said.

“When you’re having the new building we’re having, you just don't have those long term piles,” Hall said. “They’ve been pushed and burned and moved.”