WICHITA FALLS, Texas -- The week has officially gone to the snakes.
Wichita Falls city officials are telling residents to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, attributing growth in the reptiles' population to an increase of rodents in the area.
The warning comes the same week that a Florida man reported that a six-foot-long snake slithered out from under the hood of his car during rush hour traffic.
While the Wichita Falls snake lookout doesn't address cars, officials are telling residents to be aware of their surroundings and learn to recognize the different snake species that are likely to be in the area. Rattlesnakes are usually not aggressive and do not prey on humans, according to center officials — they usually will retreat or escape when given the opportunity.
"There are many nonvenomous snake that are beneficial for the environment and act as predators to the rat infestation our community is having," the release said.
This weekend, Wichita Falls animal control employees were called to collect four "large" rattlesnakes in residential areas, according to Katrena Mitchell, the city's administrator of the animal control department. Usually the department receives only one or two calls regarding rattlesnakes a week.
"They're on the move a little bit more," Mitchell said. "Be careful where you're stepping and where you're walking. Rattlesnakes don't always rattle."
Several pets have been attacked recently by the snakes, with at least one dying. And though the increased number of rattlesnakes in Wichita Falls now can be partially attributed to fluctuation in weather conditions, the driving factor is an uptick in the snakes' favorite food — rodents.
The city's health department doesn't keep data on reports of rodents, but an official there told the Times Record News on Tuesday that rat and mice populations probably have swelled due to abundant rainfall and record crop yields.
"There's no reason for them to not reproduce right now," said Susan Morris, general environmental administration of the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District. "I've noticed that when I'm driving on the highway I see them crossing the roads. My assumption would be that they have a lot of food and they have a lot of water."
Rattlesnakes are usually not aggressive and do not prey on humans, according to center officials.
Approximately 8,000 people are bitten by rattlesnakes yearly in the U.S. with 10 to 15 deaths occurring, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.