(NAPSI)-As if the home-foreclosure mess wasn't bad enough, now there's a new twist to worry about: snakes.
Communities in states like Florida, California, New York, Virginia and Ohio have seen sharp rises in the amount of wildlife-everything from snakes to rats to bees-infesting abandoned properties since the home mortgage crisis began playing out. That's because as people lose their homes, the abandoned properties often go unmanaged. As a result, walls become moldy, swimming pools sit untreated, grass and weeds grow wild and animals soon move in.
And with some analysts predicting that as many as 2.8 million homeowners could wind up losing their homes to foreclosure by the end of 2009, the problem is only likely to get worse.
"Anything that's not maintained creates a potential attraction for a lot of opportunistic wildlife," Scott McCombe, general manager for Critter Control of Northern Virginia, told The Washington Post regarding the problems he's been seeing.
In Brevard County, Fla., for example, 235 new cases of overgrown, abandoned lots have left remaining residents deeply concerned about potential danger to their families.
"I've got grandkids-I have to worry about a snake biting them," says Sara Peterson, who lives next door to one of the foreclosed and abandoned houses. "It's really sad."
Meanwhile, California residents have been warned about a growing risk of West Nile disease as abandoned pools on foreclosed properties become mosquito breeding grounds.
Clearly, part of the $300 billion housing bill recently signed into law by President Bush is intended to address the situation. A total of $3.9 billion was specifically earmarked for communities to fix up foreclosed properties causing blight.
So what's a homeowner to do if confronted by a snake?
"Stay alert and stay away from the snake-don't try to capture or remove it," advises Dr. Rutherfoord Rose of VCU Medical Center and director of Virginia Poison Center in Richmond, Va. He offers these additional tips:
• If you're bitten, contact your local poison center at (800) 222-1222 for advice on hospital care. Immobilize the limb and keep it elevated until you get to the closest hospital.
• In high grass or areas with debris that snakes may be hiding under, make noise so you don't surprise them.
• Wear high-cut boots and long pants for protection when doing yard work.
Finally, never try to suck snake venom out of a wound since it's only likely to make things worse.
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