There's no way to sugar coat the topic of snakes.
Either you love them, or you hate them. And if you hate them, you really hate them, and it's likely because of a deep-rooted fear that can be traced back to our distant primate past, when snakes posed one of the greatest threats to survival.
Just the sight of a snake — whether or not it's eating, then regurgitating a live snake — can often result in a reaction kind of like this:
If you've ever spent time in one of the District's preserves, odds are you've seen one of the many species of legless wonders that live there.
Should you be afraid? Should you go running for cover? The simple answer is no.
"We have no venomous snakes in our preserves," said Forest Preserve District of Will County Wildlife Ecologist Glen Buckner.
Even though some will insist a photo shared on social media is a water moccasin, cottonmouth or rattlesnake, that's just not true.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources lists four venomous snakes in the state — the copperhead, cottonmouth, timber rattlesnake and the massasauga — and their range is in southern Illinois, not Will County. The massasauga was last documented locally 20 years ago and now is considered extirpated.
"While it isn't impossible one had hitched a ride on a barge or been dropped off, there are no records of them in the preserves," Buckner said.
"The snake would not survive the winters here."
There are, however, more than a dozen other harmless and fascinating snakes that have been documented locally. The most common is the garter snake, and the biggest snakes seen in person by staff are bull snakes.
Buckner estimates one at Kankakee Sands Preserve was in excess of six feet.
Bull snakes are the largest native species in the United States, with the biggest one on record being measured at just over eight feet long.
Other snakes that can be found in the preserves include:
- Kirtland's snake
- Eastern hognose
- Northern water
- Smooth green queen
- Western ribbon
- Plains garter
- Common garter
"Occasionally Northern water snakes will do threat displays, which make them look like cottonmouths, and Fox snakes will shake their tails and posture, but neither is dangerous," Buckner said. "Just leave them alone and they will move along."
But, not before you snap a picture.