Identifying Snakes in Illinois

Outside of the metropolis of Chicago, Illinois is a pretty rural state. All that country is home to a plethora of snake species, including four that are poisonous. However, those four species are the least likely to be encountered. Farmers, campers, boaters and suburbanites in Illinois should all know a little bit about snake identification, so as to avoid a needless panic in the event of encountering a snake by surprise. (Pictured below: Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake)
Identifying Snakes in Illinois


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Study the width and length of the snake. The prairie kingsnake, often found in Illinois's grassy flatlands, is between 30 and 40 inches long.
Step 2
Study the snake's colors. The aforementioned prairie kingsnake and the Great Plains ratsnake are hard to tell apart because they live in the same places, are roughly the same size, and have similar colors. However, close attention will detect the paler coloration of the ratsnake, and allow the two species to be visually distinguished. Other Illinois snakes are instantly identifiable by their colors, like the appropriately named redbelly snake.
Step 3
Take note of the habitat. Seven Illinois' snake species, including the venomous cottonmouth, are amphibians who always live in swamps or near ponds, lakes, streams or rivers. If you find a snake far from water, it cannot be any of these. The previously cited kingsnake and ratsnake species are highly unlikely to be found in a forested area, because they prefer grassy flatlands.
Step 4
Look for the tell-tale features of a pit viper. All four of Illinois poisonous snakes - the cottonmouth, the copperhead, the massasauga (pygmy) rattlesnake, and the timber rattlesnake - are pit vipers. These have distinctive eyes with slit-shaped pupils, and a pit-like organ located between the eyes and the snout. No other snakes in Illinois will have these features.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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