Snakes: Friend or foe? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Snakes: Friend or foe?

Timber Rattlesnake (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS) Timber Rattlesnake (Source: Loreto Cruz KFVS)

There are 39 types of snakes in Illinois, four of which are venomous. The lattermost number is five in Missouri, but area experts say that's no reason to stay indoors this season.

Among the many hotspots in the southern Illinois hiking and camping scene, is a stretch of road known as “snake road” near Wolf Lake. It's closed twice a year to allow snake migration, but if you happen to pass through on any cool day, you might come across one of the trail's namesakes.

Illinois herpetologist Scott Ballard said snakes are actually a pretty common sight.

“If you go up to a log… don't just sit down on that log without looking first.” Ballard warned, “They could be coiled up on top. If you sat on a dog or cat, or tried to touch one you've never met before, they'd probably bite you too, so why would you sit on a snake!”

Hiker David Blumenstock frequents the trails around Lake Murphysboro north of the trail, and said he sees snakes all of the time.

“Most generally you see them on logs or tree limbs.” Blumenstock said, “I just keep on walking and leave them alone. If you don't bother them, they won't bother you..”

While you're setting up camp, keep food locked up tight so you don't attract mice. Ballard said they're typically the only ones who really have to worry about snakes making the first move.

“The chance of seeing a venomous snake anywhere in Illinois is only one in ten.” he explained

“Around the lake all you see is a black snake or maybe a blue racer.” Blumenstock explained. “They're mostly common water snakes.”

Ballard said the venomous copperhead has extremely short fangs that are generally unable to pierce leather, or even denim pants.

If you do get bitten, Ballard recommends contacting a healthcare professional for assistance.

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