11-year-old southern Ill. boy works with senators, representatives to establish official state snake

A young Carterville resident is working with his state senators and representatives to...
A young Carterville resident is working with his state senators and representatives to establish an official state snake.(KFVS)
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 3:07 PM CDT
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SOUTHERN Ill. (KFVS) - An 11-year-old boy is working with his state government to establish an official state snake.

Senator Dale Fowler passed legislation through the Senate, inspired by Carterville resident Gentry Heiple, to establish the eastern milksnake as the official state snake of Illinois.

“I am happy to carry this legislation over from the House and sponsor a bill that will not only establish an official state snake but bring to life the vision of an 11-year-old boy from southern Illinois who took the initiative in making sure our state indeed had an official snake,” Senator Fowler said.

According to a news release from the senator’s office, the eastern milksnake is common to central regions of the country and its hallmark is the reddish dorsal scales with black edges. The snake averages 24-36 inches in length, is non-venomous and is generally not a threat unless provoked or cornered.

“Some reasons snakes benefit our society is that they are the best natural pest control, eating both rodents and invertebrates that eat our crops and can carry and cause diseases,” 11-year-old Gentry Heiple said.

“While I know there is still plenty of work to be done in Springfield for the remaining days of the spring legislative session, it’s nice to see Senators from both sides of the aisles, have a little fun with a bill and grant Gentry with his wish of designating an official state snake,” Fowler continued.

In December 2021, Heiple contacted State Representative Dave Severin’s Office to ask how a bill becomes a law and suggested the state needed to add to its list of state designations.

“I was proud to team up with Gentry to present legislation that designates the Eastern Milksnake as the State of Illinois’ official state snake,” Severin said in a news release at the time. “I truly enjoyed working with Gentry on this, ‘How a bill becomes a law,’ project. Gentry had the idea, did all the research, and bravely presented his idea to a panel of lawmakers that make up a standing House of Representatives Committee. I am proud to report he was successful, receiving unanimous Committee consent. It is my honor to serve the people of the 117th district, and especially in a moment like this when I can connect our young people to the legislative process.”

Severin filed House Bill 4821 in January 2022.

There are at least 28 designations under the State Designations Act, such as the monarch butterfly as the state insect, white oak as the state tree and pumpkin pie as the state pie.

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