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Gov. Pritzker designates official snake of Illinois with help from Carterville student

Gentry Heiple worked with Senator Dale Fowler to establish the eastern milk snake as the state...
Gentry Heiple worked with Senator Dale Fowler to establish the eastern milk snake as the state snake of Illinois. (Photo: Office of State Senator Dale Fowler)(Office of State Senator Dale Fowler)
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 3:30 PM CDT
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ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Governor JB Pritzker has designated the official snake of the state of Illinois as the eastern milk snake with the help of one eager Illinoisan.

According to a release from Pritzker’s office, House Bill 4821 stated as an initiative by Carterville Junior High School 7th grader Gentry Heiple.

Heiple reached out to State Rep. Dave Severin to inquire about how bills become laws which inspired him to advocate for this legislation.

He then presented his idea to the House of Representatives State Government Administration Committee who gave unanimous consent and ultimately chose the eastern milk snake.

“I decided to do this bill to try and highlight the good and importance of snakes all over,” said Gentry Heiple. “And by doing this I was able to visit the capitol and meet some of the most important people in Illinois. And I am very grateful and appreciative of all the people who supported me and voted yes on the bill. I was surprised to see the amount of people with such fear be so intrigued and supportive of this snake bill.”

State Representative Dave Severin, Gentry Heiple and his parents Tim and Lindsay Stockhecke.
State Representative Dave Severin, Gentry Heiple and his parents Tim and Lindsay Stockhecke.(Rep. Severin)

Gov. Pritzker says the eastern milk snake can be found all across Illinois in fields, woodlands, rocky hills, and river bottoms.

It ranges from 24 to 36 inches in length, has smooth scales, large blotches with brown or black borders, and a y- or v-shaped mark on its head. It is not a poisonous snake and can even be bred as a pet.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our young Illinoisans, like Gentry Heiple, who have gotten involved in our state’s legislative process,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I am honored to sign this bill into law declaring the eastern milk snake the official snake of Illinois. Gentry, may you continue to use your voice to advocate for change, making our state better one bill at a time.”

Rep. Severin released the following statement:

“When Gentry reached out to my office to express his interest in designating the State of Illinois’ official state snake, I wanted take the opportunity to demonstrate the legislative process and let him participate.

Gentry had the idea, did all the research, and bravely presented the bill to the House State Government Administration Committee where he received unanimous support. The bill then made its way through the Senate with Senator Fowler’s as the sponsor. I am pleased to announce we received notice from the governor’s office this week that the bill was signed into law.”

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