Bruce Rauner, Governor

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  Snake Conservation   



Eleven Illinois snake species are listed (as of 2004) as either state endangered or state threatened. Endangered Illinois snakes include the coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum), the broad-banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata), the eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus), and the Great Plains rat snake (Elaphe emoryi). Illinois threatened snakes include Kirtland's snake (Clonophis kirtlandii), the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), the western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus), the Mississippi green water snake (Nerodia cyclopion), the flathead snake (Tantilla gracilis), the eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus) and the lined snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum). Several of these species are at the edge of their geographic range in Illinois, occurring in only a few counties and having never been present in large numbers. Kirtland's snake, the eastern massasauga and the timber rattlesnake, however, are sharply declining over a large area of the United States.

Habitat alteration and loss are major factors in the declining populations of snake species. Many people do not consider snakes beneficial and are not concerned about destroying the forests, grasslands, swamps and sloughs where snakes live when developing and building. Another factor is the illegal trade of reptiles in Illinois. There are several laws designed to protect all native Illinois snake species. However, selling reptiles can be profitable and is tempting to some people even though it is illegal. Killing of snakes because of misinformation, lack of information, and irrational fears has also affected populations. Habitat preservation, law enforcement, and education are the keys to conserving Illinois snakes.


The eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus), a rattlesnake species, is endangered in Illinois.


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