WOLF LAKE – Bi-annually the Shawnee National Forest closes Forest Service Road No. 345, also known as Snake Road, to ensure safe crossing for all species of snakes and amphibians moving to the limestone cliffs from LaRue Swamp.
The 2. 7-mile-long road closes September 1 through October 30 to allow snakes and amphibians to migrate from their summer habitat in the LaRue Swamp across the road to their winter habitat in the limestone bluffs. Closure periods are sometimes extended due to present observations and weather. Though the road is closed to vehicles, it is open to people traveling on foot.
According to Forest Service wildlife biologist, Mark Vukovich, “The road closure is very important in maintaining the healthy population that exists there. Three species are listed as threatened in the state of Illinois. Twenty-three species of snakes have been documented in this area and it’s among the only areas in the U.S. to see so many different species in a small geographical area.”
The gradual, two-month snake movement attracts people from across the country eager to witness the rich diversity of reptile and amphibian species along this single stretch of road. About 57 percent of the amphibians and 56 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here.
Snake Road is located within the federally designated LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond Research Natural Area. The following special regulations apply on Snake Road and the entire Research Natural Area throughout the year:
- Unauthorized collecting and handling of any animal species is prohibited.
- No collecting of any kind; Including plants or animals.
- No tongs, hooks, bags or containers of any kind.
To further protect the animals and their habitats visitors should also:
- Stay on Snake Road and do not create trails.
- Don’t damage vegetation or pick wildflowers.
- Carefully replace rocks or logs if lifted. Better yet don’t disturb at all.
- Do not harass or corral wildlife – Watch nature from a distance.
- Pack out their garbage and dispose of it off national forest land.
“We want people to care enough to protect the area and share it responsibly, knowing that their actions make a difference,” says Vukovich.
For more information about LaRue-Pine Hills Research National Area visit Shawnee National Forest website www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee. Check out the new Snake Road video https://vimeo.com/708264491 about the area and how to prepare for your visit.