Biannual Snake Road closure today
Shawnee National Forest’s Snake Road is closing today, Sept. 1 so that snakes and amphibians, some of them considered threatened and endangered in Illinois and the U.S., can migrate from LaRue Swamp to nearby limestone bluffs.
Closing the two and a half mile-long road, also known as LaRue Road and Forest Service Road No. 345, helps ensure safe crossing for these rare species.
The gradual, two month migration event attracts people from across the country eager to witness the rich diversity of reptile and amphibian species along this single stretch of road. About 66 percent of the amphibians and 59 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here.
“Snakes and amphibians migrate to the bluffs where they hibernate for the winter,” said Chad Deaton, a wildlife biologist with Shawnee National Forest. “Cottonmouths are the most common snake that can be seen during this migration.”
Snake Road will be closed between mile post 3.0 and mile post 5.8. It will remain closed until Oct. 30. Though the road is closed to vehicles, it is open to people traveling on foot.
Note that LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond is a federally designated Research Natural Area and unauthorized collecting and handling of any of these species is prohibited under federal and state law.
Common names of reptiles and amphibians occurring at this site include the American toad, bird-voiced tree frog, black racer, black rat snake, broadhead skink, brown snake, bullfrog, green frog, cave salamander, central newt and many more.
For more information about the snake migration and/or the LaRue-Pine Hills Ecological Area, please contact the Shawnee National Forest office in Jonesboro, Illinois at 833-8576.