Venomous Snakes Shut Down Road During "Massive Migration" That Starts This Month
Snakes and amphibians will have the right of way.
A road in Illinois has been shut down to allow the safe migration of endangered snakes as they cross the street. Cars will not be allowed on Forest Road #345 in the Shawnee National Forest from September 1 to October 30th, but pedestrians are still permitted access (although it's hard to imagine who would want to go near a road covered in hundreds of snakes). The snakes are also allowed safe crossing for a brief period in spring, but this road closure is significantly longer. Here's what will happen when the snakes take over the street.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the snakes include copperheads and rattlers. They will migrate from LaRue Swamp to some limestone bluffs nearby, as they do every year. The snakes are considered endangered species, and banning cars from the stretch of road will help ensure their survival as they make the crossing.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources updated the public on the road closures via an announcement on Facebook. "Snakes and amphibians will have the right away for a while on Shawnee National Forest's Snake Road," they said. "On Sept. 2, officials closed the roadway in Southern Illinois to allow the animals to migrate from LaRue Swamp to the nearby limestone bluffs. Some of the snakes and amphibians are considered threatened and endangered in Illinois and the United States and closing the 2.5-mile-long road until Oct. 30 helps ensure that they can cross safely."
In case people decide to see the snake migration for themselves, officials are warning onlookers not to interfere with the snakes—some of which are poisonous. "Though vehicles won't be allowed onto the road, it will remain open to people traveling on foot," the statement continues. "But visitors are advised that collecting and handling the animals is prohibited under federal and state law."
The IDNR is offering a guided hike for people who want to learn more about the snakes and their migratory patterns. The official event will take place on October 6—and hikers are ominously warned to wear long pants. "Join Illinois Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Biologist Scott Ballard for a guided hike along Snake Road. Learn about the variety of reptiles and amphibians that are found in this ecologically rich area. Please wear long pants, hiking shoes and bring water to this event."
Copperhead snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix) are responsible for the largest number of snake bites in the United States every year, authorities warn. They don't usually give warning signs, instead attacking the moment they feel threatened. While copperhead bites are painful, they are only mildly dangerous for humans. "[Copperhead] behavior is very much like that of most other pit vipers," says herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.