Timing can be everything.
"We try to time it when it rains," Dreslik said. "Kirtland's snakes come to the surface and are more active when it rains and it's more cloudy,"
The team descended on the preserve on a cool, partly cloudy day armed with the tools of their trade: hooked rods, scales, PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags, a tag reader and data sheets to record their findings.
Walking through a prairie of waist-high grasses, the team methodically worked the first segment of the preserve where mats had been placed 5 meters apart and marked with flags. The Will County location has a significant number of crayfish burrows, and some of those mats had been placed over them.
"(Kirtland's) spend a lot of time down in crayfish burrows, which is why this site is really great," Adams said.
In all, 200 mats are on the ground, each with a unique letter and number combination. One by one, the mats were lifted and checked.
As Adams lifted up one mat, a snake made a quick escape, shooting off into the grass. Based on its speed, she knew it wasn't the species she was looking for.
"Luckily the target species really doesn't move very much when you lift up the board," Adams said. "I've only ever had one move when I've lifted it up."
When they come across a snake other than a Kirtland's, they note where the species was found. The extensive data collection doesn't begin until they find the target species.