(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
If you like limbless reptiles, you're going to love the next few weeks. But if you're the type of person who runs the other way at the sight of a snake, you'll want to plan accordingly, perhaps even taking an entirely different trail.
That's because cooler fall temperatures bring these beauties out in full force as the snake population in the preserves — such as garter, fox and brown snakes — is actively seeking out sunlight to help stay warm.
"People notice them more now because they are basking," said Glen Buckner, the Forest Preserve’s wildlife biologist.
And some trail users, such as Homer Glen resident Sharon Kareiva, are basking in the joy of seeing them. She hit the jackpot earlier this week during a hike along Centennial Trail and posted dozens of photos to the District's Will County Wildlife Facebook group.
"It was sunny and warm and I knew they were going to be out," Kareiva said. "I always try to look. As soon as I see one snake, what normally would be a one-hour walk becomes a three-hour walk, because I walk so slowly looking for them."
In one walk last year, she spotted 47 snakes, in what Kareiva described as an "amazing day." While she loves seeing the snakes, she said she has a healthy respect for them.
"When they don't look happy, I don't get too close."
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On Tuesday, we also were treated to one snake after another during an excursion along Centennial Trail. It was an impressive collection, and this Flickr gallery proves it.
So why is this location our own miniature version of Snake Road at Shawnee National Forest in downstate Heron?
Due to the Asian carp barrier wall, there is limited egress from one side to the other. Centennial Trail's pavement also provides the warmth the snakes are looking for.
"Snakes aren't crazy about crushed limestone," Buckner said. "They don't like the texture and it doesn't stay warm."
So, your chances of seeing snakes are much better at a place like Centennial Trail than the Wauponsee Glacial Trail or Spring Creek Greenway Trail.
According to Buckner, the Hickory Creek Bikeway also is a fairly prime spot for spotting snakes, particularly fox snakes.
If you're traveling by bike, just be sure to slow your roll and yield to the snakes.
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