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Name: Christopher H.
Status: other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Thursday, June 06, 2002

I have seen a number of snakes in the Waterfall Glen forest preserve surrounding Argonne National Lab. I have observed big(maybe 36") ones in the area immediately below the waterfall and have seen dozens of smaller snakes across the crushed limestone path west of the airplane flying field in between the wetland area. My neighbor believes that they are Water Moccasins, but this seems to be too far north from my reading. We use this preserve often for biking, hiking and dog walking. Can someone tell me what kind of snakes they are and if they are poisonous?

There are a number of snake species in DuPage county and only one is venomous, well, not really of any concern. The Massasauga is endangered in Illinois and may still be found in DuPage County, but is not life threatening to humans. I have seen them in wet areas not too far from Waterfall Glen. However, the population I saw parished with the construction of Interstate 355. What a shame! Obviously we can not tell the species you have seen because you have not given any descriptions. Massasauga is mottled with light and dark brown patches and grows no more than a meter in length. Garter snakes are very common in the Glen and many are very dark. Garter snakes may approach a meter in length as well.

NO! Water Moccasins (more commonly known as Cottonmouths in many areas) are far, far away.

Well, I have no clue to what you observed.

Steve Sample

Naturalists usually will not use the name "water moccasin" since it may be used for different species of snakes in different places - that's why we use scientific names. In Illinois and much of the US "water moccasin" most likely refers to the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), a southern poisonous snake that only ranges into extreme southern Illinois. I am not familiar with Waterfall Glen, but most snakes in northeastern Illinois that get called moccasin, are northern water snakes (Natrix sipedon), which are not poisonous but do sometimes act aggressively.

J. Elliott

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