Nature Bulletin No. 36 October 13, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
If you were a snake you would never have an earache or get dust in
your eye. They have inner ears but no trace of an outside ear or
eardrum, A sleeping snake will pay no attention to shouts or banging on
a tin pan, but rouses immediately when a man or other animal walks
near. Apparently snakes hear by feeling the vibrations of the earth, just
as a person can hear a distant train by putting his ear to the track.
Snakes are very short-sighted, their eyes being specially constructed for
focusing on nearby small objects. That "glassy stare" is produced by a
transparent cap or lid which covers the eye and cannot be moved. The
eyeball inside is just as movable as yours.
The snake has a forked tongue. Approach him and that tongue flicks in
and out very rapidly. It is not a stinger. It is a feeler and also an
instrument by which objects are smelled. It carries tiny dust particles or
bits of anything it touches back into two little cavities in the forward
part of the roof of the mouth. These cavities are known as Jacobson' s
organ. Snakes apparently cannot taste but can smell either with the nose
alone or with Jacobson's organ assisted by the tongue.
The snake is the most misunderstood and most abused of all animals. If
you cannot overcome your abhorrence or fear of them, leave them
alone. Do not kill them. They are valuable destroyers of mice, rats,
gophers and many insects. There are occasional reports of a
Massasauga--a small species of rattlesnake--drifting down across the
Lake County line. There are a few in the Indiana Dunes. Otherwise all
the 18 species of snakes in the Chicago area are utterly harmless.
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Update: June 2012