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Southern Illinois road set to close due to snake migration

“There are venomous snakes here,” said Vukovich. “Twenty-three species of snakes have been documented.”

WOLF LAKE, Ill. — The U.S. Forest Service is preparing to close roughly three miles of road in southern Illinois due to a snake migration.

If you drive 90 miles southeast of St. Louis down Illinois Great River Road you’ll snake your way through the hills of the Shawnee National Forest.

“You’ll see a surprising number of out-of-state license plates,” said U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Mark Vukovich.

The reason they’re here might make your skin crawl.

“Forest Road 345 is the number,” said Vukovich. “Everybody knows it as Snake Road. It’s just a great place to come watch snakes.”

Biologist Mark Vukovich keeps a keen eye on the Snake Road for the US Forest Service.

“There are venomous snakes here,” said Vukovich. “Twenty-three species of snakes have been documented.”

There are so many snakes in the area that twice a year the US Forest Service shuts down the 2.7-mile stretch of road for a migration rarely seen anywhere else in North America.

“They hibernate in these limestone cliffs and they go to and from these cliffs every year into Larue Swamp,” said Vukovich.

Some may find these snakes spotted in this area of the Shawnee National Forest scary.

“The No. 1 snake you’re going to see here is going to be the Northern Cottonmouth,” said Vukovich. “The other two venomous snakes are Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. You have a good chance of seeing those.”

Despite the obvious danger, Vukovich said the area is safe.

“I always stress stick to the road,” said Vukovich.

Vukovich went on to add that if you look close enough you just may learn a southern Illinois secret.

“It’s a great way to get people over that feeling that snakes are bad and they’re nasty creatures,” said Vukovich. “They’re not. They’re not at all.”

The US Forest Service will close Snake Road starting Sept. 1 through Halloween.

Vukovich said if you want to see some serpents the best time to come out is in October.

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