Snake lovers hit Shawnee Na­tional For­est for rep­til­ian mi­gra­tions

VEL

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - By Alan Scher Zagier

else wanted to have any­thing to do with them.”

Snake Road now at­tracts vis­i­tors from across the coun­try, said Chad Deaton, a For­est Ser­vice wildlife bi­ol­o­gist. On a re­cent week­day af­ter­noon, the vis­i­tors in­cluded a re­tired con­trac­tor from San Diego, a sub­ur­ban Chicago fa­ther and his two young sons and a group of bi­ol­ogy stu­dents and their pro­fes­sor from Eastern Illi­nois Uni­ver­sity. The sur­round­ing re­search area is home to more than 1,200 species of plants and an­i­mals, in­clud­ing bob­cats and bald ea­gles, and 35 kinds of snakes.

Over­turn­ing rocks, peek­ing into dark­ened dens or just strolling along the road, the hik­ers found a ring­necked hatch­ling small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and a red-backed sala­man­der, as well as the less cud­dly — and ven­omous — tim­ber rat­tlesnake and cot­ton­mouth wa­ter moc­casin.

Snake Road is no Raiders of the Lost Ark — the snakes don’t dom­i­nate the land­scape but in­stead blend into the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. So pa­tience is a virtue and, with all things Mother Na­ture, so is a bit of luck.

That said, warm and sunny days when the ground is ad­e­quately heated of­fer the best view­ing con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to Deaton, with late morn­ing and late af­ter­noon par­tic­u­larly good times of day.

Hoessle, who was hired by famed zo­ol­o­gist and Wild King­dom TV host Mar­lin Perkins at the St. Louis Zoo, calls Snake Road an in­valu­able living class­room to help bet­ter un­der­stand the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“They’re not cud­dly like cats and dogs. You don’t get a lot of af­fec­tion,” the for­mer ex­otic pet store owner said, de­scrib­ing the rep­til­ian aver­sion of many. “But it teaches you an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for wildlife in gen­eral. This is a nat­u­ral world. Man and beast have to live to­gether.”

ALAN SCHER ZAGIER / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Re­tired St. Louis Zoo direc­tor Charles Hoessle, left, and U.S. For­est Ser­vice wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Chad Deaton pre­pare to peer into

a win­ter hi­ber­nat­ing den on Snake Road. Be­low, Doug MacMil­lan of San Diego, Calif., with a young ring-necked snake.

D PRESS

rds,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.