Good Samaritans Rescue Hibernating Snakes

Posted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on February 15, 2012

Chris Kubic, a high school social studies teacher, and his wife, Jennifer, recently noticed construction going on at a decommissioned nuclear power plant in Lake County, Illinois. Kubic, who is familiar with the snakes at Illinois Beach State Park, adjacent to the power plant, recognized that many hibernating snakes could be endangered if construction was allowed to continue near railroad tracks at the plant. "The snakes tended to accumulate around the old railroad tracks and I figured there was a den there," Kubic told the Chicago Tribune. So Kubic and his wife set out to save the snakes.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Kubic met with officials from EnergySolutions, the company hired to decommission the power plant, and they agreed to help him save the snakes. According to Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, snake populations are on the decline in the Chicago area because of “the loss of habitat and getting squashed on highways.” Thus, an unusually thoughtful effort was made to save as many snakes as possible while the old railroad ties near the plant were removed.

On a cold and windy day in January, Kubik and Carmichael joined contractors from EnergySolutions, along with Michael Corn, a biology professor emeritus at the College of Lake County, to gather the snakes with their bare hands. Among the species that were rescued were brown snakes, who require an undisturbed habitat. And a great number of garter snakes were found, along with a few western fox snakes. None of the snakes rescued were harmful to humans.

The group spent the entire day saving as many snakes as they could find. The snakes were then taken to a six-foot-tall wine chiller in Lake Forest, which will act as an artificial hibernating den. Carmichael stated that the chiller “can be set right at the temperature snakes need to survive in winter — about 48 degrees." Lucky snakes indeed! It appears that the rescue took place just in time too, as it was reported that biologists also discovered a snake den underneath the railroad ties filled with hundreds of empty snake eggs. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a few individuals many reptilian lives were saved!

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