It happens twice a year – the closure of Snake Road as many species of reptiles and amphibians migrate each spring and fall between the towering limestone cliffs of LaRue-Pine Hills and the marshy floodplain of the Big Muddy River. in southern Illinois.
Over 200 pages and with the help of over 350 illustrations, Joshua J. Vossler, Associate Professor and University Librarian at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, helps unravel the mystery of the namesake of the road.
“Snake Road: A Field Guide to the Snakes of the LaRue-Pine Hills” was published by Southern Illinois University Press, just in time for the spring migration, which ends May 15.
While the 2.5 mile long stretch of road – between 3.0 mile post and 5.8 mile post – in the Shawnee National Forest is closed to vehicular traffic to ensure the safe passage of these reptiles and amphibians to their summer residence, foot traffic is welcome.
But visitors are wary.
This is where Vossler’s book comes in handy – the guide details what to expect and how to get the most out of a visit to Snake Road.
Snakes, especially a large number of Cottonmouths, give the road its name to the distinct surroundings of limestone cliffs and swampy floodplain. Among the many activities that can be observed, snakes bask in the sun on rocks, lie in the grass, take shelter under or near fallen tree branches, or cross the road.
Vossler lists 23 native snake species by common and scientific names, lists identifying features, and estimates the likelihood of spotting them.
Color photographs of the distinctive physical characteristics of each species allow visual identification only, an important feature since Illinois law prohibits the handling, harm, or removal of reptiles and other wildlife on and around the area. road.
Since snakes are visually variable – individual snakes of the same species can differ wildly in size, color, and pattern – photographs of as many variations as possible are included. To facilitate identification, 11 sets of photographs contrast the characteristics of similar species and indicate how and why these snakes can be easily confused.
Visitors can track the snakes they have identified using the checklist at the end of the book. A recommended reading list provides sources of additional information on snakes in southern Illinois and beyond.
Snake Road is located south and west of Murphysboro and east of Illinois 3. Besides snakes, the area is also home to a variety of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, birds, turtles, lizards and skinks.
Vossler is the co-author of “Humor and Information Literacy: Practical Techniques for Library Instruction”. He specializes in making educational videos on research skills. He is a longtime snake watcher and herpetologist.
“Snake Road: A Field Guide to the Snakes of the LaRue-Pine Hills” is available in paperback and eBook at www.siupress.com/books/978-0-8093-3805-4.
For more information on snake migration and / or the LaRue-Pine Hills Ecological Zone, visit fs.usda.gov/shawnee.