- Associated Press - Thursday, October 5, 2017

WOLF LAKE, Ill. (AP) - The Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois has closed one of its roads to ensure the safety of snake species that cross it on their way to hibernate.

Snake Road is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long and located in the LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area, on the western edge of the forest, the Evansville Courier and Press reported. The road will be closed until Oct. 30, allowing dozens of snakes and other amphibians to cross the road from the area’s swamps to its bluffs for hibernation.

“Snakes get a bad rap. They are not aggressive. They are very afraid of people,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist Scott Ballard.

“If somebody steps on a dog and it bites them, we say, ‘Oh it was just defending itself.’ If somebody steps on a snake and it bites you, it’s always, ‘It attacked.’ Well no, there are only two snake species in the world that will actually attack,” Ballard said.

He noted that poaching snakes is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois with a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Ballard said the animals will burrow down 2 or 3 feet to get below the frost line, so they don’t freeze and die. They’ve been feeding on wetlands and storing fat to help sustain them from November to March.

Ballard said there are about 100 species of reptiles and amphibians in Illinois. Fifty-six of them have been found in LaRue-Pine Hills’ acres, including frogs, lizards, salamanders and turtles. Some of those species have been documented as threatened or endangered in the U.S.

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