There are 39 species of snakes in our state.
They live in forests, grasslands, marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and sloughs. I have seen many of these numbers over the years, but the majority of them are located in the southern portion of the state.
Snakes have interesting structural features which consist of a Jacobson's organ, which is used to detect odor. They lack legs, ear openings and eyelids. As I mentioned in an earlier column, many snakes seen during my youth were identified as water moccasins. In our northern counties, most folks wouldn’t know a water moccasin if they saw one. Many of our Florida travelers probably have seen one or two, but in northern Illinois they are very scarce.
Many times I have had many folks in my town bring a snake to my home for me to identify. Some are very big, others are small with various colors. The most common are garter snakes and bull snakes. The garter snake inhabits rock and brush piles and is a benefit for a garden. They consume a variety of insects that attack plants. Even though my wife hates them, I try to avoid killing them.
Because I am on the water often, I see several types of snakes in that environment. The most common is the bull snake, which is always present in a water area and sometimes near land. They can reach lengths of six feet or more depending on their life span. They feed mostly on fish. If confronted, they will bite at once.
I remember one time I was fishing with my girlfriend on the Fox River. The water was high, and the fish were located close to shore. I figured I would tie off to a tree rather than throw the anchor in.
As the boat bumped the tree, a large bull snake fell into my boat. If you want to get a young girl into your arms, try that method.
I carefully lifted the snake up and placed it in the water. It took about a month to get that girl back into my boat after that.
Again, groundhog hunters have been doing very well near young bean fields. The farmers are impressed, as crops are very hard to get going this year due to wet weather. Deer and groundhogs are very hard on young soybeans.
Area rivers are producing some impressive catfish. Areas near Illinois Park south of Marseilles has seen some catfish near the five-pound mark. They have been caught right near the shore line.
Area creeks have been good for small mouth and rock bass. Cooling lakes like La Salle and Braidwood are starting to heat up with high air-conditioning used. The hot weather is also a factor. Heidecke Lake in Grundy County is still producing walleye, white bass and some nice catfish. Farm ponds are still producing bass and bluegill.
The La Salle County Pheasants Forever will be holding a youth and women’s trap shooting event at the All Anderson Farm south of Marseilles on July 21. Space is limited, so call ahead. Contact Chuck Eiben at 815-488-1390.