Saturday, Dec 7, 2013
Popular Snake Migration Begins in Union County
UNION COUNTY -- Twice a year, Union County is home to a natural phenomenon that draws people from around the country. In the next two months, hundreds of snakes will cross a small stretch of road in the Shawnee National Forest as they find a place to hibernate for the winter.
For nature lovers, walking down LaRue Road in the fall becomes a game of "I Spy."
"It's a nice, easy walk for people, just walk down the road and see what you see," says Shawnee Forest Wildlife Biologist Chad Deaton.
But for those who are not fond of snakes, every step is a cautious one.
"I would imagine if we find any, they're going to be in the shaded spots," Deaton explains. "It's just too hot to be out in the sun today."
The two and half mile gravel path is fondly known as Snake Road, aptly named for being the center of the biannual migration of roughly 35 species of snakes.
Deaton says, "In a very small area, you've got a big difference in habitat, the swamps and the bluffs. So because of that, there's a lot of different species of plants and animals."
The snakes are moving from their summer habitat in the swamp to their hibernation spot in the bluffs. But trying to find the snakes on a hot day can be difficult. We eventually found a rat snake hiding in the shade.
"Rat snakes are really good to have around, they catch a lot of mice, keep your mice away," says Deaton. "A lot of people find one of these in places like their garage, and that's what they're doing, they're after the mice."
While rat snakes are not poisonous, the swamp still holds a few that are, like Cottonmouths.
"Lot of times they'll open up their mouths wide open to show what they are, to show they're Cottonmouth."
Depending on the time of the month or day you come out here, the snakes might not be so obvious. But if you open up your eyes and ears, there are plenty of things to see and here on this trail, including 1,200 species of plants and plenty of reptiles and ducks out on the water.
The best time to see snakes is when it gets cooler, around the end of September and into October. The road is closed until the end of October for the snake migration.
Wind: 14 MPH
Humidity: 67 %