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Snakes and skinks and frogs (oh, my): Forest Service doesn’t want you to run them over during migration

Reptile (and amphibian) safety first: Snake Road in downstate Illinois is temporarily closed to cars so animal traffic, slithering or otherwise, can cross without getting run over.

This mud snake, held by a student, was among the creatures making the migratory trek from a nearby swamp across the U.S. Forest Service’s scenic LaRue Road, known as Snake Road, to a den area for winter hibernation in the Shawnee National Forest.
This mud snake, held by a student, was among the creatures making the migratory trek from a nearby swamp across the U.S. Forest Service’s scenic LaRue Road, known as Snake Road, to a den area for winter hibernation in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
AP

Vehicular traffic is temporarily being banned on Snake Road in the downstate Illinois city of Jonesboro so, you guessed it, snakes can cross without getting run over.

The road that winds, snakelike, for two and a half miles through the Shawnee National Forest will be closed to all vehicles starting Sunday and continuing until late October.

It’s not just snakes, either. Frogs, turtles, newts and salamanders also are starting to migrate across the road, also known as LaRue Road, from swamps to the limestone bluffs where they spend the winter.

Some of the creatures belong to endangered species. So the U.S. Forest Service takes pains to ensure their safety.

Scenic Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois has become an attraction for its twice-yearly migrations of snakes and other creatures. Slithering near this hiker, under the leaves and in the grass, are plenty of snakes, other reptil
Scenic Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois has become an attraction for its twice-yearly migrations of snakes and other creatures. Slithering near this hiker, under the leaves and in the grass, are plenty of snakes, other reptiles.
AP

People can still walk the road while it’s closed to cars but are prohibited from collecting or handling the species.

The road — which will be closed again in March as the animals head back to the swamp — was open year-round until 1972. But because many migrating snakes and other animals died as a result, the Forest Service began closing it for two months in the fall and and again in the spring to protect them.

An eastern hognose snake.
An eastern hognose snake.
U.S. Forest Service

According to the Forest Service, the migrating animals in the area, which is known as the LaRue-Pine Hills and has become a popular attraction, include:

Northern red-bellied snakes, eastern hognose snakes, western ribbon snakes, spotted salamanders, slimy salamanders, midland water snakes, eastern rough green snakes, midwest worm snakes, ringneck snakes, marbled salamanders, Blanchard’s cricket frogs, eastern grey treefrogs and five-lined skinks.

A green tree frog looks up from a pile of leaves as it makes a migratory trek from a nearby swamp across Snake Road to a den area for winter hibernation in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
A green tree frog looks up from a pile of leaves as it makes a migratory trek from a nearby swamp across Snake Road to a den area for winter hibernation in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
AP
Scott Ballard, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources herpetologist, holds a redbelly water snake making thea migratory trek from a nearby swamp across the scenic Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest.
Scott Ballard, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources herpetologist, holds a redbelly water snake making thea migratory trek from a nearby swamp across the scenic Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest.
AP