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Four types of poisonous snakes abide in Illinois

Posted by Miqe on April 14, 2007

Some people were a bit surprised about the fact that Illinois does indeed have poisonous snakes. Last week you might recall the story about the young lab in northern Illinois which was bitten by a Massasauga rattlesnake. “Rattlesnakes in Illinois,” some said. Well, if that surprises you, then I have some more news. Illinois actually has four poisonous snakes. Along with the Massasauqa rattlesnake are the water moccasin, the copperhead, and the timber rattlesnake.

For those who fear snakes, I would not get too worried. Even though these snakes can be found in Illinois, their numbers are relatively small.

I always like to hear stories of those who claim that they have a bunch of water moccasins on their property or they have seen lots of copperheads. Probably a case of mistaken identity.

If you want to see any of these snakes, then your best bet is to head to southern Illinois, as this is about the only place that the cottonmouth and the copperhead can be found. If you are looking for a timber rattler, then you better head to some pretty wild, undisturbed areas that border the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The Massasauga is probably the most widely distributed poisonous snake in the state. And by this, I only mean very small pockets of ideal habitat, which will be marshy. Knox County is said to have a small population of this snake.

All of these snakes are considered uncommon or rare in Illinois. As I said earlier, most sightings of these snakes are actually some other species. For example, some time back I was with an individual who spotted a snake swimming in the water. His first response was “look at that water moccasin.” Well, it wasn’t a water moccasin at all and didn’t even resemble one. But it was a snake in the water, therefore. …

Illinois has 39 species of snakes, with just these four being the only ones which could administer a lethal bite. But fear not, chances are slim that a timber rattler is making its home underneath the outhouse.

— Bird numbers are starting to pick up in the county. I spotted a short-eared owl at Double T about mid-week. A small flock of cedar waxwings paid a visit to the backyard as well. More shore and wading birds are making their way to the marshy areas. Still a few snow and blue geese present.

— Wild flowers are blooming. Trilliums and may apples, along with spring peepers are growing strong. And with that growth comes the weeds and other grasses. Mushrooming could be a bit rough.

From Canton Daily Ledger

51 Responses to “Four types of poisonous snakes abide in Illinois”

  1. At least two-thirds of their vivarium should be open area, with large sections of dried wood and small shrubs or trees for basking and perching.
    All the best and take care.

  2. wayne smith said

    Many years ago, more like 65 years ago, when I lived on Dunns Lake in northern Il. I found a small black and white snake in my front yard, as I probed it with a stick it hissed and struck at me. Although I had never heard of any rattlesnakes around the area I’ve often wondered if it was indeed a rattlesnake.

    Have you ever heard of any around the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park?

  3. jessica said

    i hate snakes

  4. Bruce Rapa said

    I remember seeing Massasauga Rattlesnakes in Algonquin in the 70’s and don’t kid yourself about Water Mocassins not being in northern Illinois as while at Boy Scout Camp Owassippe just outside of Whitehall Michigan, we caught a bunch of them in 1965. The Ranger up there said that they weren’t that far north too but when we handed him a burlap bag with 6 of them inside, he posted the area as having Water Mocassins and as of the mid 90’s when I was there last, that notice still stood.

    • Lisa said

      Agreed Bruce. My parents had a place in Spring Grove IL on a channel and they had a little marshland attached to one part of the yard. I when I was a kid (about 11) I was walking down towards the channel when luckily I noticed out of the corner of my eye a snake coiled and springing at me. Its mouth was open and I could see its fangs. It looked very much like the Massasauga. I have never forgotten how that snake looked and how close I came to being bitten.

      Seriously how do these people know for sure where these supposed “snake boundaries” are? The climate isn’t all that much different between the state until you get pretty far south. They may be rare but they do exist.

  5. heather said

    I was wondering what kind of snakes has black body and red markings. One has black stripes running down its back and the other goes around its body.This snake is very large. I have not been able to come up with a pic for the state of IL of this snake. I also know we have water rattlers her as well because my child was bit and about died a few years about when the snake man from up north tried to say that there were no poisoness snake in IL.

  6. teofilonr said

    I just see”a water moccasins in GURNEE be careful don’t go alone for a walk in the walk zone by the school

  7. Vicky said

    We suspect my dog was bit by snake, She died right away. My mom find something like big Mud on the tree this morning. When she was trying to show me and it was gone.

    I would warn anyone with little kids and dog be careful.. it is not even safe in the backyard, Our neighbour said she has lot of snakes at her back yard. !!! We are in hawthorn woods.

    • shawn calay said


      Its funny you mentioned that you live in hawthorne woods, I walk my 2 aussies up and down the prarie path along county farm road, I have walked up on 2 rattle snakes this summer alone, more towards the area along the pond by geneva and county farm. I allways new they are in the area but never would have thaught id see 2 were I live. I used to catch them up in the Rockford area, when I would throw switches on the railroad, they used to nest under the switch stand in the summer months (those were timber rattle snakes) as for the ones I seen here, i think they are the massasauga. the prarie trail mall used to have a sign hung on there larger street sign about poisin snakes close to walgreens but has since been removed.


  8. Perry said

    The Fox River in South Illinois I found a Sea Krait. Well I’m Guessing it’s a sea krait. I was fishing when i saw a black&white striped snake swimming thru to a hole. It might have been a sea krait or a king snake but i figured that typical kingsnakes dont go in holes on the water.

    • jeremy said

      all snakes can swim in the water . I’ve seen a king snake after i turned over a rock one king snake went straight into the water and swim down then i saw it come back up after a minute

  9. Jim said

    My kids and I walked up on a Copperhead at Scott Lake campground on Scott AFB last weekend. It was about a 3 foot snake and was very docile. It was a good learning experience for my children and how to act if you come upon one on their territory.

  10. Resa said

    I Live in Mc Henry county , illinois and have a pool in the back yard. When i went out in the day time to fill water in it there was a tiny (possibley a baby ) black snack on the stairs, we’ve been having a drought in this area for months and 90-105 degree weather for 5 wks. I didnt see any other colors on it , but it was pitch black and not a garder snack . It worried me it could be poisioness and i have a child and dog. So i had to get it out of there fearing it would hurt or kill them . Is it possible it was dangerous ? And what could it of been? We are in the north west part of Illinois in a very rural area with woodsy areas and some corn fields , open areas and horse stables. Is it possible it was a baby water mocassine? After i scooped it up with the pool net i didnt try too attack it just tried to get away .

  11. Mike Gebhards said

    Sea Krait!!? Is this guy delusional? It was probably a banded king snake, and yes, they will go onto holes in the bank, looking for food,such as crawfish holes. A sea krait would have to swim 8000 miles to get here. maybe if you keep looking, you’ll find a pygmy red dragon there too.

    • paulagbt said

      Thank you for your information about the snake, but is it really necessary for you to give it along with such unkind remarks? You discourage people from wanting to post if they are not as knowledgeable, and therefore inhibit others from learning as much as they could. I would encourage you to share your knowledge in a nicer way.

    • Carol said

      That was a bit rude, couldn’t you have replied without being a rude? He was only asking a question, how about you don’t reply to someone if you can’t be nice in the reply?

  12. jaybeast said

    snakes is my thing

  13. Sonia said

    When some one searches for his necessary thing, therefore he/she wishes to
    be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.

  14. Olivia said

    The correct awnser is that there are zero species of poisionous snakes in Illinois. Or, as a matter of fact, anywhere. There are however, four venomous snake species.

    • Jason said

      Someone beat me to the punch here. Lol. But Olivia is correct. There is a major distinction between Venom and Poison. Specifically: Venom is injected (also a metal band)
      Poison is ingested (also a hair band)

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  17. Tom Cherrington said

    I encountered today,what I believe was an Eastern Massasauga snake basking in the sun on the Illinois Prairie path between West Chicago and Batavia, Illinois. I looked at the snakes marking in Wikipedia and then read, that though rare, they are found in this area. the snake became active when I approached and curled up with the end of it’s tail vibrating rapidly. It was about 30″ long and eventually slithered into the wooded area.

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  22. Helen Myers said

    I live in Central IL. My friend has caught a whitish snake, about the size of a gardener snake, not to big.. It looks albino.. Anyone know or have seen this color of snake in or around IL..?

  23. paul pryor said

    Venomous snakes are not poisonous!! WTF… POISON IS INGESTED AND VENOM IS INJECTED!! Get it right

  24. paul pryor said

    There are no poisonous snakes, only VENOMOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Steven said

    Venomous. Not poisonous. It hurt just to read this article.

  26. stop there baby’s

  27. Bettahorse said

    Isn’t the term ‘poisonous’ incorrect when referring to venomous snakes?

  28. David Said It said

    looks like our friend Pauly has learned a new word today and has taken it upon himself to make sure that we all know about it.
    is Pauly venomous or poisonous? Don’t matter , he is Toxic,.

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