Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Images: Juvenile Bullsnake Pituophis melanoleucus basking in the sun.

This has been an interesting couple of days. Yesterday, at a couple of back and front flower gardens, I notice two little snakes scooting out of my way. Today, this larger snake was on the walk as I was headed out to take some interesting pictures. Interesting indeed!

We've had Bullsnakes in the yard ever since we moved here. 

Typically, they stay out of the way and we leave them alone. They are not venomous.

They are a native Illinois snake especially in the sand prairies, grasslands, and old fields of former prairie. Henry County is on the western side of the northern portion of the old Grand Prairie.

The Bullsnake climbs and burrows readily. It is well known for its defensive display, which includes tail vibrating (which can lead to mis identification as a Rattlesnake), loud hissing, and repeated lunging with the mouth partially open.  (Saw one moving up a large walnut tree by wedging in the groves of the bark.)

The above defensive displays were obvious when both dogs decided to investigate this intruder. Our lab lost interest after the snake lunged at his nose and the hound stayed at a safe distance and barked until the snake went under the porch.

Although I have no desire to accidentally get too close or be surprised, they are not a threat to humans, dogs or cats. It has a huge appetite for small rodents and that makes them a friend to anyone living near farmland.

Birds of prey are their likely predators, but many adults are killed by people and vehicles. It is not on the Illinois threatened or endangered lists. For those who like to live a little more on the edge of the pet world, they are considered good pets although check the current laws about collecting, owning and otherwise possessing snakes.

To entice a habitation of Bullsnakes to your grounds: (1) Excavate small seasonal ponds that may dry up in late summer or fish-free permanent ponds in or near woods or fallow fields (fish eat amphibians and reptiles). (2) Allow emergent and shoreline vegetation to develop naturally.

Logs, rocks and brush piles along the shores will provide shelter and basking sites.

If you desire more information, consider the "Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois" written by Christopher A. Phillips, Ronald A. Brandon, and Edward O. Moll. It was written in conjunction with the Illinois Natural History Survey through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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