Twice a year, spring and fall, numerous species of reptiles and amphibians migrate between the LaRue–Pine Hills' towering limestone bluffs and the Big Muddy River's swampy floodplain in southern Illinois. Snakes, especially great numbers of Cottonmouths, give the road that separates these distinct environments its name. Although it is one of the best places in the world to observe snakes throughout the year, spring and fall are the optimal times to see a greater number and variety. Among the many activities that snakes can be observed doing are sunning themselves on rocks, lying in grasses, sheltering under or near fallen tree limbs, or crossing the road. In this engaging guide, author Joshua J. Vossler details what to expect and how to make the most of a visit to what is known around the world as Snake Road.
Vossler catalogues twenty-three native snake species by both common and scientific names, lists identifying features, and estimates the probability of spotting them. Throughout Snake Road, stunning colour photographs of each species' distinctive physical characteristics enable identification by sight only, an important feature, since Illinois law prohibits the handling, harming, or removal of reptiles and other wildlife on and around the road. Since snakes are visually variable – individual snakes of the same species can differ tremendously in size, colour, and pattern – photographs of as many variations as possible are included. To aid in identification, eleven sets of photographs contrast the features of similar species and point out how and why these snakes may be easily confused. Visitors can keep track of the snakes they have identified by using the checklist in the back of the book. A list of recommended reading provides sources of additional information about snakes in southern Illinois and beyond.
Joshua J. Vossler, an associate professor and academic librarian at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the co-author of Humor and Information Literacy: Practical Techniques for Library Instruction. He specializes in making instructional videos about research skills. He is a lifelong snake watcher and herpetological enthusiast.
"Joshua J. Vossler's book of photos allows us to travel Illinois's famous Snake Road through the La Rue Swamp without worrying about mosquitoes, ticks, poison ivy, biting flies – or snakes. Slither and let slither!"
– Herbert K. Russell, author, The State of Southern Illinois
"The LaRue–Pine Hills area is one of our favorite 'day trip' spots, and we unreservedly recommend that visitors take Vossler's book along to enhance this unique experience. Go and enjoy a 'snaky' day!"
– Larry P. and Donna J. Mahan, authors, 20 Day Trips in and around the Shawnee National Forest