Conservation in the Zoo’s Backyard
Smooth green snakes are native to northern Illinois, but their numbers have declined in the region—and throughout their range—due to habitat loss. The Lake County Forest Preserve District has restored habitat in recent years in the hope the vibrant species would reestablish itself. But the snakes failed to return on their own, and so the forest preserve district began a conservation partnership with Lincoln Park Zoo.
Zoo scientists and forest preserve biologists are working together to restore the smooth green snake to Lake County and, starting in 2014, McHenry County as well. The first step is a zoo-based breeding program, designed to build numbers and manage snakes recovered from the wild for eventual release.
Juvenile snakes are currently being raised both at the zoo and in outdoor shelters in the forest preserve. By comparing growth and survival rates between the two settings, scientists will determine the best “head start” conditions for a successful release—an important step in the smooth green snake’s recovery.
About the Smooth Green Snake
Smooth green snakes are found through much of the United States and Canada, including the Chicago area. Named for their vibrant coloration, they feed on insects and spiders and pose no threat to people.
Lake County Forest Preserve District
Gary Glowacki, Wildlife Biologist
Tim Preuss, Wildlife Biologist
Jim Anderson, Natural Resource Manager
McHenry County Conservation District