Restoring the Smooth Green Snake

A young smooth green snake curled around a scientist's thumb.

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.

Staff and Collaborators

Lincoln Park Zoo


Seth Magle, Ph. D.
Director, Urban Wildlife Institute


Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Ph. D.
Reintroduction Biologist, Urban Wildlife Institute


Diane Mulkerin
Curator, Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House and Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo


Dan Boehm
Zoological Manager, Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House and Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo

Michael Brown-Palsgrove   Michael Brown-Palsgrove
Zoological Manager, Primates

Erin Hennessy
Assistant Lead Keeper, Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo

Lake County Forest Preserve District

Gary Glowacki, Wildlife Biologist
Tim Preuss, Wildlife Biologist
Jim Anderson, Natural Resource Manager

McHenry County Conservation District

Cindi Jablonski
Ed Collins

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.

Learn more with the zoo's smooth green snake fact sheet.


Prairie Pioneers
Eight smooth green snakes were reintroduced into their native Illinois habitat on July 16 in a joint conservation effort between the zoo and the McHenry County Conservation District.


A smooth green snake stretches in its enclosure.

Headstarting Smooth Green Snakes in Lake County
Reintroduction biologist Allison Sacerdote offers an inside look at a “soft release” of smooth green snakes. Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Lake County Forest Preserve District to restore the insect-eating snakes to northern Illinois.


Releasing the Last Batch of Smooth Green Snakes
In a Conservation Field Diary, Reintroduction Biologist Allison Sacerdote shares the August 2011 reintroduction of smooth green snakes into a Lake County Forest Preserve.


Snake Signals
Six more smooth green snakes return to the wild! By equipping the reptiles with tiny transmitters, scientists will track them as they establish homes in the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Snake Signals Slideshow
Follow along as scientists reintroduce smooth green snakes to northern Illinois.

Road to Recovery
In June 2011, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lake County Forest Preserve District reintroduce the first smooth green snakes to the local ecosystem.
Restoring the Smooth Green Snake
Lincoln Park Zoo scientists are working with the Lake County Forest Preserve District to restore wild populations of the smooth green snake. Follow researchers into the field in August 2010 as they introduce new hatchlings to safe housing.