The plight of the Midland Brownsnake population at Fox Ridge State Park continues to be a topic of interest at Eastern Illinois University.
While usually keeping a low profile, the small and harmless brownsnakes begin preparing for the winter by migrating across a park road in search of suitable overwintering habitat. Sites in the park’s forested upland areas are much more suitable for hibernation than those where the snakes are active in the warmer months.
Unfortunately, because of their small size and coloring, these particular snakes often go unnoticed by motorists. Thus, a number of them never successfully complete their trip. Estimates of the average mortality rate during the peak of the migratory pulse approach 75 percent.
Instead of requiring below-grade modifications to the road or disrupting traffic flow patterns, a project by EIU student researchers has tested a novel use for a hose bridge system that provides the means by which small snakes can move across the road with minimized risk of being killed by passing traffic. The actual testing was done in the fall; data is currently being analyzed.
The project has been made possible through a grant of nearly $2,000 from the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund Grant Program, offered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This program is designed to preserve, protect, perpetuate and enhance non-game wildlife and native plant resources of Illinois through preservation of a satisfactory and ecologically balanced environment. Funds for this grant program are from the tax check-off offered on Illinois income tax returns.