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Added Nov 19 2012

Hi everyone,

Our complex is seeing a fair number of snakes in our garden patios and around the grass and landscape at the end of the street, and one even got into the ground level of our house. (Yikes.) We think they were nesting around or on the Metra tracks and have been pushed down into our yards by the tracks and bridge reconstruction.

Is anyone else seeing these sneaky snakes? Any tips on how to keep them out of the house, garage and gardens? I tried calling 311 and Metra to see if they had tips on removal. They had a good chuckle but otherwise weren't helpful.

Thanks everyone!

  • I think you should send a script to Samuel Jackson for a great sequel ;)

  • They are harmless. And they control the rodent population, namely rats.

  • SS on Cullom I run

    Hi Sara, I'm a reporter for WBBM Newsradio. Would you please get in touch with me? Thanks very much.
    Steve Miller
    ssmiller@cbs.com

  • I had a small snake problem a couple years ago (which also involved finding one on my kitchen floor...eek) and - recognizing my own limitations - I called in an expert: Myron at Urban Wildlife Response. The phone number I have is 866-372-4523 (might be outdated). He looked over my property and gave some advice on snake-proofing (like small spaces I hadn't noticed that a snake could fit through, brush that needed to be cleaned up). I also live across from the Metra tracks and he pointed out the gardens and the amount of scrub around the tracks is a haven for snakes. He will remove snakes if you need that, and deals with squirrels, rats, raccoons, etc. He's my go-to for all critter needs - he even visited on Christmas Eve last year to address a rat situation! I love Myron.

  • lol snakes on a TRAIN lol

  • B R

    Sara. Just remember that pretty much all snakes found here in the city are completely harmless. The can even be quite helpful in ridding your yard of other pests that will eat your flowers, veggies, etc. Best to figure out what type of snakes they are and make sure what they eat and a place to find warmth can be found outside and they probably won't have any motivation to come inside. I know - it sounds all "tree-hugger" - but the more you know about them the more likely you and they can get along. Think of it this way --- you just got evicted and lost your job. That's where they are starting.

  • EveryBlock Becca Director of Community Management

    Lol Karina, I just made the "snakes on the train" joke on Twitter. Thanks for posting Sara! I'm curious to see what folks have to say.

  • Barbara in Ravenswood Ravenswood resident since 1984.

    I don't have any advice on snake "control," Sara, but one of my favorite EveryBlock posts comes from a Rogers Park thread about snakes :)

    [post by] Marsha
    A couple of years ago I saw a gangbanger-looking kid stopping and directing traffic near the Metra underpass on Rogers. On closer look, he was stopping the cars so a little snake could cross the road. I am constantly surprised by the things I see in Chicago.

    http://chicago.everyblock.com/announcements/aug27-snakes-rogers-park-5282727/

  • Thanks for the comments, everyone! I'm glad to know they're likely harmless; it's been hard to figure out if that's the case, since we haven't been able to get a photo of one to research what kind it is. Thanks very much for the recommendation to Myron!

  • Hammerman @ Lincoln Square Hammerman of Lincoln Square Tree House Builder

    I keep snakes for pets, Where are they located?

  • Lana Avondale

    They're GREAT for keeping rodents out of your garden. Welcome them.

  • Patricia 25 Year Lakeview Resident

    If they're great for keeping rodents out of your garden, I may go pick up a few myself.

  • Steamboat33 Cranky old man who loves Chicago.

    Snakes are good eatin'

  • B R

    That they are Steamboat - some of them anyways.

  • Lana Avondale

    Some of of the snakes found in chicago are on the list of species in greatest need of conservation because their native prairie habitat is disappearing.

    http://dnr.state.il.us/ORC/WildlifeResources/theplan/species.htm

  • Joan M. Back in Lincoln Square and liking it.

    Sara, do you recall anything about the one that got into your house? Size? Color? Pattern? Like, did it have a light-colored stripe done the center of its back? Was it one predominant color? As big around as a pencil? 18 inches long? That sort of thing. If you want to look at photos online, check out common garter snakes, brown snakes and/or redbelly snakes as likely suspects in your location. Just remember, there are no venomous snakes native to Ravenswood!

    In general, regardless of nearby construction, we're more likely to see snakes during two periods of the year - in the spring when they come out of hibernation and in the fall when they're searching out hibernacula wherein they can survive the killing cold of winter. They instinctively head down to get beyond the frost line, so in the city that means masonry walls, foundations, basements. Sure, it's possible you left your door open one day and one slithered in, but it is far more likely that you have cracks in your walls big enough for little critters to squeeze through. Most snakes "know" enough to have found a place to overwinter by now, but warm spells like we've had recently can cause them to become temporarily active again.

  • Wonder if lots of things are being thrown off by the warmer weather—been noticing that our lilac bush has buds way more 'springlike' than is usual at this time of year & wasn't surprised to learn yesterday that we're about to break a Chicago sunshine record that dates back to 1893 (http://shar.es/GFXkY).

    Thank you for the word "hibernacula," Joan M. It's great! I wish I could figure out how to work it into the Snakes on a Train wikipedia entry, which contains the unforgettable line "It is also much more slowly paced than Snakes on a Plane."

  • As Sam jackson said you are probably "tired of the mf snakes on your mf property " lol>I would be .yikes.But I also have friends who like them even huge venomous ones.Weird story about the one crossing the street....

  • Eli Suzukovich III The American Indian Center, 1630 W. Wilson Ave.

    The Metra construction disrupted a lot of wildlife, which Union Pacific has been good about relocating. There is actually a diverse amount of wildlife along the tracks including foxes, coyotes, voles, white-footed mice (type of deer mouse), and snakes. The Metra embankments hold a healthy population of Chicago Garter Snakes which are unique to Northeast Illinois. There are also black rat snakes, ribbon snakes, and corn snakes that I know of. They are probably looking for a place to hibernate. Rat snakes hibernate alone, while garter snakes hibernate in large groups in specific places (normally not a house). If you do have them, they will eat rats, mice, squirrels, roaches, and their presence will deter mice and rats from wintering over in your home.

    Also, a pair of pine martins were spotted early this summer at Ravenswood and Leland. They are medium sized weasels that look cat-like, but are reddish brown with a small triangular face. There are also long-tailed weasels that have been spotted on Wolcott. They are reddish with a white belly, and will turn white in the winter. When they run along the ground they have a distinctive arching effect when they run, like a slinky, and they have long thin furry tails. Pine Martins primarily eat squirrels (which why there was a decrease in them between Lawrence and Montrose). They aren't common and probably came down the tracks from Wisconsin. They are a native predator to Illinois though. Long-tailed weasels are smaller and are more common in Chicago than most people think. They eat anything they can over power including rabbits, brown rats, black rats, mice, and pigeons. If anyone sees them this winter please post, as they are important predators in Chicago's urban ecosystem.

  • Great information, Eli - thanks!

  • Steamboat33 Cranky old man who loves Chicago.

    Thank you Eli! Could you tell us if garter snakes eat House Centipedes? Hoping that they eat centipedes but leave rabbits alone.

  • So interesting, Eli! Do the long-tailed weasels or pine martins eat skunks? Related to F.R. Johnson's post from September: http://chicago.everyblock.com/announcements/sep15-skunk-alert-5339683/

  • Joan M. Back in Lincoln Square and liking it.

    Okay, now. I'm not meaning to get into a natural history smackdown here. I just wanted to correct some misstatements about this misunderstood group of animals.

    Corn snakes are not found in Ravenswood. The only possible populations of corn snakes (more often called great plains rat snakes) in the state would be found close to 300 miles away in southwestern Illinois, mostly along the Mississippi River bluffs. They are rare, indeed, in Illinois,even there.

    Black rat snakes are not found in Ravenswood. Although historical records exist from Cook County, the last one was found in the 1930's down around Dolton (I think). They are quite common in suitable habitat in the southern half of the state, though.

    Rat snakes most definitely do hibernate with other species of snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads in southern Illinois. In fact, most snake species in North America (including garter snakes) hibernate with other species of snakes, although one kind may predominate in a particular denning site. It's not about buddying up with your scaly neighbors. It's all about location, location, location.

    I'm not aware of any snake you might expect to find in Ravenswood that would reliably include rats, mice or squirrels in its diet. In general, the garter snakes in that area (common/Chicago and plains) usually eat invertebrates and amphibians. The redbelly and brown snakes eat mostly earthworms and slugs, along with other invertebrates.

    Other possible snakes in Ravenswood, depending on habitat: northern water snake, ribbon snake, smooth green snake, fox snake, milk snake – some VERY unlikely.. The last two would eat rodents.

  • Fascinating thread. I'm always amazed at the number and variety of animals in urban environments, often ones we don't expect to find. Walking home from a run in Horner Park this summer, I paused on the Montrose bridge to watch a small (~24 inch) snake swim across the river from east to west. It briefly surprised a couple of ducks, who made a slight but abrupt course change when they almost crossed paths. Wish I'd had my camera.

  • Melissa Tucker neighbor

    very cool about the pine martins

  • Eli Suzukovich III The American Indian Center, 1630 W. Wilson Ave.

    While some snakes may not have been in the Chicago area historically, many get released along the tracks due to the pet snake getting too big or the owners don't want them anymore. As far as long-tailed weasels eating skunks, they don't (sorry), they tend to prefer birds, rodents, reptiles, eggs, and rabbits.

  • B R

    @Joan - your knowledge of local fauna is indeed impressive.

  • Joan M. Back in Lincoln Square and liking it.

    "While some snakes may not have been in the Chicago area historically, many get released along the tracks due to the pet snake getting too big or the owners don't want them anymore."

    Well,sort of. It's not even all that uncommon to find abandoned exotics not native to North America.(I could tell some tales!). But we're talking about an occasional person dumping a single pet snake here, someone else dumping another species there, not male and female Noah-style with the hope of producing viable populations.

    I think we can safely say that the snake(s) referred to by the OP are 99.9% sure to be those native to this particular area.

  • Sharon 33 year Ravenswood neighbor

    This was an amazing read. I never knew about Pine Martins.

  • Thanks for the comments - I've learned a lot! A neighbor sent me a note that the nest appears to be outside of his patio, and he confirmed they are garter snakes. Thanks goodness! Now to patch a hole in my garage door and call it a day...

    Happy Thanksgiving, neighbors.

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Sara!

  • Barbara in Ravenswood Ravenswood resident since 1984.

    I never knew about pine martins, either! Thanks for the thread, Sara. I'm thankful for EveryBlock and topics like this one :-) Happy Holiday.

  • Jason Hood On the North border

    The idea that snakes get released by their owners is pushed by animal "rights" extremist but in reality it just doesn't happen very often. The simple reason for this is not because all reptile keepers are as ethical as they should be but rather that there is an active Craig's List trade of the snakes. Would anyone here toss $50 on the railroad tracks instead of putting it in their pocket?

    Yes some ignorant/lazy reptile people do release some animals but I think far more are escapes from poor housing. (fish tanks are not snake tanks)

    Sara if you have issues with the snakes showing up in your house and you do not feel comfortable removing them yourself please contact the Chicago Herpetological Society for assistance. www.ChicagoHerp.org I am in south Evanston and have spoken to the property managers of your complex or a neighboring condo already about assisting the residents there.

  • Jamie T Friendly Neighbor

    I know that this is an old thread, but I'm new on everyblock and live RIGHT across from the Metra tracks. When the shrubs/bushes/greenery between the parking spots and tracks are cleaned out in the summer the crews can, at times, pull out small snakes by the rake -ful. There are LOTS OF SNAKES in there, but all the ones I saw were very little :)

  • lol definetly time for that sequel.Anyone got Sam jacksons number? then he can bring in some boas,anacondas,rattleres ,cobras etc

  • Eeeks! I just moved after buying a condo after living right across from the Old Ravenswood Hospital. I was always afraid of what would be coming out of that building...rats...snakes...roaches...EW!

  • I'd have been more worried about asbestos fibers, Richie, but fortunately it's being pretty carefully dismantled.

  • Joan M. Back in Lincoln Square and liking it.

    I thought folks in the area were more worried about junkies in that building. Go figure!

  • I guess we all have our fears, Joan M., real or imagined. I'm pretty afraid of Karina Dimas's proposed Snakes on a Plane sequel, truth be told! :)

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