Massasauga

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The Massasauga, Sistrurus catenatus, is a federally threatened snake native to Illinois prairies, including historic records in the Chicagoland region.

We have been studying the Massasauga in Illinois since 1998 and for the Tollway since 2005.

Historically, Massasaugas occurred along the Des Plaines River from Des Plaines to approximately one mile north of the Lake County border (Pope, 1947; Wright, 1941). 

What we did:

  • In 2005 and 2006 we conducted visual encounter surveys for reptiles and amphibians.
  • No Massasaugas were found but suitable habitat remained.
  • The Tollway began habitat restoration at Potawotami Woods.

 

In 2015 we assessed the habitat restoration and conducted final searches for Massasaugas.

 
 
 
  • Potawatomi Woods along I-294

  • Rattlesnake master

  • Active crayfish burrow

What we found in 2015:

  • No Massasaugas were encountered at Potawotami Woods. 
  • Only garter snakes were found.
  • Snake encounters at the site have declined overall over time.
  • Habitat restoration was successful, with many native plant species seen at the site, including rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).
  • There remain numerous active crayfish burrows for suitable Massasauga hibernation sites. 
  • Many invasive plant species are present and continuous habitat management is needed for the site to remain suitable habitat.