BYRON, Ill. — An appreciative audience was treated to a personal experience with local reptiles Nov. 8. Tom Kessenich presented “Snakes Alive,” a fun-filled, educational program. It was hosted by the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County (PPSOC) and held at the Byron Forest Preserve’s Jarrett Center.
Kessenich brought several of his pet snakes, which he let the audience handle. The snakes especially fascinated the children. He focused special attention on those that are native to our area, including the bull snake and the fox snake.
The bull snake is a resident of Illinois prairies and is the largest snake in the region. The fox snake is a woodland/wetland resident and is often mistaken for a venomous snake because of its vibrating tail.
Kessenich also brought a copperhead, which is found in southern Illinois. Twice a year, a local road, called “Snake Alley,” is closed off for them to cross.
Kessenich explained the differences between the turtle and tortoise that he showed, and described a rare species, the ornate boxturtle, native to northern Illinois. A live one is in the Byron Center for visitors to observe.
Kessenich is a native Wisconsin herpetologist who has been involved with reptiles for more than 35 years. He was the head zookeeper at the Serpent Safari Reptile Zoo at the Wisconsin Dells and he also maintains a private collection.
His goal is to help educate the public about these misunderstood creatures. Reptiles are a good indicator of our environmental conditions, and help to teach us that all parts of nature are interconnected.
PPSOC hosts events that are free and open to the public and invites new members. Visit www.ppsoc.org.
From the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue