Unearthing a fossorial snake

To the naked eye, it might appear as though I’m standing in a prairie oasis. Pockets of bright yellow goldenrod bring vibrancy to the sea of towering grasses. There’s not a soul in sight to spoil the serenity. A lone red-tailed hawk scouring the landscape from the top of a dead oak tree is my only companion. It’s not hard to imagine the entire region looking like this prior to European settlement, expanding miles and miles without interruption.

A truck driver lays on his horn and my wandering mind is sucked back to reality. I become cognizant of the rumbling traffic that surrounds me and I am reminded that the tree line in the distance only gives the illusion of solitude. This isn’t the pristine prairie it appears to be at a glance; this 40-acre prairie is only a stone’s throw away from Chicago and confined by a bustling four-lane highway.

I made the two-hour drive from Champaign to this tiny, fragmented prairie to search for an uncommon snake.

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