A History of Herpetology in Illinois

My motivation for this essay was to assemble the information I have been gathering over the last twenty years. It is definitely a work in progress, so check back from time to time. Also, feel free to send me material I may have missed or correct any errors that find their way into this essay.

—Christopher A. Phillips, Herpetology Collection Curator

Introduction. Phil Smith compiled a short section named “Previous Herpetological Investigations” for his 1961 book “Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois.” The basic outline of Smith’s section is followed here, but I have expanded on it as I don’t have the space limitations that Phil Smith undoubtedly faced when writing the introductory material for “Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois.” Some of this material has been taken directly from Phil’s book and that appears in quotes. All scientific and common names in the tables were taken verbatim from the original publications. No misspellings or errors have been corrected. Footnotes in tables are mine unless noted.


Pre-Columbian History

1819 – Thomas Say publishes first known account of an amphibian or reptile in Illinois

1838 – Holbrook describes the Blanding’s Turtle from an Illinois specimen

1855 – Kennicott’s Cook County List

1883 – Davis & Rice publish first state list

1880–1886 – Jacob Schneck (1843-1906) publishes on reptiles from southeastern Illinois

1888–1889 – Edward Drinker Cope describes new species from Illinois specimens

1889–1892 – Harrison Garman (1858–1944) publishes on Herpetology of Illinois

1893–1911 – Julius Hurter (1842–1917) publishes Missouri list including Illinois counties

1877 – Robert Ridgway contributes Illinois specimens to the US National Museum

1913 – Helen Thompson Gaige and Crystal Thompson report on amphibians and reptiles from Richland County, Illinois

1917 – T.L Hankinson’s list of amphibians and reptiles of the Charleston (Coles County) region

1922 – Alfred C. Weed’s Notes

1942 – Frank Blanchard reports new records for Monroe and Randolph counties

1928 – Harvey Van Cleave publishes Illinois snake key

1930 – Karl Schmidt re-kindles interest in Chicago-area reptiles and amphibians

1931 – Alvin Cahn begins work on Illinois turtles

1937 – Clarence Goodnight’s salamander key

1937 – Alvin Cahn’s “Turtles of Illinois”

1939 – Walter Necker publishes updated list for Chicago region

1940 – Owens reports on amphibians and reptiles of Macoupin County, Illinois

1941 – Francis Lueth’s “Manual of Illinois Snakes”

1942–1945 – James Peters’ Cumberland County notes

1940–1950 – Fred Cagle studies herpetofauna of southern Illinois

1947 – Phil Smith begins herpetological research in Illinois

1948 – Stille and Edgren publish update to Necker’s Chicago Area records

1963 – Harlan D. Walley

1973 – Mike Morris starts his herpetological career with the discovery of the Silvery Salamander, Ambystoma platineum, in Illinois

Pre-Columbian History The original inhabitants of what would become Illinois clearly noticed the herpetofauna of their surroundings. Many examples of Middle Mississippian Culture (AD 1050 to 1275) artifacts with frog, turtle, and snake effigies are known and several fine examples are from Illinois:

Hopewell frog artifacts
“Frog Rattler” pipe, Cahokia
Calhoun Co., IL
Illinois State Museum
Frog platform pipe
Illinois State Museum
Frog figure
Field Museum Natural History

1819 – Thomas Say publishes first known account of an amphibian or reptile in Illinois Thomas Say (1787-1834) was born in Philadelphia and was one of the founders of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Phil Smith’s (1961) section on “Previous Herpetological Investigations” lists the earliest published reference to an amphibian or reptile in Illinois, as that of Thomas Say on May 27th, 1819. Say was en route to the American West as part of the scientific detachment (under Major Stephen Long) of the Yellowstone Expedition of General Henry Atkinson. The following account of that reference is taken from volume 1 of the Philadelphia edition of “Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, performed in the years 1819 and ’20 : by order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, sec’y of war: under the command of Major Stephen H. Long. From the notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and other gentlemen of the exploring party”, p. 32:

On the 27th, several of the party went out to hunt in the forest, and swamps, north-west of Shawneetown. At about four miles distance from the Ohio, they arrived at the banks of a small pond, three miles long, and only three or four hundred yards wide. Here they killed a turkey, and some small birds. On the bank of the pond, was found a specimen of the Lake Erie tortoise,* depositing its eggs in the sand, at about twenty yards distance from the water. It had made, with its feet, a hole in the sand, two inches in diameter and four inches in depth, enlarging towards the bottom to three inches. This species occurs frequently in the pools and stagnant waters along the Ohio. We first met with it near the rapids at Louisville. *Testudo geographica of Leseuer.

Shawneetown is in Gallatin County and is one of the oldest European settlements in Illinois, with scattered houses as early as 1804. It was established as a trading post for the slat works along the Saline River, near present-day Equality.

1838 – Holbrook describes the Blanding’s Turtle from an Illinois specimen In 1838 Holbrook described Emys blandingii (Blanding’s Turtle; now Emydoidea blandingii) from the Fox River.

Holbrook, J.E. 1838. North American Herpetology. Ed. 1. Vol. 3. J. Dobson and Son, Philadelphia. 3:122 pp.

1855 – Kennicott’s Cook County List

Robert Kennicott (1835-1866). Naturalist and explorer. Born in New Orleans, raised in West Northfield, IL (now Glenview). Founded the Chicago Academy of Sciences with William Stimpson. There are several excellent web sites with information on Kennicott’s life. The Smithsonian Institute hosts two of the best; one by the Division of Fishes and one on the Smithsonian Institute Archives.

Robert Kennicott

Kennicott published his “Catalogue of Animals Observed in Cook County” (12 amphibians and 21 reptiles) in 1855 (Catalog of animals observed in Cook County, Illinois. Ill. State Ag. Soc. Trans. 1853-54 (1):577-595). He also published original descriptions of four species from Illinois: Regina kirtlandii (Kirtland’s Watersnake; now Clonophis kirtlandii) from West Northfield, IL in 1856 (Description of a new snake from Illinois. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 8: 95-96), Virginia elegans (now Virginia valeriae elegans, Western Smooth Earthsnake) from “heavily timbered regions of southern Illinois,” Celuta helenae, now Carphophis amoenus helenae, Midwestern Wormsnake from “Southern Illinois (abundant in the woods)” and Ophibolus evansii (now recognized as Lampropeltis calligaster, the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake) from “the prairies of central Illinois” in 1859 (Kennicott 1859. Notes on COLUBER CALLIGASTER of Say, and a description of a new species of Serpents in the collection of the North Western University of Evanston, Ill. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 11:98-100. Ophibolus evansii was named in honor of Prof. J. Evans of Northwestern University “to whose interest in the investigation of the north west, the N. W. University is principally indebted for the large collection of animals made under its auspices.” Regina kirtlandii was named in honor of Jared Potter Kirtland, naturalist and politician: : “In giving to this serpent the name of Dr. Kirtland, as a slight token of the respect due him, to whose enthusiastic and untiring devotion to Science the West owes so much, I would also like to make some expression of my personal gratitude to the honored teacher, whose encouragement and instruction led me to study Nature, by dedicating to him his pupil’s first contribution to science.” Celuta helenae was named in honor of Miss Helen Teunison, one of the collectors of the type. Kennicott’s Cook County list is reproduced here because of its historical significance, especially the interesting common names:

Kennicott's NameCurrent NameIL Species?
Trionyx feroxSoft-shelled TurtleApalone feroxFlorida SoftshellNo
Cistudo BlandingiiPrairie Tortoise, High-land TerrapinEmydoidea blandingiiBlanding's TurtleYes
Chelonura serpentinaSnapping TurtleChelydra serpentinaSnapping TurtleYes
Emys pictaPainted TortoiseChrysemys pictaPainted TurtleYes
Plestiodon quinquelineatumNot statedPlestiodon laticeps?Broad-headed SkinkYes
Plestiodon fasciatumBlue-tailed Skink or SwiftPlestiodon fasciatusCommon Five-lined SkinkYes
Ophiosaurus lineatumGlass Snake, Joint SnakeOphisaurus ventralisEastern Glass LizardNo
Crotalus duressusBanded Rattlesnake, Mountain RattlesnakeCrotalus horridusTimber RattlesnakeYes
Crotalophorus tergeminusPrairie MassassaugaSistrurus catenatus tergiminusWestern MassasaugaSee below
Crotalophorus KirtlandiiBlack MassasaugaSistrurus c. catenatusEastern MassasaugaYes
Eutania sirtalisStriped Snake, Garter SnakeThamnophis sirtalisEastern GartersnakeYes
Eutania radixStriped SnakeThamnophis radixPlains GartersnakeYes
Eutania proximaSwift Striped SnakeThamnophis proximusWestern RibbonsnakeYes
Nerodia sipedonSpotted Water SnakeNerodia sipedonNorthern WatersnakeYes
Regina GrahamiiPrairie Water SnakeRegina grahamiiGraham's Crayfish SnakeYes
Regina leberisYellow-bellied Water SnakeRegina septemvittataQueensnakeYes
Heterodon platyrhinosHog-nose, Spreading AdderHeterodon platirhinosEastern Hog-nosed SnakeYes
Ophibolis eximusMilk SnakeLampropeltis triangulumMilksnakeYes
Bascanion constrictorBlack SnakeColuber constrictorNorth American RacerYes
Chlorosoma vernalisGreen SnakeOpheodrys vernalisSmooth GreensnakeYes
Celuta amaenaWorm SnakeCarphophis amoenusCommon WormsnakeYes
Storeria dekayiLittle Grey SnakeStoreria dekayiDekay's BrownsnakeYes
Storeria occipito maculataLittle red-bellied SnakeStoreria occipitomaculataRed-bellied SnakeYes
Bufo americanusNot statedAnaxyrus americanusAmerican ToadYes
Hyla versicolorCommon large Tree-FrogHyla versicolorGray TreefrogYes
Hyla triseriataStriped prairie Tree-FrogPseudacris triseriataWestern Chorus FrogYes
Hyla PickeringiiNot statedPseudacris cruciferSpring PeeperYes
Rana clamataLarge Swamp FrogLithobates clamitansGreen FrogYes
Rana halecinaCommon Green FrogLithobates pipiensNorthern Leopard FrogYes
Ambystoma punctataNot statedAmbystoma maculatumSpotted SalamanderYes
Ambystoma luridaGround PuppyAmbystoma tigrinumEastern Tiger SalamanderYes
Notophthalmus miniatusRed SalamanderNotophthalmus viridescensEastern NewtYes
Notophthalmus viredescensNot statedNotophthalmus viridescensEastern NewtYes
Hemidactylium scutatumFour-toed SalamanderHemidactylium scutatumFour-toed SalamanderYes
Necturus lataralisWater PuppyNecturus maculosusMudpuppyYes

Additional comments on Kennicott’s list:

1) Plestiodon quinquelineatum (Linnaeus 1757). Whether this name is referable to P. laticeps or not is unclear. It certainly applies to one of the members of the fasciatus group. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Kennicott as he also has P. fasciatus in his list.

2) Crotalus duressus Linnaeus, 1758. The confusion surrounding the names durissus and horridus was not settled until Klauber (1941. Bull. Zool. Soc. San Diego 17:81-95) stabilized the two names. Kennicott was using Holbrook as his authority so he used durissus (but spelled durressus) in his list for C. horridus. However, there is no evidence that the Timber Rattlesnake ever occurred in Cook County.

3) Crotalophorus tergeminus (Say, 1823). The fact that Kennicott listed C. tergeminus, the Western Massasauga, instead of the Eastern Massasauga, Sistrurus catenatus (Rafinesque, 1818), may be explained by reference to Baird & Girard, 1853:14 (Catalogue of North American Reptiles in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Part 1.-Serpents. Smithsonian Inst., Washington, xvi + 172 pp.). Baird & Girard (1853) does not include catenatus and the locations of specimens in the tergeminus account are “Racine, Wisc.”; “Grosse Isle, Mich”, and “Warren Co., Ohio.” Therefore, it seems logical to assume that Kennicott was acknowledging the presence of two species of massasauga in Cook County, both of which are attributable to what we know today as the Eastern Massasauga, Sistrurus catenatus. For details concerning which of the species in Kennicott’s list are today considered to be valid for Cook County, see Anton, 1999 (Current Distribution and Status of Amphibians and Reptiles in Cook County, Illinois. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science, Vol. 92, 3 and 4:211-232).

1883 – Davis & Rice publish first state list In 1883, Nathan Smith Davis and Frank L. Rice published the first state list of amphibians and reptiles; List of Batrachia and Reptilia of Illinois. Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences. vol. 1, no. 3. They listed 74 species of reptiles and 32 species of amphibians. By my count, they correctly identified the following species as inhabiting the state:

Davis & Rice Name
Current Name
Necturus lateralis
Necturus maculosus
Menopoma allegheniensis
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
Amblystoma talpoideum
Mole Salamander
Ambystoma talpoideum
Mole Salamander
Amblystoma opacum
Opaque Salamander
Ambystoma opacum
Marbled Salamander
Amblystoma punctatum
Large Spotted Salamander
Ambystoma maculatum
Spotted Salamander
Amblystoma tigrinum
Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma tigrinum
Tiger Salamander
Amblystoma jeffersonianum laterale
Jefferson's Salamander
Ambystoma laterale
Blue-spotted Salamander
Hemidactylium scutatum
Four-toed Salamander
Hemidactylium scutatum
Four-toed Salamander
Plethodon cinereus cinereus
Red-backed Salamander
Plethodon cinereus
Red-backed Salamander
Plethodon cinereus erythronotus
Not stated
Plethodon cinereus
Red-backed Salamander
Plethodon glutinosus
Viscid Salamander
Plethodon glutinosus
Slimy Salamander
Spelerpes bilineatus
Two-striped Salamander
Eurycea cirrigera 
Southern Two-lined Salamander
Spelerpes longicaudus
Cave Salamander
Eurycea longicauda
Long-tailed Salamander
Desmognathus fusca
Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus conanti 
Spotted Dusky Salamander1
Diemyctylus miniatus viridescens
Spotted Evet
Notophthalmus viridescens
Eastern Newt
Siren lacertina
Great Siren
Siren intermedia
Lesser Siren2
Bufo lentiginosus americanus 
Common Toad
Anaxyrus americanus 
American Toad
Engystoma carolinense 
Not stated
Gastrophryne carolinensis 
Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad
Acris gryllus crepitans 
Northern Cricket Frog
Acris blanchardi 
Blanchard's Cricket Frog
Chorophilus triseriatus triseriata 
Tree Frog
Pseudacris triseriata 
Western Chorus Frog
Hyla pickeringi 
Pickering's Tree Toad
Pseudacris crucifer
Spring Peeper
Hyla versicolor
Common Tree Toad
Hyla versicolor
Eastern Gray Treefrog
Rana halecina 
Common Frog
Lithobates pipiens 
Northern Leopard Frog
Rana palustris 
Pickerel Frog
Lithobates palustris 
Pickerel Frog
Rana clamatins 
Green or Spring Frog
Lithobates clamitans 
Green Frog
Rana catesbeiana 
Bull Frog
Lithobates catesbeianus 
American Bullfrog
Rana temporaria silvatica 
Not stated
Lithobates sylvaticus 
Wood Frog
Rana areolata 
Ringed Frog
Lithobates areolatus 
Crawfish Frog
Crotalus horridus 
Banded or Northern Rattlesnake
Crotalus horridus
Timber Rattlesnake
Caudisoma tergemina 
Massasauga. Prairie Rattlesnake
Sistrurus catenatus 
Ancistrodon piscivorus piscovorus
Water Moccasin
Agkistrodon piscivorous 
Ancistrodon contortrix
Copper-head. Cotton-mouth.
Agkistrodon contortrix
Carphophiops helenae
Helen Tennison's Snake
Carphophis a. helenae 
Midwestern Wormsnake
Virginia elegans 
Kennicott's Brown Snake
Virginia valeriae elegans 
Western Smooth Earthsnake
Farancia abacura 
Red-bellied Horn Snake
Farancia abacura 
Red-bellied Mudsnake
Ophibolus doliatus triangulus 
Milke Snake or Spotted Adder
Lampropeltis triangulum 
Ophibolus getulus var. Sayi
King Snake
Lampropeltis nigra
Black Kingsnake
Ophibolus calligaster 
Kennicott's Chain Snake
Lampropeltis calligaster 
Yellow-bellied Kingsnake
Diadophis punctatus punctatus
Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis p. punctatus
Northern Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis arnyi 
Arny's Ring-necked Snake
Diadophis p. arnyi 
Prairie Ring-necked Snake
Cyclophis vernalis 
Green or Grass Snake
Opheodrys vernalis 
Smooth Greensnake
Cyclophis aestivus 
Summer Green Snake
Opheodrys aestivus 
Rough Greensnake
Coluber emoryi
Emory's Racer
Pantherophis emoryi
Great Plains Ratsnake
Coluber vulpinus 
Fox Snake
Pantherophis vulpinus 
Eastern Foxsnake
Coluber obsoletus obsoletus
Pilot Snake
Pantherophis spiloides 
Gray Ratsnake
Pituophis sayi sayi
Western Pine Snake
Pituophis catenifer sayi 
Basconion constrictor constrictor
Black Snake. Blue Racer
Coluber constrictor 
North American Racer
Eutaenia saurita
Riband Snake. Swift Garter Snake
Thamnophis sauritus
Eastern Ribbonsnake
Eutaenia proxima
Say's Garter Snake
Thamnophis proximus 
Western Ribbonsnake
Eutaenia radix
Hoy's Garter Snake
Thamnophis radix
Plains Gartersnake
Eutaenia sirtalis sirtalis
Common Garter Snake
Thamnophis s. sirtalis
Eastern Gartersnake
Eutaenia sirtalis parietalis
Red-spotted Garter Snake
Thamnophis s. parietalis
Red-sided Gartersnake
Storeria occipitomaculata 
Red-bellied Snake
Storeria occipitomaculata 
Red-bellied Snake
Storeria dekayi 
De Kay's Brown Snake
Storeria dekayi
Dekay's Brownsnake
Tropidoclonium kirtlandi
Cora Kennicott's Snake
Clonophis kirtlandii 
Kirtland's Snake
Tropidonotus grahami
Graham's Snake
Regina grahamii 
Graham's Crayfish Snake
Tropidonotus leberis
Leather Snake
Regina septemvittata
Tropidonotus fasciatus 
Fasciated Water Snake
Nerodia fasciata
Southern Watersnake
Tropidonotus sipedon sipedon
Water Snake
Nerodia sipedon
Northern Watersnake
Tropidonotus sipedon erythrogaster
Red-bellied Watersnake
Nerodia erythrogaster
Pain-bellied Watersnake
Tropidonotus rhombifer 
Not stated
Nerodia rhombifer
Diamond-backed Watersnake
Tropidonotus cyclopium 
Not stated
Nerodia cyclopion
Mississippi Green Watersnake
Heterodon platyrhinus 
Spreading Adder
Heterodon platirhinos 
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Oligosoma lateralis 
Ground Lizard
Scincella lateralis 
Ground Skink
Eumeces fasciatus 
Blue-tailed Lizard
Eumeces fasciatus
Common Five-lined Skink
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus 
Six-lined Lizard
Aspidoscelis sexlineata
Six-lined Racerunner
Sceloporus undulatus 
Swift Lizard
Sceloporus undulatus
Eastern Fence Lizard
Amyda mutica
Leathery Turtle
Apalone mutica 
Smooth Softshell
Aspidonectes spinifer 
Common Soft-shelled Turtle
Apalone spinifera 
Spiny Softshell
Chelydra serpentina 
Common Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentina
Snapping Turtle
Macrochelys lacertina
Alligator, or Mississippi Snapper
Macrochelys temminckii
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Aromochelys odoratus
Musk Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus 
Eastern Musk Turtle
Pseudemys hieroglyphica 
Not stated
Pseudemys concinna 
River Cooter
Pseudemys elegans 
Not stated
Trachemys scripta elegans
Red-eared Slider
Malacoclemmys geographica 
Map Turtle
Graptemys geographica 
Map Turtle
Malacoclemmys pseudo-geographicus
Le Sueur's Map Turtle
Graptemys pseudogeographica
False Map Turtle
Chrysemys picta 
Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta 
Painted Turtle
Emys meleagris
Blanding's Turtle
Emydoidea blandingii 
Blanding's Turtle
Cistudo clausa 
Common Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina
Eastern Box Turtle

1) In the comments for the species account of D. fusca, Davis & Rice state that it is “Found in all portions of the state.” Therefore, it is questionable whether to assign this species as correctly identified in their list. See footnote 2 in the , below.

2) At the time of publication of this list there was still confusion surrounding the taxonomy and systematics of Siren, with S. intermedia considered a synonym for S. lacertina until 1932 (Noble, G.K. and B.C. Marshall. 1932. The validity of Siren intermedia LeConte, with observations on its life history. Amer. Mus. Novitates 532:1-17.). Davis & Rice’s list correctly identified 27 amphibians and 49 reptiles that inhabited the state. Their list also contained several species that are not members of the state’s fauna. It is unlikely that any of these species previously inhabited Illinois and have been extirpated since, or have been overlooked in 150 years of surveys:

Davis & Rice NameCurrent Name
Amblystoma jeffersonianum platineumNot statedUncertain, see below
Spelerpes ruber ruberRed TritonPseudotriton ruberRed Salamander
Desmognathus nigraBlack SalamanderDesmognathus fuscusDusky Salamander
Diemyctylus m. minaitusRed EvetNotophthalmus viridescensEastern Newt
Acris gryllus gryllusCricket FrogAcris gryllusSouthern Cricket Frog
Hyla squirellaSquirrel FrogHyla squirella Squirrel Frog
Carphophis vermisWorm SnakeCarphophis vermis Western Wormsnake
Haldea striatulaBrown SnakeVirginia striatulaRough Earthsnake
Abastor erythrogramusRed-lined SnakeFarancia erytrogrammaRainbow Snake
Osceola elapsoidesScarlet SnakeLampropeltis elapsoides Scarlet Kingsnake
Ophibolus doliatus coccineus Red King SnakeLampropeltis elapsoides Scarlet Kingsnake
Ophibolus rhombomaculataNot statedLampropeltis c. rhombomaculata Mole Kingsnake
Diadophis punctatus amabilis Not statedDiadophis punctatus amabilis Pacific Ring-necked Snake
Coluber lindheimerii Not statedPantherophis obsoletus (in part) Western Ratsnake
Coluber obsoletus confinisRacerPantherophis spiloides (in part)Gray Ratsnake
Eutaenia faireyiFaries’ Garter SnakeThamnophis proximusWestern Ribbonsnake
Eutaenia vagrans vagransSpotted Riband SnakeThamnophis elegans vagransWandering Gartersnake
Eutaenia sirtalis obscuraNot statedThamnophis s. sirtalisEastern Gartersnake
Tropidonotus sipedon woodhouseiNot statedNerodia erythrogasterPlain-bellied Waternake
Heterodon simusHog-nosed SnakeHeterodon simusSouthern Hog-nosed Snake
Eumeces obsoletusNot statedPlestiodon obsoletusGreat Plains Skink
Opheosaurus ventralisGlass SnakeOphisaurus ventralisEastern Glass Lizard
Aromochelys carinatusNot statedSternotherus carinatusRazor-backed Musk Turtle
Pseudemys troostiYellow-bellied TerrapinTrachemys scripta troostiCumberland Slider

A few species in this list require some additional comments.

1) Amblystoma jeffersonianum platineum Cope, 1867. The confusion surrounding this name and its application to extant populations of salamanders is explained under “Nomenclatural History” in the species account for Ambystoma platineum.

2) Splerpes ruber ruber (Sonnini de Manoncourt and Latreille, 1801:305). This species was included based on a specimen in the U.S. National Museum (USNM 9555) collected by Robert Kennicott at “Aux Plaines”. This specimen was cited in Yarrow (1882. Check-list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U.S. National Museum. U.S. National Museum Bulletin 24. 249 pp.), so Davis & Rice probably knew this reference. This does not explain why they considered it to be “Found throughout the State.” It is clearly not a part of the fauna of Illinois (Dunn. E.R. 1926. The salamanders of the family Plethodontidae. Smith College 50th Anniversary Publication 7. 441 pp.)

3) Coluber lindheimerii (Baird & Girard, 1853:74). Prior to recent work by Burbrink (2001 Systematics of the Eastern Ratsnake complex (Elaphe obsoleta). Herpetological Monographs 15: 1-53), this name (but as Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii, the Texas Ratsnake) was applied to ratsnakes in East Texas and Louisiana. Burbrink’s work demonstrated that it is not a valid taxon and placed it under the synonymy of Pantherophis (Elapheobsoletus. Regardless of taxonomic re-arrangements, this name never referred to a species from Illinois.

4) Coluber obsoletus confinis (Baird & Girard, 1853:76). This Baird & Girard name referred to ratsnakes from SE U.S. (Anderson, SC in the original description) and therefore never referred to a species from Illinois. The name “confinis” has not been used in the literature for some time as it was sunk into Pantherophis (Elaphe) spiloides prior to the rearrangement by Burbrink (op. cit.). See also Burbrink et al., 2000 (Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of the polytypic North American rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta): a critique of the subspecies concept. Evolution 54 (6), 2107-2118).

5) Eutainia Faireyi Baird & Girard, 1853:25. Locality given in original description as “Prairie Mer Rouge, LA.” Hurter, 1911:159 (Herpetology of Missouri. Trans. St. Louis Acad. Sci. 20:59-74) first listed it as a subspecies of Thamnophis proximus. Regardless of taxonomic re-arrangements, this name never referred to a species from Illinois. Note that Davis & Rice used “Eutaenia faireyi,” but the original description was “Eutainia Faireyi.”

6) Tropidonotus sipedon woodhousei (Baird & Girard, 1853:42). It is clear from the localities given in Baird & Girard (all in TX) and subsequent work that this name is a synonym of Nerodia erythrogaster, specifically the former subspecies transversa, the Blotched Watersnake. The range of this former subspecies was many hundreds of miles removed from Illinois.

1880–1886 – Jacob Schneck publishes on reptiles from southeastern Illinois


Jacob Schneck (1843-1906) was born in Mt. Carmel, Illinois. He is well-known for his botanical investigations of the Wabash Valley, especially Catalogue of the Flora of the Wabash Valley Below the Mouth of the White River, and Observations Thereon. He was also a physician with a successful practice in Mt. Carmel, IL. A biography was compiled by Professor Clark Kimberling of the University of Evansville. Schneck published a series of short notes in the American Naturalistrecording a number of reptiles in southeastern Illinois. Harrison Garman, on page 230 of his 1892 “A synopsis of the reptiles and amphibians of Illinois” (see below) credits the discovery of Pseudemys concinna in Illinois to Jacob Schneck. One of Schneck’s most interesting herpetological papers, “Longevity of turtles” from the American Naturalist series (Vol. 20, No. 10:897) is quoted here:

LONGEVITY OF TURTLES. -The following history is so well authenticated that I believe it should be published, and thus permanently put on record. I am personally acquainted with the principal parties. In I824 Mr. J. W. Warrington, one of the pioneer pedagogues of this vicinity, found a small Testudo Carolina Linn., on the plastron of which he engraved, with his pen-knife, “J. W., 1824” and set it free near Albion, Ill. Some time during 1865 Mr. W. Hodson found it in the same vicinity where it had been set free forty-one years before. He engraved the letter “W” on the carapace and again set it free. Nothing more was seen of it until August, 1885, when it was found by Mr. Herbert Hodson (brother to W.) about one-half a mile from the spot where it had been set free twenty years before. He put it into his cellar where it remained until this (1886) summer, when it by accident was poisoned by “Rough on Rats,” and died from the effect. The engravings are all apparently as clear as when first made. The tortoise was below the medium size, and appears to have grown very little since the first engraving was done, sixty-two years since. The shell is darker and smoother than usual. On the back is a scar which appears to be the remains of an extensive fracture. Mr. H. Hodson has three other tortoises that were engraved twenty-one, seventeen and sixteen years since respectively. In illustration of the slow growth of these reptiles, I will mention that more than a year since he broke open an egg in which was found a young tortoise; this he has since kept in confinement. It has made no perceptible progress in size during this time. Several years since I kept a young Pseudemys elegans Wied. in confinement for more than two years. It made no perceptible increase in size, yet it partook quite freely of food. -J. Schneck, Mt. Carmel, Ill., Sept. 22, 1886.

1888–1889 – Edward Drinker Cope describes new species from Illinois specimens Cope described Ophibolus doliatus syspila (now Lampropeltis triangulum syspila, Red Milksnake) from “Richland County, Illinois” based on a specimen collected by Robert Ridgeway (Cope, E.D. 1888. On the snakes of Florida. Proc. US Natl. Mus. 11: 381-394 [1889]). In 1889, Cope described Hyla versicolor phaeocrypta from “Mount Carmel, Ill” (Cope, E. D. 1889. Batrachia of North America. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 34: 5-525). Perry Viosca (1928. A new species of Hyla from Louisiana. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 41: 89-91.) examine the type of H. v. phaeocrypta and concluded it was a juvenile H. versicolor. At first Viosca concluded that Cope’s H. v. phaeocrypta was appropriate for specimens of frogs with a bird-like call that he collected in Louisiana in 1917, but later named these frogs Hyla avivoca after determining that the type of H. v. phaeocrypta was a juvenile H. versicolor. An interesting side note is that in 1907 C.M. Barber recorded in his field notes that he collected a Hyla with a bird-like call at Horseshoe Lake, Alexander Co., IL, although he considered them to be juvenile H. versicolor. So the first specimens of H. avivoca were collected in Illinois, but not properly recognized as such until after Viosca’s Louisiana discovery. Cope also described Eutaenia sirtalis semifasciata (now Thamnophis sirtalis semifasiatus, Chicago Gartersnake) from “Aux Plaines [=Des Plaines], Illinois” in 1892 (Cope, E.D. 1892. A critical review of the characters and variations of the snakes of North America. Proc. US Natl. Mus. 14: 589-694).

1889–1892 – Harrison Garman publishes on Herpetology of Illinois

Harrison Garman

William Harrison Garman (1858–1944) was born in Lena, IL in 1858. He graduated from Illinois State Normal University, and attended Johns Hopkins University from 1881 to 1882. In 1885, he became Assistant State Entomologist under Stephen A. Forbes at the Illinois Laboratory of Natural History (now the Illinois Natural History Survey) in Champaign and remained until 1889. From 1885–1889 he served on the faculty of the Department of Zoology at the University of Illinois, attaining at least the rank of Associate Professor. Garman moved on to Lexington, KY to become Entomologist and Botanist for the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station in 1889 where he stayed until his retirement in 1929. He established a herbarium at the University of Kentucky with plants he had collected in Illinois. In addition, Dr. Garman also served as the first Kentucky State Entomologist from 1897 to 1929.

Harrison Garman’s first herpetological publication was his 1889 work, “A preliminary report on the animals of the waters of the Mississippi Bottoms near Quincy, Illinois, in August, 1888. Illinois Laboratory of Natural History Bulletin 3(9):123-184.” In this report, Garman recorded the following species, all of which, except T. scripta troosti, are referable to a species known to exist in Illinois:

Garman NameCurrent Name
Regina leberisNot statedRegina septemvittataQueensnake
Chrysemys belliPainted turtleChrysemys picta belliWestern Painted Turtle
Pseudemys elegansNot statedTrachemys scripta elegansRed-eared Slider
Pseudemys troostiNot statedTrachemys scripta troostiCumberland Slider
Malacoclemmys lesueuriMud TurtleGraptemys pseudogeographicaFalse Map Turtle
Malacoclemmys geographicusMud TurtleGraptemys geographicaNorthern Map Turtle
Macrochelys lacertinaAlligator SnapperMacrochelys temminckiiAlligator Snapping Turtle
Chelydra serpentinaSnapping TurtleChelydra serpentinaSnapping Turtle
Aspidonectes spiniferSoft-shell TurtleApalone spiniferaSpiny Softshell
Amyda muticaSoft-shell TurtleApalone muticaSmooth Softshell
Rana virescensNot statedLithobates sphenocephalusSouthern Leopard Frog
Rana catesbianaNot statedLithobates catesbeianusAmerican Bullfrog

It should be noted that Garman did not actually see an Alligator Snapping Turtle, rather stated, “This species is said by fisherman and sportsman to occur here occasionally.” All of the species Garman recorded had been previously recorded for the state.

Garman’s next herpetological publication was “Notes on Illinois reptiles and amphibians, including several species not before recorded from the northern states” (1890. Illinois Laboratory of Natural History Bulletin 3(10):185-190). Under his account for Emys meleagris (Emydoidea blandingii), he states: “This fine turtle was as late as 1870 rather common about water on the prairies of central Illinois. It is now very rare, only one example having been taken by me in the past six years.” Similarly for Ophisaurus ventralis (O. attenuatus); “Formerly common on the prairies of the central part of the state, but now being rapidly exterminated there by the close grazing and cultivation of the land. Still rather common in southern Illinois.” Garman notes three specimens of Tropidoclonium lineata taken in Urbana in April 1889. One measured 13-3/4 inches in length.

Garman’s most important herpetological publication was “A synopsis of the reptiles and amphibians of Illinois” (1892. Illinois Laboratory of Natural History Bulletin 3(13):215-388). From Smith (1961): “The synopsis by Harrison Garman (1892), until now the only comprehensive report on the Illinois amphibians and reptiles, correctly credited 31 species of amphibians and 58 reptiles to Illinois, but unfortunately perpetuated most of the errors of Davis & Rice.” Garman did not perpetuate all of the errors of Davis & Rice, however, as he did remove Eumeces obsoletus (now Plestiodon obsoletus) and noted that it does not occur in the state. Garman also correctly listed several species of the Illinois fauna for the first time:

Garman NameCurrent Name
Cinosternum pennsylvanicumMud TortoiseKinosternon subrubrumEastern Mud Turtle
Cistudo ornataNot StatedTerrapene ornataOrnate Box Turtle
Tropidoclonium lineatumNot statedTropidoclonion lineatumLined Snake
Heterodon simus var. nasicusHog-nosed SnakeHeterodon nasicusWestern Hog-nosed Snake
Rana utriculariaNot statedLithobates sphenocephalaSouthern Leopard Frog
Hyla cinereaCinereous FrogHyla cinereaGreen Treefrog
Bufo lentiginosus var. lentiginosusAmerican ToadAnaxyrus fowleriFowler's Toad1
Amblystoma microstomumNot StatedAmbystoma texanumSmall-mouthed Salamander

1) So much confusion surrounded the taxonomy and systematics of the toads at this time, that is nearly impossible to be sure if Garman (and Davis & Rice before him) was referring to both the American Toad (americanus) and Fowler’s Toad (fowleri). His accounts for these taxa are under Bufo lentiginosus as varieties; B. l. americanus and B. l. lentiginosus. Garman’s descriptions of these taxa are much more thorough than those in Davis & Rice, but still leave doubt whether either variety refers to fowleri.

In the “Prefatory Note” section of the “Synopsis” Garman lists “A few additional species known to occur in adjacent states may be looked for in Illinois.” Among the species in that list is Chelopus guttatus, now Clemmys guttata, Spotted Turtle, which Garman suggested “may occur in northeastern Illinois. It has been found in northern Indiana and Michigan.” The Spotted Turtle was eventually verified in Illinois, first appearing in Necker’s 1939 list of amphibians and reptiles of the Chicago region (see below). Garman also listed Illinois localities for each species, but many of these, even for species that do occur in Illinois, are erroneous by today’s knowledge of distribution. A large proportion of these erroneous localities are attributed to Robert Ridgway for the Mt. Carmel (Wabash Co.) area. Smith (1961) noted the large number of erroneous records contributed by Ridgway and explained them as “… presumably based on his recollections of species probably misidentified in the field.” Among the interesting comments in Garman’s article, one for the Alligator Snapping Turtle stands out: “Mr. Ridgway saw a specimen at Grayville, Ill. that was “large enough to walk with a man standing on his Back.” The species account for Ambystoma (as Amblystomajeffersonianum continues to be muddled. In addition to the two “varieties” of A. jeffersonianum listed by Davis & Rice, A. j. laterale and A. j. platineum, Garman added fuscum and jeffersonianum. He listed the following Illinois locations for each: platineum: “Belleville (spec in Nat. Mus.”); fuscum: “Not yet observed from Illinois”; laterale: “Northern Illinois (Davis and Rice)”; jeffersonianum: “Southern Illinois (Ridgway)”. Given these distributions and the accompanying descriptions, the only variety that can be related to a known species in Illinois is laterale. The other three reflect the confusion surrounding this species complex at this point in history and is explained under “Nomenclatural History” in the species account for Ambystoma platineum.

1893–1911 – Julius Hurter publishes Missouri list including Illinois counties

Julius Hurter (1842–1917) was born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. In 1910, he co-founded the St. Louis Zoological Society (St. Louis Zoo) along with ornithologist Otto Widman, Professor J.F. Abbot of Washington University, shirt manufacturer Cortlandt Harris, and taxidermist Frank Schwarz. He was a curator at the Academy of Science of St. Louis. Among his herpetological publications, his 1911 work, “Herpetology of Missouri” (St. Louis Academy of Science Transactions 20(5):59-74) is the most relevant to Illinois. In this work, Hurter lists several Illinois counties for which observations of amphibians and reptiles were known. This is the first mention I can find of the Cave Salamander, Eurycea lucifuga, in Illinois.

Hurter NameCurrent NameIL Counties
Ambystoma microstomumSmall-mouthed SalamanderAmbystoma texanumSmall-mouthed SalamanderStC
Ambystoma tigrinumTiger SalamanderAmbystoma tigrinumEastern Tiger salamanderMad, Mon, StC
Ambystoma opacumMarbled SalamanderAmbystoma opacumMarbled SalamanderMon, Ran
Spelerpes longicaudusLong-tailed Salamander. Cave SalamanderEurycea longicaudaLong-tailed SalamanderStC
Spelerpes maculicaudusSpotted-tail Salamander. Hoosier SalamanderEurycea lucifigaCave SalamanderMon1
Diemectylus viridescensNewt. Red Eft. Spotted Triton. Green TritonNotophthalmus viridescensEastern NewtStc, Mon
Bufo lentiginosus americanusAmerican ToadAnaxyrus americanusAmerican ToadMad, Mon, StC
Chorophilus triseriatusThree-striped Tree FrogPseudacris triseriataWestern Chorus FrogMad, StC
Hyla carolinensisCarolina Tree Frog. Green Tree Frog. Bell FrogHyla cinereaGreen Treefrog"southern Illinois"
Hyla pickeringiiPickering's Frog. Peeping Frog. Spring PeeperPseudacris cruciferSpring PeeperMon, Stc
Rana areolataGopher FrogLithobates areolatusCrawfish Frog"reported"
Natrix rhombiferDiamond-backed Water Snake. Holbrook's Water SnakeNerodia rhombiferaDiamond-backed WatersnakeMad, Mon, StC
Natrix fasciata erythrogasterRed-bellied Water SnakeNerodia erythrogasterPlain-bellied WatersnakeRan, StC
Natrix sipedonCommon Water Snake. MocassinNerodia sipedonNorthern WatersnakeMad, Mon, Ran, StC, Union
Natrix grahamiiGraham's Water SnakeRegina grahamiiGraham's Crayfish SnakeMad, StC
Thamnophis proxima faireyiFairey's Ribbon SnakeThamnophis proximusWestern RibbonsnakeMad, Mon, Ran, StC
Thamnophis radixRacine Garter Snake. Prairie Garter SnakeThamnophis radixPlains GartersnakeMad
Thamnophis sirtalisCommon Garter Snake. Striped SnakeThamnophis sirtalisEastern GartersnakeMad, Mon, StC
Storeria dekayiDeKay's Snake. DeKay's Brown SnakeStoreria dekayiDekay's BrownsnakeRan, StC
Pituophis sayiBull Snake. Western Bull Snake. Pine SnakePituophis catenifer sayi BullsnakeMad, StC
Heterodon platirhinosBlowing Adder. Spread Head. Spreading ViperHeterodon platyrhinosEastern Hog-nosed SnakeMad, Mon, Ran, StC2
Lampropeltis doliatusHouse Snake. Milk Snake. King SnakeLampropeltis triangulumMilksnakeRan, StC
Lampropeltis getulus holbrookiKing Snake. Salt and Pepper SnakeLampropeltis nigraBlack KingsnakeStC
Lampropeltis calligasterEvan's King Snake. Yellow-bellied King Snake. Brown King SnakeLampropeltis calligasterYellow-bellied KingsnakeMad
Diadophis regalis arnyiRing-necked SnakeDiadophis punctatus arnyiPrairie Ring-necked SnakeStC
Liopeltis vernalisGrass Snake. Green SnakeOpheodrys vernalisSmooth GreensnakeMad, Mon3
Opheodrys aestivusGreen Bush Snake. Rough-scaled Green SnakeOpheodrys aestivusRough GreensnakeStC, Union
Virginia elegansVirginia's SnakeVirginai valeriae elegansWestern Smooth EarthsnakeStC
Agkistrodon contortrixCopperhead. MocassinAgkistrodon contortrixCopperheadStC
Sistrurus catenatusPrairie Rattlesnake. MassasaugaSistrurus catenatusMassasaugaMad4
Crotalus horridusTimber Rattlesnake. Banded Rattlesnake. Northern RattlesnakeCrotalus horridusTimber RattlesnakeStC5
Aromochelys odoratusCommon Musk Turtle. Stink TurtleSternotherus odoratusCommon Musk TurtleMad, StC
Chrysemys belliBell's TurtleChrysemys picta belliWestern painted TurtleAdams, Mad, Mon, Ran, StC
Chrysemys treleaseiTrelease's TurtleChrysemys pictaPainted TurtleMad, Mon, StC
Pseudemys elegansElegant TurtleTrachemys scripta elegansRed-eared SliderMad, StC
Pseudemys troostiTroost's TurtleTrachemys scripta troostiCumberland SliderMad, Mon, StC6
Terrapene carolinaCarolina Box TurtleTerrapane carolinaEastern Box TurtleMad, Mon, Ran, StC, Union7
Terrapene ornataPainted Box TurtleTerrapene ornataOrnate Box TurtleRan, Wash8

1) “In Illinois it has been captured in a cave near Burksville, Monroe Co.”

2) Hurter also had an entry for “Melanistic Variety of Heterodon platirhinos” which he referred to “Heterodon nigerScytale nigerVipera nigra.” and recorded from Madison Co., IL. This probably reflects the variation in color pattern among H. platyrhinos. The following is his description:

Description. —Same as for Heterodon platirhinos. Color. —The color above is dark brown to black, beneath dirty white to yellowish. The lower side of the tail is always yellow. Sometimes the faint markings on the back of H. platirhinos can be perceived.

3) This species has a decidedly more northern range than O. aestivus, not reaching much south of Champaign Co. in the east and Knox Co. in the west (but see below), so it is surprising that Hurter recorded it as far south as St. Louis. Because it is nearly impossible to confuse the two species, these records are believed valid. In fact, Hurter commented:

So far I have no record of this snake ever having been captured south of the Missouri River in this state. Of the two specimens I have, one was captured by Dr. Anton Schaffranek in his garden in St. Charles, and the other by Mr. E. M. Parker of Montgomery City [both just north of the Missouri River]. About thirty-five years ago I picked from a ditch in Madison County, Ill., a dozen specimens. About fifteen years later I returned to the place but did not find any. A farmer, who had been living in that vicinity during the time told me that he had not seen Grass Snakes for many years, although they had been quite common at one time.

It seems that this northern species formerly extended farther south. The most southerly specimen I am aware of is from Marion Co., IL, about the same latitude as St. Louis. This specimen (USNM 2204) does not have a collection date, but from the low catalogue number, I presume it was collected in the early 1900s. I have not examined this specimen.

4) In his account for the Massasauga, Hurter describes collecting a large number of specimens from “West Prairie, Madison Co. Ill.”

May 15, 1890, my son and I went over to West Prairie. The night before the water from Cahokia Creek had over- flowed the whole prairie from 3 to 6 inches.On every small elevation or heap of ground we found several Massasaugas, utterly exhausted. Within two hours we had collected fifty-nine, mostly half grown, but some very large specimens—over 730 mm. long. We searched for the sixtieth but did not find it. We packed the fifty-nine in two medium sized minnow buckets and found them all alive on reaching home some three hours later. From August 22 to September 2 their young were born, from seven to nine by each female. They were about 135 mm. long. All had a yellow tip to the tail provided with a button. They were ejected in a thin yellowish covering or egg shell, which broke immediately. The first thing the young ones did was to open their mouths as if trying their fangs. At present a large part of that prairie has been drained and cultivated, and the Massasaugas have disappeared.

5) Falling Springs

6) The Cumberland Slider is not found in Illinois. Its range is restricted to eastern TN.

7) In his account for T. carolina, Hurter relates information from a Mr. W.C. Whelply:

Mr. W. C. Whelpley of Cobden, Union Co., Ill., in a letter dated July 16, 1904, gives the following account of the Carolina Box Turtle:

“Where to look for terrapins. I took a sack and went to the old limestone spring, where the water comes out on the north side of the hill in the woods. A small stream runs down the hill about 75 feet to a low swampy ground, which is grown up very heavy with willows, cat-tails and swamp grasses.

This makes it a very cool and wet place the year round. I was looking very carefully for turtles, when my eyes fell on the top of a terrapin shell in the mud at the roots of a large tree, where for a few feet around there was no grass or weeds. The water was about one-half inch deep on one side of the tree and dry ground on the other side. I stepped over to reach the turtle, and I could see the print or form of another shell in the mud. I then procured a stout stick and began to probe in the mud. Within five minutes’ time, I found six turtles in this mudhole, three feet in diameter. About ten feet from the above space and further down the hill I found another mudhole and in it two more terrapins; about three feet further down in a similar place I found three more of these animals. All of them were under the surface of the ground except the first one that I found. Some of them were fully eight inches below the surface, but in each instance I found a place, where the turtle could reach the air by raising its head about one inch from under the water. After finding these eleven terrapins I think I have learned where to look for them in warm weather.”

The same gentleman reports in another letter, dated July 26, 1904, the following experience:

I was standing near a thick growth of high grass which surrounded a bare spot of ground about three feet in diameter. I heard a noise which sounded like a rat gnawing a bone. At first I could not locate the noise. I soon found, however, that it came from the bare spot of ground. Carefully stepping closer, I found a large barn rat gnawing the front edge of the shell of a Box Turtle, which lay on its back. The rat soon saw me and ran for the barn. I picked up the turtle, which was covered with blood. This came from the place where the rat had gnawed the shell and also from one hind leg which the rat had bitten. The turtle was very, very fat, so fat that it could not entirely close the shell. The rat had evidently attacked the hind foot, which the turtle was unable to draw in under the shell. I wonder whether the rat attacked the turtle while travelling. Did the rat turn the turtle over to prevent it from getting away, or did the turtle turn on its back to better protect itself? The turtle could not have been turned over by accident as the ground was perfectly flat.”

8) Bladwin, Randolph Co. and Addieville, Washington Co.

1877 – Robert Ridgway contributes Illinois specimens to the US National Museum


Robert Ridgway (1850–1929) was born in Mt. Carmel, IL and showed an early interest in nature. At the age of 13 he started corresponding with Spencer Fullerton Baird of the Smithsonian concerning birds of the Mt. Carmel area. He eventually became the first full-time curator of birds at the United States National Museum (USNM). Although his passion was birds, Ridgway sent a number of amphibian and reptile specimens to Baird at the USNM, many of which are still extant. His first specimen may have been a Siren intermedia from Mt. Carmel (USNM 9192), that he collected in 1877.

Ridgway and his wife, Evvie moved to Olney, (Richland Co.) IL in 1913 so Robert could finish work on his The Birds of North and Middle America. In addition to their house in town (named Larchmound), they purchased 18 acres north of town and called it Bird Haven. Twenty amphibian and reptile specimens from Bird Haven are listed in the catalogue of the USNM, all collected by Ridgway in 1912. Interestingly, eleven of these specimens are of the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Heterodon platirhinos. Others include Lampropeltis calligaster(n = 4), Coluber constrictor (n = 3), Ambystoma opacum (n = 1), and Rana sphenocephala (n =1). Robert Ridgway also collected specimens from Bird Haven or Larchmound in 1927 that he sent to the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History (UIMNH); Ambystoma opacum (n = 3), A. texanum (n = 3), Anaxyrus fowleri (n = 1), Carphophis amoenus (n = 1), Pantherophis spiloides (n = 1), Heterodon platirhinos (n = 1), Hyla chrysoscelis (n = 2), Lampropeltis calligaster (n = 2), L. nigra (n = 1), Pseudacris triseriata (n = 1), Rana sylvatica (n = 1), and Thamnophis sirtalis (n = 8).

A large portion of Bird Haven is now under East Fork Lake. A few acres have been preserved as a city park. Robert Ridgway’s grave is located here at the spot where Evvie’s ashes were scattered after her death in 1927. It is marked by a large large boulder and plaque. The citizens of Olney were convinced that Bird Haven was to be a bird farm, so Ridgway wrote an article for the Olney Daily Mail in 1920 explaining the true object which he had in view: “My purpose in purchasing the property, which Mrs. Ridgway, with my approval, named “Bird Haven,” was the establishment of a preserve for our native trees, shrubs, and other plants and a safe refuge for native birds.” At the time the Ridgways purchased Bird Haven there were 64 species of native trees growing naturally.

1913 – Helen Thompson Gaige and Crystal Thompson report on amphibians and reptiles from Richland County, Illinois

Helen Thompson Gaige (1890–1976) is best known for her role as Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ). After graduating from the University of Michigan (A.B. 1909, M.A. 1910), she became Scientific Assistant in the Herpetology Division of the UMMZ, under Alexander Ruthven. It was during this time that she was sent to Richland County, IL to study the habits of Rana areolata, the Crawfish Frog.

A list of the amphibians and reptiles observed in Richland County, Illinois, in May 1913. Copeia 1914 (11):4.

Updated names from her list are as follows:

  1. Ambystoma texanum
  2. Anaxyrus americanus – Smith (1961) rejected this record because he believed Gaige actually observed A. fowleri.
  3. Pseudacris triseriata
  4. Acris blanchardi
  5. Rana sphenocephalus
  6. R. areolatus
  7. R. catebeianus
  8. Ophisaurus attenuatus
  9. Heterodon platirhinos
  10. Nerodia sipedon
  11. Opheodrys aestivus
  12. Coluber constrictor
  13. Pituophis catenifer
  14. Thamnophis sirtalis
  15. Chelydra serpentina
  16. Terrapene carolina – note that 23 specimens were collected!

1917 – T.L Hankinson’s list of amphibians and reptiles of the Charleston (Coles County) region


Thomas Leroy Hankinson (1876–1935) was born in Valparaiso, Indiana. He attended Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) where he received his B.S. in 1898. He also received a B.S. from Cornell University in 1900. He was professor of physiology and zoology at the Eastern Illinois State Normal School (now Eastern Illinois University) from 1902 to 1919.  From 1919 to 1921 he was ichthyologist at the Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station of the New York State College of Forestry. From 1921 until his death he was Professor of Zoology at the Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), at Ypsilanti. He was Treasurer of the Illinois Academy of Science from 1917 to 1919 and Treasurer of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in 1930–31. He published mainly in ichthyology and ornithology. His major contribution to the herpetology of Illinois was his 1917 “Amphibians and reptiles of the Charleston region” (Ill. State Acad. Sci. Trans. 10:322-330). He also published “The vertebrate life of certain prairie and forest regions near Charleston, Illinois” (Ill. Lab. Nat. Hist. Bull. 11(3):281-303). His list for the Charleston area contains 13 species of amphibians and 18 species of reptiles:

Hankinson NameCurrent Name
Necturus maculatusMud PuppyNecturus maculosusMudpuppy
Ambystoma tigrinumTiger SalamanderAmbystoma tigrinumEastern Tiger Salamander
Ambystoma microstomumSmall-mouthed SalamanderAmbystoma texanumSmall-mouthed Salamander
Desmognathus fuscaDusky SalamanderDesmognathus conantiSpotted Dusky Salamander1
Diemictylus viridescensGreen NewtNotophthalmus viridescensEastern Newt2
Bufo americanusCommon ToadAnaxyrus americanus American Toad
Acris gryllus Cricket FrogAcris blanchardiBlanchard's Cricket Frog
Hyla pickeringiiSpring PeeperPseudacris crucifer Spring Peeper
Hyla versicolor Tree FrogHyla versicolor Gray Treefrog
Chorophilus nigritus Swamp Tree FrogPseudacris maculataBoreal Chorus Frog
Rana pipiensLeopard FrogLithobates sphenocephala Southern Leopard Frog
Rana cantabrigensisWood FrogLithobates sylvaticusWood Frog
Rana catesbeanaBull-frogLithobates catesbeianus Bullfrog
Storeria dekayi De Kays SnakeStoreria dekayi Dekay's Brownsnake
Storeria occipitomaculataRed-bellied SnakeStoreria occipitomaculata Red-bellied Snake
Heterodon platyrhinus Hog-nosed SnakeHeterodon platirhinos Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Elaphe obsoletusPilot SnakePantherophis spiloidesGray Ratsnake
Natrix sipedonWatersnakeNerodia sipedon Northern Watersnake
Clanophis kirtlandiKirtland's SnakeClonophis kirtlandiiKirtland's Snake
Opheodrys aestivusGreen SnakeOpheodrys aestivus Rough Greensnake
Bascanion constrictor Blue RacerColuber constrictor North American Racer
Lampropeltis doliatus Milk SnakeLampropeltis triangulumMilksnake
Lampropeltis calligaster King SnakeLampropeltis calligaster Yellow-bellied Kingsnake
Thamnophis radix Prairie Garter SnakeThamnophis radix Plains Garter Snake
Thamnophis sirtalis Common Garter SnakeThamnophis sirtalis Common Garter Snake
Crotalus horridus Timber RattlesnakeCrotalus horridus Timber Rattlesnake
Platypeltis spiniferaSoft-shelled TurtleApalone spinifera Spiny Softshell
Chelydra serpentinaSnapping TurtleChelydra serpentina Snapping Turtle
Chrysemys (species?)Painted TurtleChrysemys picta Painted Turtle
Emyboidea blandingii Blanding's TurtleEmydoidea blandingii Blanding's Turtle
Terrapene carolina Box TurtleTerrapene carolina Eastern Box Turtle

1) Based on two larvae that were sent to Ruthven, who identified them as dusky salamanders with “little hesitancy.” The range of the Spotted Dusky Salamander ends two hundred miles to the south of Charleston, barely getting into southern Illinois. It is likely that the larvae were of Eurycea cirrigera, the Southern Two-lined Salamander.

2) Based on a specimen brought in by a Charleston man who found it in “some firewood that had been brought in from the country.” Hankinson examined the specimen and identified it as such, but given the great distance to the nearest documented populations of this species (hundreds of miles), this record is doubtful. Smith (1961) plotted the record (as well as three others from the Grand Prairie region of Illinois), but I doubt that the species ever existed in this part of the state. Among the comments that Hankinson included in this article, the following are of note: Report of a Mudpuppy taken by the writer that had swallowed a Brook Lamprey, Lampetra wilderi. A leopard frog brought in that had “two arms on the right side, one of which was small and lacks the hand; and the left arm is two-branched at the elbow, each branch is the same size and with a complete hand.”

Crotalus horridus: “Scarce and apparently local in distribution in the Charleston region. Four have been taken in the last thirteen years and brought to the laboratory. All were from a farm or two along the Embarrass River about three miles east of Charleston. Others have been reported from this restricted area and none from any other about Charleston. All of the four snakes were large; one was 44.5 inches long.”

Emydoidea blandingii: “A fine large specimen was taken in a prairie pond on April 15, 1914, some four miles north of Charleston.” “Overall the region is not now a favorable one for amphibians and reptiles, which is due in large measure to the extensive cultivation of land and to the ephemeral character of so many bodies of water in which amphibian eggs are laid.” “Reports by old residents of the many rattlesnakes that lived about these places are common. These were probably Prairie Rattlers, Sistrurus catenatus.”

1922 – Alfred C. Weed’s Notes


Alfred Cleveland Weed (1881–1953) was an assistant curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago from 1921 to the 1930s. Although he was mainly associated with ichthyology, he also published in herpetology. He was later on the ichthyology staff at the National Museum of Natural History. He published two notes of importance to Illinois herpetology. The first, titled “Reptile Notes” appeared in Copeia in 1922 (22(112):84-7). Weed mentions eight species from the Chicago region. Among the more interesting comments in his paper are the following:

Emydoidea blandingii, Blanding’s Turtle: “Blanding’s Turtles were observed mating October 11, 1921, and May 22, 1922. This species is quite common in all parts of the Chicago area.”

Regina septemvittata, Queen Snake (listed as “Leather Snake, Natrix septemvittata): “There are some old abandoned quarries a few miles southwest of Chicago, which are well stocked with this snake. They live in crevices in the piles of rubbish and waste stone, mainly at the water line. When the water is warm they may be seen in large numbers with only the head out of water and with the rear end firmly anchored around a handy stone. All the specimens which we have captured have) given abundant evidence that they eat crawfish, especially shedders, but we have seen no indication that they take any other food.”

In 1923, Weed published “Notes on Reptiles and Batrachians of Central Illinois” (Copeia 116:45-50), in which he lists species of amphibians and reptiles observed during “half a day snake hunting” at Barlow Lake, “about four miles below Meredosia and on the west side of the river” and various other locations near Meredosia. Karl Schmidt “made or approved” all identifications:

Weed NameCurrent Name
Natrix rhombiferaNerodia rhombiferDiamond-backed Watersnake
Natrix sipedonNerodia sipedonNorthern Watersnake
Natrix grahamiiRegina grahamiiGraham's Crayfish Snake
Storeria dekayiStoreria dekayiDekay's Brownsnake
Thamnophis sirtalisThamnophis sirtalisCommon Gartersnake
Thamnophis parietalisThamnophis sirtalisCommon Gartersnake
Thannophis radixThannophis radixPlains Gartersnake
Lampropeltis calligasterLampropeltis calligasterYellow-bellied Kingsnake
Agkistrodon piscivorusAgkistrodon piscivorusCottonmouth
Chelydra serpentinaChelydra serpentinaSnapping Turtle
Chrysemys marginata treleasiChrysenys pictaPainted Turtle
Graptemys pseudogeographicaGraptemys pseudogeographicaFalse Map Turtle
Amyda muticaApalone muticaSmooth Softshell
Amyda spiniferaApalone spiniferaSpiny Softshell
Kinosternon odoratumSternotherus odoratusEastern Musk Turtle
Cnemidophorus sexlineatusApsidocelis sexlineataSix-lined Racerunner
Rana pipiensLithobates sphenocephalusSouthern Leopard Frog
Rana catesbeianaLithobates catesbeianusAmerican Bullfrog
Bufo fowleriAnaxyrus fowleriFowler's Toad
Acris gryllusAcris blanchardiiBlanchard's Cricket Frog
Pseudacris triseriataPseudacris maculataBoreal Chorus Frog
Psaudacris feriarumPseudacris maculataBoreal Chorus Frog
Amphiuma meansAmphiuma meansTwo-toed Amphiuma
Siren lacertinaSiren intermediaLesser Siren

Of the species in this list, several are clearly not part of the herpetofauna of the Meredosia region (or even the state of Illinois in the case of the amphiuma):

Amphiuma: “Mr. Young has kept this batrachian in an acquarium and he maintains that a creature which he saw in Barlow Lake, looked and acted like a ‘Congo Eel.’”

Cottonmouth: “There seems to be no record of this species from Meredosia but Mr. F. S. Young believes that certain large spotted snakes with broad heads which he saw in the rock pile at La Grange Locks were of this species. Many of these snakes were killed but he says he never examined one after death. Information in regard to the northern limit of this species is greatly desired.”

1942 – Frank Blanchard reports new records for Monroe and Randolph counties

Frank Nelson Blanchard (1888-1937) was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts. He received his graduate training under Alexander Ruthven at the University of Michigan, receiving his Ph.D. in 1919. After a brief stint working with Leonhard Stejneger at the US National Museum, Blanchard returned to Michigan where he served as professor until his death. In June, 1923, Blanchard made a trip to the “Sunken Lands” of Missouri and the hilly country of southern Illinois (Blanchard, F.N. 1924. A collection of amphibians and reptiles from southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. Michigan Acad. Sci., Arts, and Letters Papers 4:533-541). In the latter region, he collected in Johnson, Massac, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Saline counties. Among the more interesting specimens collected were a Wood Frog from Monroe Co. and an Ornate Box Turtle from Monroe Co.

1928 – Harvey Van Cleave publishes Illinois snake key

Harvey Van Cleave

Harvey Jones Van Cleave (1886–1953) was born in Knoxville, Illinois and received his B.S. degree from Knox College at Galesburg, Illinois, in 1909 and his M.S. in 1910 and Ph.D. in 1913, both from the University of Illinois. He was hired immediately by the Department of Zoology at the University of Illinois where he spent the remainder of his career, rising to the level of professor in 1929 and Research Professor in 1948. He was acting Head of the Department from 1938 to 1939. His research centered on invertebrate zoology, mainly parasitology. Van Cleave published over 240 articles, including systematic, ecological, and biogeographical research on acanthocephalan worms, cell biology, laboratory manuals, textbooks, education, and the history of science and science education. See “A Memorial to Harvey Jones Van Cleave” by J.D. Mizelle (1953. American Midland Naturalist 49(3):685-695) for a more complete biography and full list of publications. Van Cleave’s “A study of the characters for the identification of the snakes in Illinois” (Ill. State. Acad. Sci. Trans. 20:133-6) seems a bit out of place in this bibliography until you dig deeper and find articles on the life history of fishes, a list of the fairy shrimps of Illinois, and “Some influences of global war upon problems of disease” and you realize that a snake key is not out of place at all.

In addition to text, the key consists of two tables and a glossary of terms. There are 41 species and subspecies of snakes in Van Cleave’s key. This includes all of the species we recognize today as belonging to Illinois’ fauna, except Nerodia fasciata, Southern Watersnake (not yet verified as part of the Illinois fauna at the time of Smith (1961); Cemophora coccinea, Scarlet Snake; Tantilla gracilis, Flathead Snake; and Tropidoclonion lineatum, Lined Snake. One species appears in Van Cleave’s list that is not part of Illinois’ fauna: Potamophis striatulus, Rough Earthsnake. This is likely because this species appeared on the Davis & Rice list. The text itself has some interesting sections:

“Ignorance and progress are two of the conditions responsible for the sure and rapid extermination of our native snakes. Ignorance of their economic importance and an exaggerated sense of danger have combined to place the harmless snake on the defensive whenever he and man meet. Add to this the fact that modern intensive agriculture and marked increase in population are speedily destroying the native habitats of snakes and you begin to appreciate why snakes are becoming less common throughout our State.

“It is rather poor sporting sentiment to kill a snake on sight from fear that it might be one of the relatively rare, dangerous varieties, especially when it is well known that most of the snakes in our vicinity are distinctly beneficial to man.”

Harvey Van Cleave

1930 – Karl Schmidt re-kindles interest in Chicago-area reptiles and amphibians

Karl Patterson Schmidt (1890-1957) was born in Lake Forest, Illinois. He began his secondary education at Lake Forest College at the age of 16, but had to withdraw within a year to help out on his family’s farm. Schmidt returned to his college education, entering Cornell University, in 1913. He worked under the advisement of Albert Wright, but started a temporary position at the American Museum of Natural History before he finished his B.S. He remained at the AMNH until 1922 (receiving his B.S. from Cornell in 1917), when he returned to Chicago as Assistant Curator in the newly established herpetology department at the Field Museum of Natural History. In 1941 he became Chief Curator of the FMNH and remained there until his death in 1955, caused by the bite of a boomslang (Dispholidus typus).

Although Schmidt’s herpetological research emphasis was global, his Illinois contributions were on the herpetofauna of the Chicago area. This began in 1929 with the publication of the first of three popular accounts of the herpetofauna of the Chicago area: “The Frogs and Toads of the Chicago Area” (Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Zoology Leaflet 11). The motivation for these leaflets was so “resident naturalists will find them a useful basis for the much needed detailed studies which still remain to be made.” No new additions to the Illinois herpetofauna were proposed. “The Salamanders of the Chicago Area” (FMNH Zoology Leaflet 12) followed closely behind, and again, no additions were documented.

In 1935, Schmidt co-authored a paper with Walter Necker (see below) of the Chicago Academy of Sciences titled: “Amphibians and reptiles of the Chicago region” (Bull. Chicago Acad. Sci. 5(4):57-77). Its intent was “crystalizing our present knowledge of the herpetological fauna, and to point out the more important gaps in our collections.” No additions to the Illinois list were documented. Schmidt published the last of his “leaflet” series in 1938: “Turtles of the Chicago Area” (FMNH Zoology Leaflet 14). No new species were documented, but this is the first time the possible existence of the Spotted Turtle, Clemmys guttata, in Illinois was discussed. Schmidt stated “…except for a doubtful record from Wolf Lake, does not occur west of the Illinois-Indiana line.” It is possible that Schmidt was referring to Cahn’s 1927 record for C. guttata at Wolf Lake, Cook County, Illinois, which was published in 1937 (Cahn, A.R. 1937. The Turtles of Illinois. Illinois Biological Monographs 16(1-2). 218 pp. — see below for details of Cahn’s record). If Schmidt finished writing his leaflet early in 1937, he may not have known about Cahn’s record and was instead referring to some other record of C. guttata from Wolf Lake.

1931 – Alvin Cahn begins work on Illinois turtles

Alvin Cahn

Alvin Robert Cahn (1892–1971) was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received his B.S. in 1913 from Cornell University, his M.S. in 1915 from the University of Wisconsin and his Ph.D. in 1924 from the University of Illinois. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Cahn taught at the University of Wisconsin (1913–1918), at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (1919–1922), and at the University of Illinois (1922–1935). He also served as Chief of the Wildlife Development division of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) between 1936 and 1940, and studied the marine fishes of Florida between 1940 and 1942.

In 1942 he was called up to active duty from the Naval Reserve and was stationed at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where he contributed to the archeology of the Aleutian Islands (see McCartney, A.P. 1998. Alvin R. Cahn: World War II Aleutian Archaeologist. Arctic Anthropology. Vol. 35 (2):136-146). After the war, he studied Japanese crab, clam, oyster, and pearl industries as a Fish Biologist (Natural Resources Section, General Headquarters, Supreme Commander Allied Powers). In terms of Illinois herpetology, Cahn documented, for the first time, the Yellow Mud Turtle, Kinosternon flavescens, in Illinois (Cahn, A.R. 1931. Kinosternon flavescens: a surprising turtle record from Illinois. Copeia 1931(3):120-123).

The specimens were collected by David H. Thompson of the Illinois Natural History Survey at Meredosia Bay, along the Illinois River, Morgan County, Illinois. Thompson sent five specimens to Cahn, who at this time was soliciting turtles from throughout the state in preparation of his monograph of Illinois turtles (see below). Thompson stated in his notes that accompanied the specimens (he sent Cahn five) that “…he had seen twenty to twenty-five additional specimens between Meredosia and Peoria…” Aside from a few more specimens taken here in 1931, the Yellow Mud Turtle has not been seen in the Illinois River since, despite intensive surveys.

1937 – Clarence Goodnight’s salamander key

Clarence Goodnight

Clarence J. Goodnight (1914–1987) was born in Gillespie, IL. He received his B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.  He was a professor at Purdue University and Western Michigan University.  Goodnight’s salamander key, “A key to the adult salamanders of Illinois” (1937. Ill. State Acad. Sci. Trans. 30(2):300-302) was “carried out under the direction of Dr. H. J. Van Cleave” at the University of Illinois. Although the key lists two species that are definitely not part of the Illinois fauna; Amphiuma means (Two-toed Amphiuma; Congo Snake in Goodnight’s key) and Pseudotriton ruber (Red Salamander), Goodnight explains the inclusion in footnotes. For P. ruber, he states that he included it based on USNM 9555 from “Aux Plaines. Illinois” cited in Yarrow (1882. Check-list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U.S. National Museum. U.S. National Museum Bulletin 24. 249 pp.). This species was also included in the Davis & Rice list and Garman’s list (see above) on the same authority, but deleted from the Illinois list by Smith (1961).

Amphiuma means was included based on the possibility that the species “may occur in the southern swamps.” Smith (1961) included an account for this species, but noted that “no specimens have been taken within the state, despite efforts of a number of collectors.” See also Weed’s comments, above. The inclusion of “Jefferson’s Salamander. Ambystoma jeffersonianum” is more simplified than in previous lists (no “varieties” are included), but it is still unclear which species is indicated. My guess is that this is meant to refer to A. laterale, Blue-spotted Salamander, as neither A. platinuem, Silvery salamander, nor A. jeffersonianum, Jefferson salamander, as currently recognized, were known from Illinois at this time.

1937 – Alvin Cahn’s “Turtles of Illinois”

Cahn (see above) continued his work on Illinois turtles with his 1937 monograph “The Turtles of Illinois” (Illinois Biological Monographs 16(1-2). 218 Pp). As stated above in the entry for Karl Schmidt, Cahn reported the first specimens of Clemmys guttata, Spotted Turtle, from Illinois at “a small pond just beyond the Illinois end of Wolf Lake, Cook County.” These specimens are in the collection of the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History. They were collected in June 1927.

1939 – Walter Necker publishes updated list for Chicago region

Walter Ludwig Necker (1913–1979) was born in Hamburg, Germany, where he attended a progressive school until he moved with his family to Chicago in 1923. He started working at the Chicago Academy of Science while in high school and continued in this position until graduating with his B.S. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1940. Necker’s 1939 publication (Records of amphibians and reptiles of the Chicago region, 1935 – 1938. Bull. Chicago Acad. Sci. 6(1):1-10) was a follow-up to his 1935 publication with Karl Schmidt, “Amphibians and reptiles of the Chicago region” (see above). The most important issue discussed in this paper was that of the status of the Spotted Turtle, Clemmys guttata, in Illinois. Recall from above that Karl Schmidt, in his 1935 FMNH leaflet, “Turtles of the Chicago Area,” considered C. guttata undocumented in Illinois, even though Cahn had collected two specimens in Cook County in 1927.

In Necker’s follow-up paper he reports “The first good Illinois record of this species was collected by my colleague Thurston I. Wright at Romeo, where two shells were also seen but not collected.” It is possible that Schmidt was unaware of Cahn’s specimens from Cook County (see above), but by the time Necker published this follow-up paper, Cahn’s records had been published for at least a full year (Cahn. 1937. Turtle of Illinois. Ill. Biol. Monogr. 16(1-2). 218 Pp). It remains a mystery whether Schmidt & Necker rejected Cahn’s record for some unknown reason, or were unaware of them.

1940 – Owens reports on amphibians and reptiles of Macoupin County, Illinois

David W. Owens, an amateur herpetologist from Flossmor (Cook Co.), Illinois reported on a collection of amphibians and reptiles of Macoupin County, Illinois taken during 1939 and 1940 near Standard City (Some amphibians and reptiles from southern Illinois. Copeia 1941 (3):183-184). Among the species collected, Owens reported Ambystoma maculatum (“two, found under boards on the ground”), but these were misidentified A. tigrinum (FMNH 33831-2). He correctly reported two specimens of Terrapene ornata, but only one specimen was apparently collected (FMNH 37703). He noted “two, in pasture and in cornfield. In northern Illinois this species seems to be confined to sandy areas, but such is not the case in Macoupin County.” He also seems to be among the first to recognize that the member of the leopard frog complex in Illinois at the latitude of Macoupin County is the southern leopard frog: “I concluded that the Macoupin County leopard frog should be referred to sphenocephala, the longer-legged and more sharp-snouted form of the southeastern United States.”

1941 – Francis Lueth’s “Manual of Illinois Snakes”


Francis Xavier Lueth (1915–2001) was born in Champaign, Illinois. At some point his family moved to Alma, MI, moving back to Champaign sometime before 1930. He attended Champaign High School and the University of Illinois (B.S. 1938; M.S. 1939) where he studied under S. Charles Kendeigh. During his years at Illinois, Lueth was a laboratory assistant for David H. Thompson in the fisheries lab of the Illinois Natural History Survey. It was while working for Thompson that Lueth became fascinated with snakes, having received two sacks of snakes from Thompson and told “take care of them.” At the time of the publication of “Manual of Illinois Snakes” (Lueth, F.X. 1941. Manual of Illinois Snakes, including a description of their most important characteristics. Illinois Department of Conservation, Springfield. 48pp.) Lueth was a biologist with the Illinois Department of Conservation. He also published “Effects of Temperature on Snakes” (Copeia, Vol. 1941, No. 3:125-132) in which he utilized the same two sacks of snakes that Thompson had given him, plus others obtained “from small boys of the town.” This publication was based on his thesis work at the University of Illinois. He moved to Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in 1947 where he was a wildlife biologist for the remainder of his career.

1942–1945 – James Peters’ Cumberland County notes

James Peters

James Arthur Peters (1922–1972) was born in Durant, Iowa but his family moved to Greenup (Cumberland Co.), IL when Peters was young. His friendship with Phil Smith stimulated an interest in snakes, a passion that lasted throughout his career. He entered the University of Illinois, but military service intervened in 1942. Peters earned his B.S. (1948), M.S. (1950), and Ph.D. (1952) from the University of Michigan under Norman Hartweg. He served on the faculty at Brown University and San Fernando State College. While at the former he was a Fulbright Lecturer at the Universidad Central in Quito, Ecuador (1958–1959). In 1964 he became Associate Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the U.S. National Museum, rising to Curator-in-Charge in 1966. He retained that position until his death in 1972 at age 50. His Illinois herpetological work consists of the Cumberland County list (Peters, J.A. 1942. Reptiles and amphibians of Cumberland County, Illinois. Copeia 1942(3):182-183, published when he was 21, and an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. His address in this publication is listed as “Vivarium Bldg., University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois.” Species list from “Reptiles and amphibians of Cumberland County, Illinois.” Verbatim.

Necturus maculosus maculosus Rafinesque.-The Embarrass River and its larger tributaries.

Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum Green.-Common throughout the country.

Ambystoma texanum Matthes.-Under logs near ponds and in the swampy river bottoms.

Eurycea longicauda Green.-One specimen collected from a small spring just north of Greenup by Delbert Easton, now in the Greenup High School collection.

Bufo americanus americanus Holbrook. —Specimens taken in and near Greenup.

Bufo fowleri Hinckley. —The more abundant of the two toads found here.

Acris crepitans Baird. —Occasional in small ponds and drainage ditches.

Pseudacris nigrita triseriata Baird-Plentiful throughout county in ditches and small ponds.

Hyla crucifer Wied. —Found in small ponds.

Rana catesbeiana Shaw. —Common along the Embarrass River.

Rana pipiens Schreber. —Fairly common throughout the county. The relations with
Rana spenocephala have not been studied.

Rana aerolata circulosa Davis and Rice. —Taken in large numbers for its legs. Philip Smith collected several specimens about one mile south of Toledo in a swampy bottom.

Eumeces laticeps Schneider. —In the southeast corner of the county under logs and the bark of dead trees.

Eumeces fasciatus Linnaeus. —Found with E. laticeps.

Heterodon contortrix Linnaeus. —Abundant.

Opheodrys aestivus Linnaeus. —Fairly abundant, with a large concentration of this species at Cumberland Mineral Springs, near Greenup, suggesting that this may be a hibernating place. This may be the same as Mineral Well, which was at 39.25410 -88.16904: from directions given in “Cumberland County Illinois”, 1843-1993, by Mildred Gentry Lindsay.

Coluber constrictor flaviventris Say. —In pasture lands and on hill sides throughout the country.

Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta Say. —Occasional on bluffs near river.

Lampropeltis calligastor Harlan. —Abundant in hay fields and under shocks of hay.

Lampropeltis getulus nigra Blanchard. —One specimen taken by a school boy about 1-1/2 miles west of the Liberty Hill corner.

Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum Lacepede. —Rare in this county. A few specimens from in and near Greenup.

Natrix sipedon sipedon Linnaeus. —Abundant in mats of brush and under rocks along the river and larger creeks.

Storeria dekayi Holbrook. —Under rocks and logs throughout county. Hankinson reports only one specimen.

Storeria occipitomaculata Storer. —One specimen taken under a rock about 1 mile north of Greenup is now in the Greenup High School collection.

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis Linnaeus. —Abundant.

Agkistrodon mokasen cupreus Rafinesque. —Three specimens have been found in the county, all within a half mile radius of Cumberland Mineral Springs. The largest measured 339 mm. These specimens have a pair of small dark spots in the light spaces between the dark bands.

Sistrurus catenatus catenatus Rafinesque. —A single specimen from the northeastern part of county near Diona, collected September 6, 1938, is in the University of Illinois collection. Other specimens have been reported from the same locality.

Crotalus horridus horridus Linnaeus. —One specimen found DOR by Philip Smith about 1 mile north of Greenup on Highway 130. I have not seen the specimens reported from south of Jewett and Woodbury.

Chelydra serpentina Linnaeus. —Abundant.

Emys blandingii Holbrook. —Several specimens taken in the Cottonwood Creek Swamp just west of the Salem Church.

Terrapene carolina Linnaeus. —Abundant.

Terrapene ornata Agassiz. —Found almost entirely in the Cottonwood Creek Swamp mentioned above.

Chrysemys picta marginata Agassiz. —Fairly common in streams and ponds.

Amyda mutica LeSueur. —Fairly abundant in the river.

Amyda spinifera spinifera LeSueur. —The more common of the two soft-shelled turtles here.

Graptemys pseudogeographica pseudogeographica Gray —One specimen taken by William McMorris in a fish net in the Embarrass near the Illinois Central Railroad bridge. Several species are known to occur in the counties immediately surrounding Cumberland, which have not been collected here as yet. They should be added by further search. Hankinson records Desmognathus fuscaTriturus viridescens, Rana cantabrigensis, Natrix kirtlandii, and Thamnophis radix. The collection of Eastern Illinois State Teachers College includes Eurycea bislineataPlethodon glutinosus, Sceloporus undulatus, Leiolopisma unicolorHaldea valeriae elegans and Carphophis amoena helenae.

The one name in this list that may not be familiar is Leiolopisma unicolor. The current name is Scincella lateralis, Little Brown Skink. All of the species in this list, when traced to their current nomenclature, are (or were) members of the herpetofauna of Cumberland County, Illinois. Several species in this list may have been extirpated since this publication. For example, it is doubtful that Crawfish Frog, Blanding’s Turtle, Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake, and Massasauga are still to be found in Cumberland County. Peters’ second publication dealing with Illinois herpetology is Peters, J.A. 1946. Records of certain North American salamanders. Copeia 1946(2):106. The main emphasis of this publication is to report “several slight extensions in the ranges of various species of North American salamanders, as stated and mapped in the recent work of Bishop (1943, Handbook of Salamanders).” The records were taken from the collection of the Eastern Illinois State Teacher’s College (EISTC, now Eastern Illinois University) and Peters’ personal collection. The Illinois portion of the list (there are several Missouri specimens) is reproduced here, again verbatim.

Plethodon cinereus cinereus (Green) —Collected March 29, 1941, by an EISTC field group, at Rocky Branch, Eastern Edgar County, Illinois, and by me at Lake Vermilion, Vermilion County, Illinois. These records furnish southward and westward extensions of the known range.
Plethodon glutinosus glutinosus (Green) —Collected by Walter Scruggs on September 22, 1940, at Mason, Effingham County, Illinois, and in October, 1940, at Shelbyville, Shelby County, Illinois. The records represent a northward extension of approximately 100 miles in Illinois.
Eurycea bislineata bislineata (Green) —Collected by Walter O. Scruggs at Rocky Branch, Edgar County, Illinois.

Repeated attempts to find E. bislineata (now E. cirrigera) at Rocky Branch have failed to turn up any specimens, although the habitat appears suitable.

1940–1950 – Fred Cagle studies herpetofauna of southern Illinois

Fred Cagle

Fred Ray Cagle (1915–1968) was born in Marion, Illinois. He received his B.Ed. in 1937 from Southern Illinois Normal University (now Southern Illinois University) in Carbondale. He did his graduate work at the University of Michigan under Norman Hartweg (M.S. 1938 and Ph.D. 1943). Because most of his dissertation work was conducted in southern Illinois, he joined the faculty at SIU-C before he graduated from Michigan. In 1946 he joined the Department of Zoology at Tulane University where he remained until his sudden death in 1968. Cagle’s most important contribution to Illinois herpetology was the 1941 booklet “A key to the reptiles and amphibians of Illinois” published in 1941 (Museum of Natural and Social Sciences, Contr. No. 5. Southern Illinois Normal University, Carbondale. 32 pp.). Cagle’s list of species contains many of the errors of previous lists, but most of these can be attributed to the unstable taxonomy of the era. For example, he listed both Siren intermedia and S. lacertina, but a footnote to the Siren couplet states “All of the Illinois specimens are probably Siren intermedia” (see also footnote 2 on the Davis & Rice list, above). The amphiuma (Amphiuma tridactylum) is also listed in accordance with the idea that it would eventually be found in Illinois. Desmognathus fuscus is included and Cagle states “Probably occurs in all suitable habitats throughout the state”. Ambystoma jeffersonianum is listed as “Statewide; rare in southern half”. This may refer to the Blue-spotted Salamander, A. laterale as A. jeffersonianum as we know it today was not discovered in Illinois until much later. Hyla squirella is listed, but Cagle notes that it is “Not recorded from Illinois but may be expected in the southern tip of the state”. Thamnophis butleri is listed with the note: “Probably occurs in extreme northern Illinois”. Micrurus fulvius (Coral Snake) is listed as: “Recorded from only extreme southern Illinois”. This is likely based on a specimen from the SIU-C collection (SIU 440) with a locality listed as “Cairo”. Smith (1961) dismissed this as an incorrect location as the nearest populations of this species are hundreds of miles to the southwest of southern Illinois.

Cagle also published numerous Herpetological papers based on fieldwork he conducted in southern Illinois. Among the most important of these are: “Turtle populations in southern Illinois” (Copeia 1942(3):155-162); “Herpetological fauna of Jackson and Union counties, Illinois” (1942. Am. Midl. Nat. 28(1):164-200); “Activity and winter changes of hatchling Pseudemys” (Copeia 1944(2):105-109); “Sexual maturity in the female of the turtle Pseudemys scripta elegans” (Copeia 1944(3):149-152); “Notes on Sceloporus undulatus undulatus” (Copeia 1945(2):122); “The growth of turtles in Lake Glendale, Illinois” (Copeia 1948(3):197-203); “The life history of the slider turtle, Pseudemys scripta troostii (Holbrook)” (1950. Ecological Monographs 20:31–54); and “The growth of the slider turtle, Pseudemys scripta elegans” (Am. Midl. Nat. 36(3):685-729). Cagle’s publication on Jackson and Union counties contains some interesting notes and observations, including the report of five specimens of Farancia abacura from Perry County (no museum specimens are known from this county). Cagle also reported that he observed two specimens of Terrapene ornata collected by high school students near Royalton (Franklin Co.), Illinois, an area for which only two other records are extant.

1947 – Phil Smith begins herpetological research in Illinois

Phil Smith

Philip Wayne Smith (1921–1986) was born in Neoga, Illinois, and showed an intense interest in nature from an early age. Along with a few neighborhood friends (James Peters, see above, and Delbert Easton), Phil started a small zoo and made a few dollars charging admission to the locals. Phil received his B.S. at Eastern Illinois University and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois where he studied under Hobart Smith. He was a biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey from 1942 until his retirement in 1979. Phil’s main interests were ichthyology and herpetology. See Burr, B.M. 1987. Copeia 1987(3):839-840 for more information on Phil’s career. Phil’s first publication of the herpetology of Illinois was in 1947: “The reptiles and amphibians of eastern central Illinois” (Chicago Acad. Sci. Bull. 8(2):21-40). In this work he documented ten years of fieldwork in the area surrounding his hometown, specifically Douglas, Coles, Edgar, Cumberland, Clark, Shelby, Effingham, Jasper, and Crawford counties. Of particular note in this publication are the following:

Desmognathus fuscus fuscus: Smith references Hankinson’s earlier record (see above), but notes that Hankinson’s specimens were lost. See the entry for Hankinson for an explanation of this erroneous record.

Notophthalmus (Triturusviridescens louisianensis: Smith references Hankinson’s earlier record (see above), but notes that Hankinson’s specimen had been lost. Smith attributes the lack of subsequent specimens to extensive cultivation of the area. See the entry for Hankinson for an explanation of this erroneous record.

Clonophis (Natrix) kirtlandii: “Moderately common near Charleston in both wooded areas and along prairie streams.” “Probably not uncommon throughout the prairie counties.” This is certainly not the case at present, as only a handful of specimens have been taken from the prairie counties covered in this publication, and most of those from one site in Douglas County.

Agkistrodon (mokesoncontortrix: One specimen from “one-half mile north of Greenup at the base of a shale outcropping…”. This is the same location as Peter’s records (see above). No subsequent valid records of this species exist for the region in question.

Sistrurus catenatus catenatus: One specimen from “near the State Penal Farm north of Vandalia.” Smith also reports that he had seen several others in this area. No records are known for this region since a specimen was taken in 1956 from Ramsey Lake State Park.

Crotalus horridus horridus: One specimen from Rosehill (Jasper County) and two in the collection at EISTC (Eastern Illinois State Teacher’s College). Smith noted that “others have been seen near Greenup and near Hidalgo.” No subsequent valid records of this species exist for the region in question.

Terrapene ornata: “Near Robinson it is nearly as common as T. carolina.” This is clearly not the case at present, as ornata has declined drastically in this region.

Apalone (Amydamutica: “In the Embarrass River near Charleston, it and spinifera are equally common.” This is clearly not the case at present, as mutica has declined in numbers in the Embarrass.

Phil Smith’s next publication on the herpetology of Illinois was in 1947: “Noteworthy herpetological records from Illinois” (Chicago Acad. Sci. Nat. Hist. Misc. 33. 4 pp). In this paper, Smith documented the existence of Plethodon dorsalis in Illinois. It had been previously represented by five specimens in the AMNH from Urbana, Illinois. Because repeated efforts to find more specimens in the area of Urbana had failed, and the immediate area surrounding Urbana lacked suitable habitat, these early records were doubtful. In April, 1947, Smith received several large series of typical P. dorsalis from southern Illinois and discovered two more in the UIMNH collection labeled “Danville, Illinois”. Smith also reported the first specimens of Desmognathus fuscus (now D. conanti) from Illinois (but see the Hankinson account, above). However, Smith discovered these specimens in the UIMNH collection. They were collected in 1935 from “near Aldridge, Union County, Illinois”. Later, in his 1961 book, Phil Smith changed his position on these specimens, considering them to have incorrect locality data because repeated attempts to find the species at the same locality failed. Smith correctly reported the first Illinois specimens of Scaphiopus holbrookii (from Union County) and Gastrophryne carolinensis (Microhyla in Smith’s paper— Monroe County). He also reported new Illinois localities for two other species, Heterodon nasicus (Mercer and Henderson counties) and Kinosternon flavescens (Henderson County). In his third paper on Illinois herpetology, published with W. Leslie Burger in 1950, “Additional noteworthy herpetological records for Illinois” (Chicago Acad. Sci. Nat. Hist. Misc. 56:3 pp), three more new species were added to the Illinois list, Masticophis flagellum (Monroe County), Elaphe laeta laeta (now Pantherophis emoryi – Randolph County) and Tantilla gracilis (Union County)and a new location was documented for a third, Agkistrodon piscivorous (Monroe County). Finally, in 1951, Phil documented the occurrence of Pseudacris streckeri in Illinois (Morgan County) in his publication “A new frog and a new turtle from the western Illinois sand prairies” (Chicago Acad. Sci. Bull. 9(10):1891-199). In this paper Phil described the Illinois populations of P. streckeri as a new subspecies, P. streckeriillinoensis (now P. illinoensis) and described the Illinois populations of Kinosternon flavescens as a new subspecies, K. flavescens spooneri.

Of course, Phil Smith’s greatest contribution to Illinois Herpetology was his 1961 “The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois” (Ill. Nat. Hist. Survey Bull. 28(1): 298 pp.). Smith listed 94 species; 19 salamanders, 17 frogs, 16 turtles, 6 lizards, and 36 snakes. None of the species he listed were in error and a few of the subspecies he listed were later elevated to species status; Rana sphenocephala, Nerodia (Natrix) sipedon confluens. The latter was eventually recognized as N. fasciata confluens. Smith mentions both species of the grey treefrog complex (Hyla versicolor and H. chrysoscelis) under the species account for the former. At this time the diploid- tetraploid relationship between the two species was unknown, but Smith states: “There is some possibility that the population in the southern half of Illinois is assignable to H. v. chrysoscelis…” This was later shown to be true, although a small cluster of populations in northeastern Illinois, around the Fox River, is now known to be H. chrysoscelis as well. The only species now known to inhabit Illinois that were not included are Ambystoma jeffersonianum and A. platineum. Smith also introduced a novel way to portray range maps; dots for known records were overlayed on hatching that showed presumed distribution. For those interested in reading more about Phil Smith’s life, I suggest Phil’s autobiography “A Naturalist in the Environmental Crisis,” published in 1986.

1948 – Stille and Edgren publish update to Necker’s Chicago Area records

W.T. Stille and Richard A. Edgren, Jr. updated the series on amphibian and reptile records for the Chicago area that was started by Karl Schmidt and continued by Walter Necker (see above). Their paper, New records for amphibians and reptiles in the Chicago area, 1939–1947 (Bull. Chicago Acad. Sci. 8(7):195-202) listed new records from the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Chicago Natural History Museum (Field Museum), Northwestern University and the authors’ personal collections. Although no new records were added for the Illinois portion of the “Chicago Area,” they did report a Clemmys guttata (Spotted Turtle) collected by Edgren (RAE 125) from Palos Park, IL. This specimen is now at the Chicago Academy of Sciences (CA 18549).

1963 – Harlan D. Walley

Harlan D. Walley (1932–2008). The following is Harlan’s obituary, written by Rich King, Harlan’s colleague and friend at Northern Illinois University, printed here with permission of the author.

Harlan Walley exhibited energy for life and love of natural history that began during his childhood in rural Sandwich, Illinois and continued throughout adulthood. He was a fixture in the Northern Illinois University Department of Biological Sciences, supervising the department’s animal care facility from 1968 until his retirement in 1998 and curating its natural history museum until his death. Harlan’s academic interests centered on herpetology, mammalogy, and Illinois natural history and he was a valuable, respected, and generous source of information to faculty, students, the community, and the state.

Harlan’s formal training in biology was cut short by the Korean War, during which he served as a Navy medic (1951–1959), and by health problems associated with psoriasis which began during his years in Korea. Harlan suffered with this disease and a range of ineffective and sometimes harmful treatments for more than a decade before he found hydrocortisone ointments that allowed him to manage his symptoms. Time-consuming treatments, often at facilities far from home, interrupted his course work so frequently that he abandoned formal education beyond undergraduate classes at Waubonsee Community College and Northern Illinois University.

A true curator, Harlan became obsessed with natural history books and papers at an early age and went on to build a personal collection of more than 60,000 reprints and 3,000 bound volumes. He developed his museum skills through time spent as a technician in the Departments of Entomology and Herpetology at the Smithsonian Institution and through an informal association with the Illinois Natural History Survey. At the INHS, Harlan established a lifelong relationship with two eminent figures of North American herpetology, Philip W. Smith, who in 1961 authored The Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois, and Hobart M. Smith, who has continued to contribute to the scientific literature into his 90s. It was with Phil Smith that in 1951 Harlan published his first scientific paper – a note documenting the occurrence of the marbled salamander, Ambystoma opacum, in Michigan (Copeia 1951:309). Harlan was 18 at the time! Harlan went on to publish over 100 professional papers, many focused on amphibian, reptile, and mammal natural history and distribution. More than 30 of these appeared in Herpetological Review alone. He also put his reprint collection to good use, regularly contributing entries to the Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. The literature cited sections of his entries are encyclopedic – a soon to be published entry on the Northern Watersnake includes over 1,000 references! Harlan was an avid reader and supported this habit and his penchant for book collecting by authoring more than 100 book reviews, many of which can be found in the Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society, Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, and Wilson Bulletin. Though focused on amphibians and reptiles, included among Harlan’s publications are papers on fish, birds, mammals, and even freshwater jellyfish.

Harlan contributed to natural history education and conservation in many ways. He was an officer in local and state chapters of the Audubon Society, served a term as index editor for the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, was a member of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Advisory Board, and served on the Indiana Bat Recovery Plan panel. Perhaps one of Harlan’s greatest, if unrecognized, contributions was the informal mentorship he provided to NIU Biology graduate students. Harlan was a resource, lunch companion, and field-trip guide to students with interests in any aspect of biology. He was generous with his reprint collection and often helped start students’ publishing careers by urging submission of a life history or distributional observation or including them as coauthors on papers he initiated. He enriched all our lives in unfathomable ways and will be missed!

1973 – Mike Morris starts his herpetological career with the discovery of the Silvery Salamander, Ambystoma platineum, in Illinois

Michael Alton Morris (1956–1993) was born in Rantoul, Illinois and started his herpetological career at the age of twelve with regular visits with Phil Smith at the Illinois Natural History Survey. Mike Morris attended Parkland Community College, the University of Illinois, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (1978–1987; B.S., M.A., and PhD), where he studied under Ron Brandon. His thesis was on Ambystoma platineum in Vermilion County, Illinois (An Illinois record for a triploid species of the Ambystoma jeffersonianum complex. J. Herpetol. 8:255-256). His dissertation was “Systematics and distribution of the northern water snake, Nerodia sipedon (Linnaeus), with comparisons to Nerodia fasciata(Linneaus).” After graduation, Mike worked as an Assistant Research Biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (1987–1989), as a Team Leader at Western Illinois University’s Cuivre River Field Station (1989–1990), and as an instructor at Belleville Area College (1991–1992). Mike published more than 30 articles on Illinois herpetology in his short career. He also published on fishes.