Maryville Village Trustee Mike Vallino says there is not a venomous snake infestation at Drost Park, a rumor that he said started on Facebook and has since “blown way out of proportion.”
“We have a lot of events in our parks, and we don’t want people thinking they shouldn’t be coming out there or they shouldn’t be bringing their kids,” Vallino said.
The village met with an Illinois Department of Natural Resources representative Monday who confirmed that there are no venomous snakes in Drost Park or surrounding areas, according to Vallino.
The representative also informed officials that it is illegal to kill snakes in municipality-operated parks. Vallino said the village has not exterminated any snakes in the park and will not in the future. Instead, he said the snakes are trapped and relocated.
The public may encounter snakes in the park, Vallino said, but they are likely water snakes, which are not venomous but are found across the region.
“I find snakes in my landscaping, and I live in the city,” he said.
Vallino said the presence of snakes can be positive, as the IDNR representative pointed out to officials, because they keep populations of rodents down in the areas in which they live.
Visitors to the park or other outdoor areas should use common sense when encountering wildlife, Vallino said.
“If you see it, just stay away from it,” he said. “People see a snake, and they’re scared. The problem is snakes all look alike. ... If you’re not certain, stay away.”
The rumor that began with one social media post was that several water moccasins were spotted in the park, but Vallino said the person likely confused a water snake with the venomous water moccasins.
“They probably saw a common water snake that’s a brown color and has diamond shapes (on its) skin. Those are fairly common in Illinois waters, and they’re not (venomous),” he said. “That’s the power of Facebook these days.”
Contact reporter Lexi Cortes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2514.