Reptiles and Amphibians


Snakes are also cold-blooded, and require a heat source to maintain body temperature. The young can either be born live or hatch from eggs, depending on the species of snake. Snakes are not active in the winter, and go into a hibernation state during the cold months. Any snake found outside during the winter, especially when there is snow cover, has compromised health and should be brought to your local wildlife clinic or rehabilitation facility for treatment.

Caution must be exercised when dealing with snakes, as there are venomous species in Illinois.  All, with the exception of the Eastern Massasauga, live in the southern third of the state. Some species of non-venomous snakes, such as the king snake, Eastern Fox Snake, and Western Fox Snake, display mimicry by using their tails as a rattle; these are more likely to be found in east-central Illinois.



Turtles are cold-blooded animals that require a heat source in order to maintain body temperature. Eggs are laid at various times of the year.

Found a Turtle on the side of the road?

Turtles are often the victims of accidents on the road. If one has been hit or has sustained trauma, keep the turtle warm and deliver to your local wildlife clinic or rehabilitator as soon as possible. Other indications for treatment are: abnormal or asymmetric swellings on the head, legs and tail, shell rot (eroded, discolored shell), nasal discharge, or a broken beak.

However, just because a turtle is either on the road or on the side of the road, does not mean that the turtle has been hit or sustained injuries. If you see a turtle near the road, but it has no injuries or abnormalities, then you can leave it be–it does not need help.

Turtles often try to cross roads during the spring and summer, when it is breeding season and they are trying to return home to their nesting site. If you find a turtle trying to cross, please help it along and move it to the side of the road that it was headed to.

Baby Turtles

Baby turtles are on their own since birth–mom does not stick around after laying her eggs, so the babies are by themselves when they hatch. Therefore, if you find a baby turtle on it’s own that has no injuries or abnormalities, you can leave it be (or, move it to a field or area with a pond if it is in a dangerous place).

Take note if the turtle found is actually a turtle, or a tortoise

Turtles are aquatic, and spend some or most of their time in the water. Tortoises, however, are terrestrial, and can die if put into water because they cannot swim. Some turtles also only spend a little bit of time in the water, and it is to wad in and soak as opposed to swim; an Eastern Box Turtle is an example of such.  There are no tortoises native to Illinois, but this is still useful information to have in case you ever encounter one!

If you encounter a turtle or tortoise that needs to be moved to a safe place, some significant differences you can keep an eye out for are that turtles have flatter shells, flipper-like feet, and are lighter in weight, while tortoises have large, dome shells for protection and stocky, bent legs for walking. They are also heavier in weight.

Aquatic turtle features: a slim shell and thin, webbed feet (examples are Snapping Turtles, Painted Turtles, Red-Eared Sliders, Soft-Shelled Turtles, etc.):

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Partially-aquatic turtle features: a domed shell and stockier legs and feet (examples are Box Turtles):

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Terrestrial tortoise features: a large, domed shell, and large, stocky, and bent legs, with no feet webbing:

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(Photo credit:                   (Photo Credit:

If you encounter one that needs to be moved, but are unsure if the animal is a turtle or a tortoise, you could always place the animal near a pond or lake, while keeping it on land; that way, the animal can decide if it will go into water or not. It is better to do this than to accidentally put a tortoise into water!