Carterville 7th grader leads effort to name official Illinois state snake

by Aaron Price (Illinois Newswire) Photo: Kathryn Stewart / via Opinicon Natural History
by Aaron Price (Illinois Newswire) Photo: Kathryn Stewart / via Opinicon Natural History

6/16/2022 | 2:51 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois officially has a new state snake thanks to the efforts of a local junior high boy.

Gentry Heiple, a 7th grader at Carterville Junior High School, reached out to State Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) to inquire about naming a new snake. 

After conducting research, Heiple ultimately named the "eastern milksnake" as the new snake for the state of Illinois.

The eastern milksnake is found all across Illinois – it lives in fields, woodlands, rocky hills, and river bottoms. The milksnake ranges from 24 to 36 inches in length, has smooth scales, large blotches with brown or black borders, and a y- or v-shaped mark on its head. It is not a poisonous snake and are even bred as pets.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our young Illinoisans, like Gentry Heiple, who have gotten involved in our state’s legislative process,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I am honored to sign this bill into law declaring the eastern milksnake the official snake of Illinois. Gentry, may you continue to use your voice to advocate for change—making our state better one bill at a time.”

"I truly enjoyed working with Gentry and his mother on this project," said State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton). "Gentry had the idea, did all the research, and bravely presented his idea to the House State Government Administration Committee. I am especially pleased that this bill is receiving the Governor's signature, and that my office was able to help facilitate connecting a local student to the legislative process.”

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