The Wheeling Rattlesnake Hunt

What event was announced in the Wheeling Independent on Wednesday, Aug. 15,1956?

A rattlesnake hunt. This is legitimate! The longest snake caught was bottled in formaldehyde and is among artifacts belonging to the Wheeling Historical Society. Please see pages 127 and 128 of Wheeling Through The Years, for lots of additional information.

Click on the picture for a larger view ===>

How it all Began:

Rattlesnakes Put Blackberry Pickers in Jam




From :

Daily Herald - Friday, September 25, 1931 - Chicago, Illinois






How rattlesnakes near Wheeling have caused a serious depression in the berry picking and home canning industry in a number of suburban homes was revealed this week by the Izaak Walton league in a conservation bulletin telling about the increase of the prairie species of rattlesnake northwest of Chicago. Following reports that many of these reptiles were being found within a mile or two of Wheeling, a town on highway No. 21 leading northwest from Chicago, a former president of the Cook County chapter of the Izaak Walton league and the editor of Outdoor America, the league's magazine, conducted an investigation. They found the reports about the rattlers true. In a dry grassy area near Wheeling they captured two medium sized rattlers and saw a dead one with 10 rattles. Bushes loaded with blackberries stand untouched along the Des Plaines river valley in this area. The berry pickers after weighing the advantages of blackberry jam against the possibility of snake bite have stayed away from the rattler territory. The prairie rattler long has been known to be a resident of the sand dune region east and southeast of Chicago, and has been officially recorded there by the Field Museum of Natural History. But this "colony" above Wheeling, just a 45 minute automobile ride northwest of the city, is in a more heavily settled country and are where outdoor fans would hardly expect to hear the -warning buzz of a rattler.


Com. Byrd to Ask Board to Put Bounty on Reptiles









Daily Herald - Friday, August 11, 1933 - Chicago, Illinois






The appearance of rattle snakes in the county forest preserve, north of Dundee road in Wheeling township, led to an organized hunt Tuesday. Those participating were County Commissioner Homer J. Byrd, Geo. Olcese, John Olcese and Renald Smith, an adjoining farmer who has lost a cow on account of the rattlers. It is reported that a boy scout camping in that vicinity, recently lost his life after being bitten. He was taken to a Chicago hospital instead of receiving first aid upon the ground Mr. Byrd and his party found three snakes, and captured two of them alive which will be studied for clews to the reported influx of rattlers into the northern end of the preserve. The hunt was organized on complaint of Renald Smith, a farmer near Wheeling, who lost a cow by snake bite. Act to Protect Bathers "This condition is serious," Commissioner Byrd said after the hunt. "I propose to ask the county board to offer a bounty on each rattler captured or killed in the forest preserve. None of the snakes has been reported south of Dundee road and we must protect the bathers who swim at the dams south of this point." It was suggested by the commissioner that the snakes may have been washed into the district from rattlesnake country to the north in the floods of last spring. Another naturalist pointed out that the increase in rattlers might be traced to the fact that campers have killed the bull snakes of the neighborhood. The bull snake, harmless to humans, is a natural foe of the rattler and is able to kill the poisonous snake by crushing it in the manner of the boa constrictor. May Call in Hogs If the efforts of Commissioner Byrd to free the territory of snakes are not successful, hogs may be called in to do the job, it ,was said yesterday. A hog, the ] commissioner pointed out, has never lost a decision to a rattlesnake; the pig is immune to rattlesnake bites and looks upon the reptile as a delicacy. The hog's plan of battle is said to be quite simple. In attacking, the hog strolls amiably into the coiled snake, ignores the strike, places his feet on the snake, and starts eating.

Rattlesnakes Still
Abound Near Wheeling
Forest Preserve


Daily Herald - Friday, August 28, 1936 - Chicago, Illinois

The rattlesnake colony north of Dundee road in the Wheeling forest preserve is still in existence as is proven by this year's specimen that is embalmed in alcohol in the office of Superintendent Rex Volz. The drive of last year might have eliminated some of the snakes, but there are a sufficient number in evidence to make picnicking in that region unwise.

Rattlesnakes are Reported on Farm Near Wheeling








Arlington Heights Herald Friday July 23, 1948






To Hold Rattlesnake Hunt In Wheeling



Daily Herald - Thursday, August 05, 1954 - Chicago, Illinois

All residents of the area, who are 16 or over, who would like to join in a rattlesnake hunt in the Wheeling vicinity August 22, should register at Bellmore's Barbershop before that date. The hunt was prompted because of the presence of these snakes in the area. Hunters must wear knee high rubber boots and bring a stout stick or club, 5 or 6 feet long. Those going should be at the barbershop by 1 p. m.


Register Now For Rattlesnake Hunt



Daily Herald - Thursday, August 19, 1954 - Chicago, Illinois

Ed Bellmore of Wheeling wishes to remind 'those who are interested in participating in the rattlesnake hunt to be held next Sunday that they register at his place of business, Bellmore's Barber Shop, before that time. He says that hunters must be 16 years of age or over, come equipped with knee-high rubber or leather boots-and a stick five or six feet long, and should be at the barber  shop at 1 p.m. sharp.  Several rattlesnakes have been seen and killed in this area again this year, as in the past several year and he hopes that a hunt at this time, when the snakes become sluggish and will be easier to catch, will help decrease the number of snakes coming into the town.

Youth Kills Rattle Snake


Daily Herald - Thursday, June 29, 1961 - Chicago, Illinois

A rattlesnake was killed June 21 by the young son of Leonard Klaproth in the front yard of their home at 337 Edgewood Dr., Wheeling, near the county line.
Group of 75 hunters look for snakes

78 hunters look for snakes.
Front row left: A. Kraus in checkered shirt & glasses.
Center foreground in captains cap: Ed Bellmore
2nd row left behind A. Kraus: Charles Hartwig
Behind Charles: Quinn McSorley (black collar)
Tall blonde in checkered shirt in 3rd. row:John Gieske
Joe Bellmore (Joe's Pizza) is in here somewhere too.

( Send us more names please if you recognize anybody. )

1962: Boot Stomping
Snake Hunters Invade

Snare 14 Rattlers Along River Banks

From: Daily Herald August 9, 1962Any rattlesnakes that escaped the 78 boot-stomping snake hunting enthusiasts from throughout the Chicago area who blitikreiged the Des Plaines River lowlands Sunday near Wheeling may still be scurrying for other parts of the country. A total of 14 rattlesnakes were snared by the army of hunters drawn by the radio and newspaper publicity given to the rattlesnakes recently found in the Wheeling area. Adventurers and herpetologists (those who study snakes) turned out en masse this year. AREA WIDE attention was heaped upon Wheeling over the past two weeks after a five-year-old boy was bitten by what was thought might have been a rattler July 30, and another rattler was found Aug. 2 by construction workers along the Des Plaines River. However, the small massasanga species of rattlesnake found in Illinois has been appearing in the Wheeling area for years, six being found last year, and a couple had been caught earlier this year. Police Chief M. Horcher said occasional rattlesnake bites occur when children go out hunting for snakes and try to pick them up. MAIN WAY TO avoid being bitten is to just leave the snakes' alone, Horcher said. "The snakes are more afraid of the children than the children are of them," and will slither away as quickly as possible. "It is more dangerous to walk across a highway than it is to walk through the fields around Wheeling," the chief continued. "We have never had a death from a snakebite, but we have had from automobile accidents. Herpetologist report the venom from the massasauga rattler would probably cause some sickness and nausea, and could conceivably cause the death of an infant. Classified as a pygmy rattler, the snake feeds on mice frogs, etc., and is found from New York to Texas. The state of Michigan's history attributes two deaths to the rattler. Chief Horcher said that if "stung" by a massasauga, and if a doctor is not readily avail able, the venom should be sucked out of the wound and a tourniquet applied above it. This wound should be further opened to induce bleeding and facilitate the oral removal of the venom. ALL OTHER snakes in Illinois are classified as beneficial because they eat insects and rodents. One of the biggest rattle snakes corralled Sunday was snared a dozen feet behind a dog house near the home of Kurt Leonhardt, on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue about a mile north of the Milwaukee-Dundee intersection. Neither Leonhardt or his dog was the least per turned Leonhardt came out of his house laughing, "Help yourself to all the snakes you can find. VOLUNTEERS representing most of the northwest suburbs, under the leadership of Wheeling Police Lieutenant Arnold Krause and Edward Bellmore did help themselves to a number of massasaugts. Krause and Bellmore led the 78-man team through the brush and fields along the Des Plaines from Dundee Road several miles north. THE RATTLER hunters came armed with assorted home made hooks, nooses, traps, and forked sticks. No guns were allowed. Krause had issued general orders before the hunters jumped into the thick brush. "Don't bother any snakes but the rattlers," Krause told them. "They're the ones that don't try a get away ... they stand their ground." The men were Instructed not to kill the snakes. There were enough of the crew that wanted them alive for various reasons. Whoever sees a rattler first gets to keep him," Krause promised. He announced that a Wheeling sporting goods store would give away two boxes of shotgun shells for the biggest snake. "What do you get for the smallest?; that's what I'm after," a hunter yelled. One tobacco-chewing snake fancier offered a "chaw" to anyone as a "sure cure for snake bite." "How does that work?" asked a skeptic. 'You spit in his eye before he can bite you,' was the reply. "How do you know what a rattler sounds like'" Krause was asked. Another man, apparently one of the veteran's of Wheeling's sporadic snake hunts, said, "They sound just about like the buzzing of a neon sign with a short." BELLMORE, 42 years a barber in Wheeling, and Krause have hunted the massasaugas for years. Their total up until this week had been "about 30." The snakes were turned over to zoos, to herpetologists for study, and one was traded by a hunter for a trained falcon.

Rattlesnake Hunt Slated Sunday Morning



Daily Herald - Thursday, June 25, 1964 - Chicago, Illinois


The 12th annual — or maybe the 13th — Wheeling rattlesnake hunt is to be at 10 a.m. this Sunday. Captain as usual is to be Ed Bellmore, Wheeling barber. His second in command, as usual, will be Lt. Arnold Krause of the Wheeling Police Department ALSO AS USUAL, the public is invited to attend. Recommended apparel is high shoes for protection and a forked stick to pin down the rattlesnake About 10 rattlers were snared in one hunt two years ago. But their ranks must have been thinned for none were caught last year, despite a large turnout of hunters. The species of rattler occasionally found in Illinois is a small snake. Although it is, poisonous, there have been no deaths attributed to its bite in the recorded history of the state.

Snake Hunt Scheduled For Sunday


The Wheeling Herald - Thursday, June 23, 1966 - Chicago, Illinois

Police Lt. Arnold Krause and Ed Bellmore, local barber, will be in charge of the hunt. Krause said those persons interested in participating in the hunt should meet at Bellmore's shop at 10:30 a.m. The hunt will be on the east side of the Des Plaines River from Dundee Road to the Lake County line, forest preserve.

Once Again, It's Time To Hunt Rattlesnakes


Wheeling Daily Herald - Friday, July 12, 1968 - Chicago, Illinois

Wheeling's annual rattlesnake hunt will take place this year on Sunday, July 21. The hunters will gather at 25 South Milwaukee Ave. at 10:30 a.m. before going out into the nearby forest preserves in a search of the snakes. THE RATTLESNAKE hunt has become an annual outing for some village residents. Some of the hunters have attended the excursion for the past 14 years. Robert Krause, formerly of the Wheeling police, said whatever snakes are found on the hunt are usually turned over to the nearby Nature Center.

2011: Rattlesnakes
Back In The News !

From:Wheeling Daily Herald - Monday 3/14/2011 - Chicago, Illinois

Tucked near Dundee Road are hibernating eastern massasauga rattlesnakes waiting for spring. Don’t tell them about the bike path coming next year.

Wheeling is planning to build a paved bike and pedestrian path along Dundee Road, from the Des Plaines River east to the I-294 overpass, that will connect with other bicycle paths in the area. Construction will start in spring 2012 and wrap up that fall.

Until then, a whole bunch of state agencies are deciding what to do about the snakes. The Wheeling Village Board recently hired an environmental consultant for about $25,000 to study the area. While the snakes aren’t the main object of the study, they are certainly a part of it, said Steven Rauch, an environmental services manager for Hey and Associates Inc. in Volo., who is in charge of study and said it will look at wetlands in the area.

The poisonous eastern massasauga rattlesnake is a recurring theme for projects near the Des Plaines River and forest preserves in Wheeling. However, because the snake is endangered in Illinois, Wheeling will need a special permit to construct the path. “It’s assumed the project will have an adverse effect on the snake’s habitat,” Rauch said. “What we’ll have to do is minimize the impact.”That’s easy to do during the construction portion. Workers can set up special breathable fences that allow water to pass, but would stop snakes from getting into a construction site. What to do when the path opens to bicyclers and walkers is more complicated.“You don’t really want snakes going back and forth over a bike trail,” Rauch said. “You don’t want people stepping on them, but there is a high likelihood of human-to-snake contact.”

The eastern massasauga rattlesnakes are up to 100 centimeters long and feed on small rodents. They are active April through October, and often sun themselves on clumps of grass and in branches of small shrubs, according to the Illinois Natural History Survey.Their main predators are hawks, predatory mammals and other snakes.Rauch said he’s not sure how many snakes are now in the forest preserve areas north and south of Dundee Road, but he’s sure they’re there.“We have records they are in the vicinity,” he said. “We don’t often come across them in projects.”

The bike path project will cost about $1.2 million, said Tim Merrihew, Wheeling’s capital projects and design manager. About 80 percent of the project will be paid for with a grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, he said. Read More Here

PLEASE, if you have any photographs of the Rattlesnake Hunt in action, please let us know. We would love to post some photos of this event.

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Wheeling Historical Society and Museum