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Snake population here on decline, biologist want to know why

This green snake was one six released Thursday inwild Lake County Forest Preserve.

This green snake was one of six released Thursday into the wild at the Lake County Forest Preserve.

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Updated: October 27, 2011 12:29AM

It’s emerald green, about as wide around as a pencil and it’s in trouble.

On Thursday, in an effort to boost the population of the endangered “smooth green snake,” six of the little serpents raised at Lincoln Park Zoo were released back into Lake County.

The snake, which lives on insects and likes to slither through long green grass, has been declining in numbers in recent years, said Joanne Earnhardt, a population biologist at the zoo.

Throughout the summer, about a dozen more snakes will be released — some with tiny radio transmitters so scientists can track their movements.

Widespread use of pesticide and habitat loss have contributed to the decline in numbers, scientists say.

Earnhardt said the species has not been studied much, and it’s uncertain what might be a healthy snake population.

“All we know is that people are seeing them less and there’s less of their habitat available,” Earnhardt said.

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