Injured snake found in Jefferson Park doing well thanks to Facebook


An injured snake that was found behind a Jefferson Park home last summer is recovering nicely thanks to the power of social media.

“Of course the first thing you do when you come across a snake is go onto Facebook and tell everyone,” Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association Robert Bank said at the group’s Sept. 27 meeting.

Snake enthusiast Joe Cavataio came to the snake’s rescue after resident Jean Brennan posted a picture of it on the association’s Facebook page. The incident led to Cavataio, a lifelong Jefferson Park resident, being asked to speak at the association’s meeting.

A portion of the snake had been smushed by a garbage can, likely causing broken ribs and other injuries, Cavataio said. He added that the snake is doing well and will be featured in talks about snakes that he does at schools and museums.

The species of the snake is Nelson’s Milk, which is commonly found in Mexico, Cavataio said. Given that the snake is not native to the Chicago area, it was presumably a pet that its owner abandoned because he or she no longer wanted, he said.

There are about 20 species of snakes living in the Chicago area, and they often feed on worms, slugs and snails and can often be found the edge of wooded areas and along railroad right-of-way, Cavataio said. While the snakes in Chicago could bite if one tries to pick them up, they are not poisonous and are generally non-aggressive, he said.

The most common species in Chicago are the Plains Garter, about 15 to 28 inches long, and the Midland Brown, about 9 to 13 inches long, Cavataio said. The fact that the garter and midland are “live birth” instead of egg-laying snakes helps these species survive, as other animals will eat the eggs, he said.

The garter and midland snakes are ready to go out on their own soon after their birth, Cavataio said. “It’s like they’re hard-wired to go.”

In the city snakes face many deadly obstacles, including vehicles and lawnmowers, Cavataio said. “Snakes just can’t get out of the way fast enough,” he said

Cavataio’s love for snakes started when he was a child. “My beginning was growing up here and catching snakes in my backyard,” said Cavataio, who has volunteered at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive.

Also at the meeting, members voted to authorize the association to donate $125 for the painting of atrium furniture at the Jefferson Park Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave.

Resident Mitch Kmiec reported that voting on the 45th Ward participatory budget will be available at several community events, including the Jefferson Park Sunday Market from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at Jefferson Memorial Park, 4822 N. Long Ave.

Online voting also is planned for the first time in the ward.

Information on the approximately 20 ballot initiatives, which includes recommendations for hanging planter boxes and decorative trash cans in the ward’s commercial areas, will be available at the Oct. 8 market. Online voting also is being held this fall.

Kmiec serves on the volunteer committee which reviews capital improvement requests for the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, about half of which are spent each year for side-street resurfacing. Alderman John Arena has held a community vote on the ward’s budget items for several years.

In other news, association members elected the following board members to 2-year terms: president Colleen Murphy, treasurer Ed Irsch and directors Eva Skowronski. Peter Insley and Steve Neidenbach. The board also recently appointed Tonia Guzman and Siu Tufele to fill vacant director positions on the board.

Remaining on the board with one year left on their terms are vice president Brian Wardman and directors Carlene Blumenthal and Ron Ernst.

Retiring board president Robert Bank said that he ran in 2015 to help prevent a “hostile takeover” attempt of the association by a group of members who later left to form the Jefferson Park Forward organization.

The association’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.