Stalking serpents in Perrot State Park

Stalking serpents in Perrot State Park

I shrieked “Sna-Aake!” my voice rising mid-cry as my brain processed what I was looking at; simultaneously, I made a comical two-step hop to the other side of the trail and safety.

My sister Frannie, her husband, Dusty, and their two dogs, Nala and Sarabi, had been hiking with Niecie and me along the Riverview Trail in Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin for fewer than 10 minutes when we happened upon this sunbathing fox snake.

At first, my family thought I was trying to scare my sister. She is terrified of the legless lizards.

“We almost died Nala,” Frannie cried,  as she realized moments before she had walked within inches of the creature.

At the time we had no way of knowing what kind of snake it was or whether or not it was venomous. All we knew was it was a snake.

“Eeeheeeeehheeh, It’s alive!” Frannie cried as the nearly four-foot long creature stirred from its nap.

My sister had reason to be worried. She’d had more than one run-in with Timber Rattlesnakes in the last year. The breed has been making a comeback in the region and to our untrained eyes, this snake may as well have been a rattler. But, it wasn’t.

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Even if the snake had been awake enough to be threatened by the dozens of hikers trodding inches from his head, a bite from a fox snake might have been painful, but certainly not venomous.

Like my sister, I don’t much like snakes, but I can appreciate the beauty of the animals, at least from a distance. I hope you guys like the picture. I put my life on the line to get it! (Remember I didn’t know this wasn’t a rattler at the time I took it.)

Hidden surprises

During our short 2.7 mile hike in the dense bluff-country forest, I took note of the wealth of wildlife visible right from the trail. Columbine flowers bloomed along the trail side and great ferns unfurled in the humid spring air.

The snake was just the first of many creatures we saw during the short hike. Painted turtles rested along the marshes, muskrats swam about the algae-thick backwaters and snakes rested trail side.

It seemed there were surprises around every corner if you looked closely enough. However, not all of them were as captivating as the plants and animals. Rising spring floodwaters had swallowed many of the low lying trails leaving them impassable. Consequently, this cut our hike far shorter than I’d hoped. I’d wanted to get in a few more miles in preparation for my big 15-mile hike later this year.


As short as the hike may have been it will always be remembered as the time we were almost killed by a sleeping vicious four-foot eight-foot fox spitting maneater snake. Have I ever mentioned my family likes to exaggerate?

Our hike

Want to retrace our steps? Here’s our route, now with pictures!

Further reading

If you enjoyed this post we know you’ll enjoy these. Check them out.

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