My mother-in-law lives in Arizona, and she would frequently regale us with stories of the myriad of creepy-crawlies and deadly creatures that share her part of the world. I've heard tales of scorpions in shoes ("Just shake the shoe before you put it on, no big deal"), black widow spiders lurking in cabinets and closets, and diamondback rattlesnakes all over the place. She and her husband, John, actually hunted rattlesnakes themselves, turning a dangerous predator in to a lovely belt, purse, or, depending on the size, boots.

Once, when she noticed one of us squirming a bit as she told us about these creatures, she pointed out that we were lucky that we didn't have those kinds of things to worry about here in Rockford. Or do we?

Just a quick bit of checking shows that Illinois has four native venomous snake species. We've got:

  • The copperhead
  • The cottonmouth
  • The timber rattlesnake
  • The eastern massasauga

Okay, but what about scorpions? Surely, we don't have any of those in Illinois, right? Right? Sorry, but according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:

Most of the world’s 1,400-plus known species of scorpions are found in deserts and tropical rainforests. But not all of them. One, the striped bark scorpion (Centruoides vittatus), is found right here in Illinois. Before those self-preservation reflexes kick in, or you vow never to venture outdoors again, the bark scorpion is rare in Illinois. Their small size and reclusive habit make it even less likely you’ll ever encounter one in the wild. Adult striped bark scorpions are rarely more than 3 inches long. Their body color varies from yellow to tan, and the two broad, black stripes on the upper surface of their abdomen provide the “striped” portion of their name.

As far as spiders go, Illinois also has a few venomous ones:

  • The Black Widow
  • The Brown Recluse
  • The Wolf Spider
  • The Black House Spider

Back to the title of this posting, Wait, There's What in the Rock River? We've got these: