An Illinois zoo is releasing some rare snakes into the wild to help with efforts to conserve the species.
Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lake County Forest Preserve District announced the release Wednesday of 18 smooth green snakes.
The tiny snake's native prairie habitat is disappearing, leading the state to list it as an Illinois Species in Greatest Need of Conservation.
Gary Glowacki of the Lake County Forest Preserve District says pesticides and the conversion of prairie into farmland and residential areas are to blame for the snake's decline.
The zoo's role is to give the snakes a head start. More than half of the snakes hatched at the zoo in 2010 and 2011 will be released at the Lake County preserve.