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Curator Rob Carmichael holds a handful of eastern garter and brown snakes Jan. 24 at the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, Ill. About 225 hibernating snakes were found near the Zion Nuclear Power Plant. The Discovery Center will keep the snakes in a wine chiller set at 48 degrees until May. (Keri Wiginton/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

INSIGHT: A rattling distress call

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CHICAGO -- Dozens of snakes slumbering the winter away underneath abandoned railroad tracks faced a wake-up call that could have proved fatal.

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A construction crew was preparing to repair the tracks near the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Station -- work that would have disrupted their hibernation and exposed them to the frigid cold of a winter's morning.

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