You may know the Nebraska state bird, the western meadowlark. Maybe you know the state flower, goldenrod.
Maybe you even know that our state fossil is the mammoth, and our state tree is the cottonwood, and our state gem is blue chalcedony.
So what’s the Nebraska state reptile?
Well, we don’t have one. At least not yet.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is holding a public vote on which critter should become the state’s official reptile. Nebraskans are invited to choose from six options on the commission’s website, outdoornebraska.gov/reptilevote.
The candidates are: the ornate box turtle and the common snapping turtle; the prairie lizard and the six-lined racerunner; the bullsnake and the western hognose.
The candidates are meant to represent an array of reptiles across the state, said Lindsay Rogers, wildlife education specialist with Game and Parks.
“We really wanted to have a broad representation both specieswide and statewide,” she said.
Three of the options — the bullsnake, the snapping turtle and the racerunner lizard — are found in three-fourths of the state or more and would be familiar to the most Nebraskans, said Dennis Ferraro, a conservation biologist and herpetologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The ornate box turtle, the western hognose and the prairie lizard are a little less common overall, he said.
Of the six candidates, Ferraro said he would pick the bullsnake — it’s found in the highest abundance in the most counties in the state. But, he predicts, a snake victory is probably unlikely.
“When you ask the public ... they have gone more with the turtles,” Ferraro said. “You have very few people who are afraid of turtles. People are afraid of snakes.”
Whatever the result, once there’s a clear consensus, Game and Parks will work with the State Legislature on making it official, Rogers said.
The effort began as a way to get schoolchildren involved in the decision-making process, she said. The poll is included in a recent edition of Trail Tales, a magazine the commission publishes for Nebraska’s fourth-grade students.
“What better audience to help us decide what our state reptile should be than these students who are studying our state?” Rogers said.
Voting will continue through the school year, likely concluding in early June.
Though the effort started with elementary school students in mind, Game and Parks is also looking for votes from the general public.
“I think this is a great way for people to get to know the wildlife of our state,” Rogers said. “I think it gives our citizens a sense of place, so they can say ‘This is who we are, and this is why we are who we are.’ ”