By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Curious about snakes?

Rather than actually pick one up for a closer look, it might be better to pick up the second edition of "A pocket guide to Kansas Snakes."

Better still, they're free and the gift shop at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History has a good supply of them just for the asking.

With 69 pages, the pocket-sized book details plenty about Kansas snakes, including a map where each one can be found in the state.

The maps are what's new about the second edition of the Kansas snake guide, according to herpetologist Joe Collins.

"They apparently got a lot of complaints because the folks like the maps," Collins said. "People like that. They like visuals."

He was joined by Suzanne L. Collins, whose photographs grace the pages, and Bob Gress, director of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita. Funding for the booklet came from Westar Energy's Green Team and Chickadee Checkoff.

In the book, the authors note that 2,718 species of snakes exist worldwide. Of those, 141 are found in the United States.

Only 38 snakes are found in Kansas, and are the most diverse group of reptiles in the state.

Five species of Kansas snakes are venomous, while 10 are designated as either threatened or species in need of conservation.

The snake guide comes just a few days after another publication authored by Collins and Travis Taggart, associate curator of herpetology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, was published.

That publication, however, is much more scientific based, and is simply a list of "Standard Common and Current Scientific Names for North American Amphibians, Turtles, Reptiles and Crocodilians." It is the sixth edition, and is being published by the Center for North American Herpetology, based in Lawrence.

That is its function, as well as its name.

The booklet lists 621 kinds of native amphibians, turtles, reptiles and crocodilians in the United States and Canada, an increase of 167 species since the first edition in 1978 and an increase of 232 species since 1956.

Collins boxed up a batch of the snake guides for Sternberg. The gift shop at the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.