Snakes Alive program introduces kids to sssslithery reptiles
Alexandra Castro’s eyes grew wide at the sight of a common black snake flicking its forked tongue at her.
“Do you want to hold this one?” asked Ron Cromer, the founder of Snakes Alive, an interactive, hands-on educational program about snakes and other reptiles.
Alexandra quickly, defiantly shook her head, and then took a step backward to emphasize her point. The 8-year-old High Point girl would pet the snake and even allow it to kiss her hand lightly with the aforementioned forked tongue, but hold the long, slithery reptile in her hands?
Um, no. Hands-on educational programs can be soooooo overrated.
Within half an hour, though, not only would Alexandra be holding the black snake — smiling nonchalantly as the snake, named Julius Squeezer, wrapped itself around her forearm — she would even be volunteering to help hold Rosie, a 13-foot-long Burmese python that made the black snake look like an earthworm.
“I’m not scared anymore,” she proudly proclaimed.
Alexandra was one of more than two dozen children who attended Monday morning’s Snakes Alive program at the High Point Public Library.
The children learned all about snakes — the myths about snakes, what they like to eat, their skin patterns, how they hibernate and so on — and then got the opportunity to hold the snakes themselves.
Cromer, who lives in Randolph County and specializes in herpetology, has been presenting Snakes Alive programs full time for more than 30 years.
“It’s the only full-time job I’ve had since 1982,” he explained. “I’m still working because I have such a fun job.”
On Monday, Cromer brought about 20 snakes for his program — the black snake, a garter snake, a corn snake, a milk snake, a hognose snake and many more, including the python — as well as an iguana and a couple of other lizards.
“The snakes I have are all harmless ... I think,” Cromer said, drawing nervous laughter from his audience. “No, I’m just kidding — they’re not venomous.”
As he shared his snakes with the children, Cromer dropped some reptilian knowledge on them, as well. For example, he talked about using the five basic skin patterns — bands, rings, stripes, solids and spots — to identify snakes. He also dispelled the myth that snakes are slimy and revealed that snakes cannot strike more than half their body length.
After giving all of the children a chance to hold the snakes — for which they received stickers to recognize their courage — Cromer concluded his program by bringing out his Burmese python. Adults and children form a “snake train” to hold the python, which was 13 feet long and weighed more than 100 pounds.
And down at the end of the python stood Alexandra Castro, bravely holding up its tail.
For more information about Snakes Alive, visit www.snakesalive.org.
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