Summer Reading Program puts learning on a different scale

Published 8:01 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014

They’re slithery. They’re slinky. They’re what many people’s worst fears are made of.Photo by Brandon Hicks
But to Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library Summer Readers, they’re just plain “cool.”
What are they? They are the snakes from Roan Mountain State Park, which made their annual visit to the Summer Reading Program Tuesday morning.
Roan Mountain Park Ranger Meg Guy visited the young readers and brought along a corn snake and a ball python to help with the demonstration.
Roan Mountain State Park hosts a snake education program that also does sessions off-site for the community. The program strives to provide general information and dispel several myths about the reptiles.
During the presentation, Guy shared some of the details about the snakes and gave the children the opportunity to touch and hold a snake if they wanted to. She told the young readers there are 23 different species of snake in Tennessee and only two of those are poisonous: the copperhead and the rattlesnake.
Guy also told the young readers there were physical traits that would give away whether a snake was poisonous or not. If a snake has round pupils, it is not a poisonous snake. If the eyes are diamond or other shaped, then they are poisonous snakes. In most cases, a poisonous snake will have a triangle head instead of a head that is flush with the body.
Another way to spot the difference between a poisonous and nonpoisonous snake can be found on the snake’s underside. The scales along a snake’s belly, called scoots, will split into two rows along the bottom of the snake’s tail if it is nonpoisonous. However, this would be a harder difference to spot, because snakes do not often show their bellies – and Guy doesn’t recommend individuals get close enough to a snake to find out.
She said most snake bites occur when people try to handle snakes, or they step on or touch a snake by mistake, usually when they don’t see the snake before making contact. She said it was common myth that snakes would chase people or jump out of trees at people as they passed by.
“Snakes will not be the active aggressor toward a person,” Guy said. “Humans are a predator to a snake. A snake doesn’t want to bite something unless they can eat it. They will bite in defense, but it could end up hurting them too, because it could break their teeth.”
After bringing each snake out to show the younger readers, they were given the option to pet the snake as it was brought around. After the session was over, they could hold the ball python if they chose to.
Sophia Hyder, 6, enjoyed petting the snakes as Guy brought them around.
“It was cool,” Hyder said. “They felt weird. Now, I like snakes.”
Asmara Perry, 4, also is a new fan of her reptile friends after getting to meet the snakes from Roan Mountain.
“I was scared before,” she said. “I didn’t want to come. I like them now.”
Lillian Andrews, 6, has seen the snakes during the Summer Reading Program almost every summer.
“I like them,” Andrews said. “I like that some can’t bite and some can. They feel like they are wet but they really aren’t.”
Georgia Blackburn, 5, said the ball python was her favorite snake of the presentation.
“I like the big one because it didn’t bite me,” she said.
Addison Holden, 6, was another summer reader was familiar with the snakes. She seen a different set of reptiles at Hands On! Museum.
“I liked the corn snake,” she said. “It was pretty and I liked the pattern on its belly.”
The Summer Reading Program continues until July 15. The sessions are at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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