What is it about snakes that make many people cringe with fear? Is it the way that they slither around slyly through the grass? Is it the venom-filled fangs of some species? Is it the way that they attack their prey with lightening speed and swallow them whole? Could itbe thestories seen on TV about people getting bitten? Very likely, itis these reasons and more thatcause somepeople avoid these reptiles like the plague.
Before I began working at Shenandoah River State Park, I, too, harboredsome fears about snakes. I was none too excited about using the park's resident corn snake, Bob, for interpretive programs. But after holding her (Bob is a girl…but that's another story) several times without incident, I realized that maybe snakes weren't so bad after all. In fact, I grew toreally like this little critter, who loves to curl around my arm orshoulders and just hang out.
Then George came along, our new summer interpreterwho plans to become a herpetologist.He startedcollectingbig black ratsnakesto use forhis snake program. As these werehuge in comparison to Bob, Iwas scared to actually hold any of them. But after seeinghowcalm anddocile these snakeswere, I really began to change my opinionabout snakes in general.
Although they are not warm and fuzzy, snakes do have a certain charmallof their own. And thoughsome are venomous, they are notmenacing specters waiting in the brush to attack you. The last thing any of them want is a confrontation with you!
One really cool thing to see is park visitors change their perspectives about snakes whenwe walk around the picnic area showing them off. Many times,people squeal in disgustwhen they first see what we're holding. But afterlearningabout them and seeing that the snakes are calm and not biting us, very soon mostpeoplebecome brave enough to touchthem.Then its, "wow…cool!"
When we had our annual junior ranger camp this summer, the response from the children was the same. Theyevengot to watch Bob eat her mouse lunch! They were fascinated to see how wide her mouth could open and everyone gained new insights about these amazing creatures. Our hope is that these young children will grow up to be adults who treat allthediverse critters on our planet with kindness and respect.
Learn more about the Shenandoah River State Park – click here
Click herefor a Google map. Latitude, 38.854777. Longitude, -78.306552.
Shenandoah River State Park, 350 Daughter of Stars Drive, Bentonville, VA 22610; Phone: (540) 622-6840, Fax: (540) 622-6841; Email,shenandoahriver. Learn more about park offerings by calling1-800-933-PARKor emailresvs