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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on January 19, 2000 at 20:26:28:
THE TENNESSEAN (Nashville, Tennessee) 06 January 00 In Touch With Snakes: Free State Park Program Looks At Their Good Side
Park Ranger Tim Wheatley expects two initial reactions awe and fear from kids during his snake program at 1 p.m. Saturday at South Cumberland State Park, Monteagle, Tenn.
"For most primates, it's just a natural instinct to be afraid of serpent-type reptiles," says Wheatley, who describes himself as an interpretive specialist or ranger naturalist, in charge of park services. "Usually when I'm talking to them about the snake, the good things and the bad things, then they might touch the snake's head. By the end, they're wanting to hold it."
The free program is geared toward all ages.
"We encourage everybody to come," he says. "Sit down, relax, be inside on a cold day and learn about reptiles."
Wheatley says kids usually want to touch the snake's skin and tongue.
"They want to see if it's true that they are not really slimy," he says. "They're kind of like vinyl. Everybody wants to see if the tongue stings and, of course, it doesn't."
Not only does he want to teach kids that snakes aren't all bad. He hopes parents will learn something, too.
"Parents grow up thinking the only good snake is a dead snake," says Wheatley, who hopes to convince them that " `We're not going to kill that king snake in our yard. He's good.' If I get to one person in the program, then the program is worthwhile."
The star of the program will be a corn snake, who lives with Wheatley.
"His belly has a pattern of Indian corn on it," he says. "When they get mature, they are an orange-red color. When they're born, they are a brownish-red."
The snake is a year-old and he eats regular-sized white mice.
"He likes to be held," Wheatley says. "They like the warmth of the human body. The warmer they are, the more active they are. When he sees someone come in the room, he goes to the glass because he knows someone will get him out and play with him. He gets all that body heat and gets really active."