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CO Press: Fangless 3-foot snake only small part of menagerie

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Posted by W von Papineäu on September 03, 2002 at 09:48:13:

DURANGO HERALD (Colorado) 31 August 02 Fangless 3-foot snake only small part of menagerie at Miller Middle School (Jennifer Kostka)
Monty the Python startled students and parents at Miller Middle School this week when he silently slithered out of his cage in a seventh-grade classroom.
The 3-foot venomless, fangless snake wandered out of his cage in teacher Dale Kraemer’s classroom when the cage door wasn’t properly shut during class Wednesday. Kraemer immediately let his seventh-grade students know about the missing animal.
"We spent a few minutes searching the class for it," Kraemer said. "It was like a treasure hunt."
When Monty still hadn’t shown up Friday, Kraemer posted award signs around school asking people to return the snake. That’s when the school’s principal, Brian Hester, asked Kraemer to call animal-control officers, Kraemer said.
"My principal forced me to call Animal Control," Kraemer said. "The control officer laughed when I told her what had happened."
Kraemer said the animal-control officer confirmed what Kraemer had been telling students. The snake had eaten the day it escaped, so it would probably sleep in hiding for a week and then reappear slowly while looking for mice – its only food.
Kraemer’s 3-year-old son, Alistair, cared for the snake all summer.
"He’s very friendly," Mr. Kraemer said. "He loves to put his little snaky tongue up to your lips."
Kraemer, a teacher at Miller Middle School for 12 years, operates a small zoo in his classroom.
A guinea pig, a miniature schnauzer, parakeets, lovebirds, lizards, tortoises, newts, tarantulas and hissing cockroaches all call the classroom home. He hopes that just because Monty fled his cage, the school district wouldn’t make him shut down his menagerie.
"The main thing is the kids are heartbroken that their snake is gone," Kraemer said. "It’s been a critical part of the education of these kids."
The idea behind Kraemer’s zoo is to teach students about animal biology and ecosystems.
Also, other teachers use the critters. And, students can adopt them during the summer and holiday breaks. The adoptions give Kraemer some help during breaks, and they teach the students something about responsibility.
Animals are also taken to Needham Elementary School and to nursing homes for fun and education.
The zoo’s tarantula visits Needham when some students read Charlotte’s Web.
The school sent home 600 letters explaining the snake situation Friday. Kraemer said he wished he had this much attention from the public about the need for an air-conditioning system in his room.
"I’m amazed at the amount of excitement over this type of thing," Kraemer said. "Mr. Kraemer would like to accept donations for a snake or a swamp cooler."
He’ll also take donations to help with food and equipment for the classroom zoo.
If Monty permanently joins the wild kingdom, a replacement python would cost about $100.

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