LAURINBURG — Squeals of delight echoed throughout the Scotland County Memorial Library on Monday as a snake expert explained to children and parents the importance of snakes to the ecosystem.
Herpetologist Ron Cromer’s “Snakes Alive” brought children face-to-face with the reptiles that frighten some and fascinate others.
Cromer takes a collection of about two dozen harmless snakes throughout the southeast to demonstrate to children the role of snakes in the environment. The visit was part of the library’s summer reading program.
At a second presentation on Monday, Cromer told about 60 children that it is important to know the difference between venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes.
Learning the patterns of a snake’s skin is the best way to tell the difference between the venomous and non-venomous, he said, but any snake, even a baby snake, can bite, he said.
“Do you ever pick up a wild snake?” he asked the children.
“No sir,” came the loud and clear reply from attendees.
Cromer said he hopes people will learn not to kill snakes that aren’t venomous. He told them he had carefully removed a venomous copperhead snake from his own yard and transported it to a wooded area away from his and other peoples’ homes, he said. Copperheads are identifiable by their hourglass-shaped bands, Cromer said.
He doesn’t recommend that, even for adults, unless they know how to do it safely. Cromer told the children not to feel too bad if their parents killed a venomous snake but he emphasized the vital role all snakes play in keeping down rodent populations and he asked them to not kill non-venomous snakes.
Cromer prepared the children before bringing out the snakes, telling them to stay seated. His first display, a garter snake, was popular with the crowd and later when he asked if anyone wanted to touch and hold a snake, he had no shortage of eager volunteers.
James Blackmon was the first. Given a choice, he bravely asked for a big snake so Cromer carefully handed him a large rat snake.
Afterward Blackmon said he enjoyed the experience. He had never touched a snake before.
“When she touched my hand, it just made me want to hold her more,” Blackmon said. “I was a little bit afraid before I came here.
Asia Hicks said she laughed to hear one of the snakes burp.
The grand finale of Cromer’s presentation is the introduction of his Burmese python, which takes several adults to hold. Children were cautioned to stay back as Cromer pulled it out of its box. They complied.
Cromer has been presenting these informative displays since 1979.
“I am continuously surprised by the fact that everybody, even people who are intensely afraid of snakes, are interested. There’s a phobia created from all the misconceptions but they are still so fascinated by it,” Cromer said.
The next event in the summer reading program is Thursday at 6 p.m. with Tom Leach, who will discuss Jack London in literature.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-506-3169