Cool Treats and Cooler Reptiles

Staff writer

More than a hundred people, including dozens of children, crowded into Wild Birds Unlimited last Saturday, for both free ice cream and a chance to see some of the region’s native reptile species up close.

The store hosted a showcase of native reptile species by members of the Virginia Living Museum, including the Eastern Box Turtle and the corn snake, and even a baby alligator.

According to Kevin Ernst, manager at Wild Birds Unlimited, while the store has hosted several similar events with birds in the past, a reptile showcase is a natural extension.

“We’d done some great outreach events in the past with owls and raptors, and we wanted to try something a little different this time,” said Ernst. “Native reptile species like these are just as important to the ecosystem as the birds, and we love to do anything that can bring in families and teach them about nature.”

Jim Drummond, the educational associate with the Virginia Living Museum who showcased the reptiles at the event, says events like this play an important role, not only in educating kids but teaching many adults about reptiles as well.

“I know the first thing a lot of adults do when they see a black snake is rush to chop off its head, but that doesn’t do anybody any good, because the snakes keep the local rodent population in check,” said Drummond. “It’s always good to see the excitement with the kids, but the parents can learn just as much as the kids from events like this.”

With more than a hundred people in the store, Ernst says he is very happy with the event.

“While I’m sure the free ice cream helped, I’m thrilled to see all these people, and all these families in here today,” said Ernst. “We had no idea that a reptile event would be this big of a draw, we’d absolutely like to do another event like this, so long as there is still interest.”

If attendees are anything like one third grader at Matthew Whaley Elementary School, there will be interest for a long time to come.

“My mom thinks snakes are scary, but I think that they’re cool. I always have, so this was very fun.”

Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email sean.korsgaard@vagazette.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.

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