Estuaries Day 2015 was celebrated this year with an event coordinated by the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve on the last Friday of September. Over 300 adults and children had the opportunity to tour the Reserve’s nature center and adjacent Millender Park where a myriad of fun, educational activities were provided by Reserve staff and a host of volunteers. Some of the many learning opportunities included marine animal touch tanks, the wacky waterfront game, throwing a cast net, and even a reptile roundup with live snakes and lizards.
Local Extension office staff had as much fun teaching in the reptile roundup as participants did learning. This year’s scaly menagerie included an adult and juvenile southern black racer, a corn snake, a gray rat snake, a rough green snake and several local lizards. Children were admonished not to pick up wild snakes but encouraged to take the opportunity to actually touch the tame corn snake specimen that provided an amazing tactile connection to the real world of scales and tails.
Native snakes and lizards (even the venomous species) play an important role in the ecology of local habitats. Most often we only think of them in terms of their ability to bite but they also serve as a valuable food source for wild mammals and birds of prey. Along with this role, they provide a natural check on the populations of other species, some of which are pests to humans. It is obvious that many people go out of their way to kill snakes by the number of dead ones on the road shoulders. Maybe if they could take a moment to think about the benefits reptiles provide and the fact that most species killed are totally harmless, we could preserve a few more of these amazing animals in our wild Florida.