Past Meeting, Jan 2023: Herpetological Education


January 22, 2023 by lancasterherp

We want to thank everyone who attended the first Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) meeting of 2023 this past Friday at That Fish Place/That Pet Place. We had a great turn out, particularly after not having a meeting for a few months.

The meeting was a discussion about educating people about herpetology, drawing upon the experience of some of the active members of the LHS. Specifically, it was a panel discussion with five panelists:

Jesse Rothacker – Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary
Zach Barton – York County School of Technology, Biology Teacher
Anne Esbenshade – North Museum, Animal Caretaker
Colin and Kyle Kaulback – Colin’s Crazy Creatures, Youtube Channel

Through a series of pointed questions, we learned how the assembled panelists became passionate about herpetology, and then how they came to spread that love to others via educational initiatives. While many of the panelists grew up searching for snakes and amphibians in their backyards, Zach came to herpetology later in life, finding that snakes were a perfect pet to keep in a classroom. A common theme of the discussion was how reptiles are often misunderstood and even feared, and how each of the panelists work to push against that narrative. Anne noted that younger children are often excited to see and interact with snakes and other reptiles, though it is their parents that are skeptical and alarmed. This suggests that in many cases, this fear of reptiles, particularly snakes, is a behavior that is learned. Snakes are not out to hurt people, they just want to be left alone. Kyle brought up the point that snakes eat a lot of other creatures that people fear as well, like rodents and insects. If snakes disappeared from our environments, people would quickly learn to miss them.

Along with being afraid of reptiles, misconceptions about them abound. Many of the panelists remarked how people are always surprised to find that snakes are not slimy. People are also surprised to learn that you do not have to feed a snake very often, sometimes just once every two weeks, which is far removed from people’s experience with dogs and cats, which need to be fed daily, and require constant attention. When trying to show people how snakes are not scary, it is important to be calm with the animals to demonstrate to onlookers that there is nothing to be worried about. Snakes will sometimes bite, and if you do get bitten, your calmness in the situation will help illustrate that it is not cause for alarm. Your own demeanor will go a long way towards making others more comfortable.

Another point that was touched upon was how advances in technology have had a large impact on how easy it is to learn about reptiles and amphibians. No longer are you limited to what you can find in your backyard, or to what information you can gather at your local library. YouTube channels like Colin’s make it very easy to find information about reptiles and amphibians. Online message boards and social media make it easier than ever to find like-minded people, to show that your love of misunderstood creatures is not an oddity, even if your family might make it seem that way.

It was a stimulating conversation, fostering hope that one day snakes and other herps will not be as maligned. We want to thank all of the panelists for being willing to lend their time and experience, and That Fish Place for providing us a venue for the meeting.

-Gregory Wier


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