Anza Cub Scout Pack 319 got a special treat at their meeting, Sept. 13, in Anza.
Venomous snake expert Johnathan Schmidt and local reptile collector and educator Angelina Gahler gave presentations outlining the delights and dangers of some of the local and not-so-local, cold-blooded reptilian creatures.
After the Boy Scout proceedings and the Pledge of Allegiance, the two reptile enthusiasts were introduced to the packed room full of children and parents.
Gahler started the discussion by introducing “Precious,” a very bright sunglow or yellow-colored female boa constrictor. The non-native snake could be a grouch at times, Gahler warned, but she performed very well that evening. Gahler explained that snakes were easy keepers, made great pets and each had its own personality.
Next up was a gentle ball python, a spritely and active gecko and several small snakes. Gahler described feeding schedules, foods, snake and gecko habits and answered questions from the eager audience. Children, scouts and parents were enthusiastic to learn more.
“I do deeply appreciate the chance to come out there and help educate the young ones about these amazing creatures,” Gahler said. “I hope to have the opportunity to educate a bit more people in the community.”
Gahler is an avid reptile collector and has a wealth of information regarding these often misunderstood animals. All her reptiles are well-behaved and glowing with good health. The larger gecko she brought was the comedian of the evening, leaping out of her hands onto the table multiple times and looking inquisitively at the children with its big eyes.
Johnathan Schmidt handled a more dangerous subject: rattlesnakes. He had several snakes for display purposes and one in particular was extremely angry.
“Carl is not nice at all,” Schmidt warned.
His other subjects, while having the potential to be very dangerous, were mellow and relaxed all evening. Carl spent the evening noisily exploring in his enclosed plastic tote.
Schmidt went on to educate the group on rattlesnake behavior, venom types, what they eat and especially, how to avoid tangling with one on the trail.
“Always, step where you can see, never over something where you cannot see the other side so you do not surprise a rattler,” he stressed.
He also talked at length about antivenom, the antidote to the venom injected when a person is bitten by a venomous snake. The costs are tremendous, and the pain like no other. Though accidents do happen, the lesson was to avoid being bitten in the first place.
“Do not handle these animals, do not try to kill or trap them. If you see a rattlesnake,” he said. “Call me, and I have the proper tools to collect and relocate it. Be safe.”
He described a couple close calls he has had as a venomous snake handler. Just the other day he had a snake strike at him and bite the bill of his hat.
“It was my fault; I should have been more aware,” he admitted. He does not want anyone getting hurt and could not stress enough to leave these snakes alone.
Schmidt included a pair of locally collected rosy boas from his collection, and the friendly snakes were gently petted by anyone who was curious. His young daughter Evelyn let people pet her very own boa, much to the delight of everyone.
“It was so cool talking with the Cub Scouts tonight and meeting another herp lover, Angelina,” Schmidt said. “My job and hobby is quickly becoming a passion, even an addiction. I wish to express a huge thank you to the Scouts for having us out there.”
The discussion was wrapped up with a walk-by of the animals and a lot of petting and touching of the more docile snakes. Children and adults alike learned a lot that evening, thanks to Schmidt and Gahler, who also enjoyed the experience immensely. They will be planning more events like this one in the future, they said.