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Snakes Alive! 35th anniversary tour makes stops at Nitro, Hurricane libraries

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
BEN CALWELL | Metro
Ron Cromer of Snakes Alive! shows D.J. Spencer how to safely hold a black snake during his visit to the Nitro Public Library on Tuesday, June 27. Cromer, based near High Point, North Carolina, established Snakes Alive! 35 years ago.
Retired Nitro Library Director Karen Boggess volunteered to hold a snake for young patrons to touch during a Snakes Alive! appearance at the library on June 27.
Adult volunteers, including Nitro Public Library Director Lynn Godby-Chinn, fifth from left, and library assistant Jennifer Price, fourth from left, hold Freda, a 15-foot-long Burmese python. Freda was the star attraction during the Snakes Alive! presentation at the library on June 27.
Ron Cromer, right, of Snakes Alive!, supervises children as they touch Freda, a Burmese python. Cromer brought a variety of snakes and lizards with him for his presentation at the Nitro Public Library.

How many adults does it take to lift and hold Freda, a 15-foot-long Burmese python?

During Freda’s visit to the Nitro Public Library as part of Ron Cromer’s Snakes Alive! show, it took nine willing adult volunteers to lift the 150-pound snake from its wooden box on wheels.

Freda and about 30 other snakes, as well as several large lizards, held the attention of children and adults during the Snakes Alive! visit to the Nitro library on Tuesday, June 27.

Cromer, who is based near High Point, North Carolina, established Snakes Alive! in 1982. In addition to bringing live snakes and lizards to his shows, Cromer combines a PowerPoint presentation with his folksy humor in educating his audiences about the many benefits -- and some of the dangers -- that snakes bring to the world.

“This is my full-time job, but I’ve cut back a little. This is all I’ve done for a living,” Cromer said, as he set up speakers and taped off an area for his young audience to sit.

Cromer is doing what he loves, because he’s always loved nature.

“I was one of these kids that was always out in the woods, and I’ve always been fascinated by reptiles and snakes,” he said.

When he was in the fifth grade, he ordered a book about snakes that further fueled his interest in them.

“I found out that you could actually make cages for them and take care of them, so I started collecting snakes.”

Cromer’s Snakes Alive! program offers plenty of hands-on experience with his snakes, all of which are gentle and non-venemous. He instructs children and adults on the proper way to hold snakes.

“I get a child to come up and hold a snake, but before that, I have to give them some concepts about what they’re getting into,” Cromer said.

During his presentations, Cromer strives to dispel some of the myths about snakes. One of those misconceptions is that snakes feel “slimy.” In fact, they are dry to the touch and feel much like leather.

“There are more misconceptions about snakes than any other animal,” he said. “A lot of people have never had a chance to get up close and personal (with snakes) like they do today and discover what they’re really like.”

During his shows, Cromer also teaches his audiences how to tell venomous snakes from non-venomous ones.

“It’s important, because snakes are part of our eco-system.”

Venomous snakes, he said, usually have cat-like eyes, while non-venomous ones have rounder eyes. He also talked about how close to get to snakes in the wild. A snake cannot strike “more than half its length,” he said.

Additionally, most venomous snakes have diamond-shaped heads, including the copperhead snake.

About “one in 10 snakes is venomous,” Cromer said.

Snakes should be protected because they are important to the eco-system. An example is the corn snake, which eats mice. Farmers like corn snakes, because they keep down the rodent population that eats their corn.

If you’re a farmer, “you don’t want a mouse in your garden.”

After his Nitro library appearance, Cromer was scheduled to appear the next day at the main Putnam County Public Library in Hurricane.

For more information about Snakes Alive!, visit www.snakesaliveprograms.com


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