Alligators, Lizards and Snakes Show up at the Fair.
By Lonny Frost
Wednesday was Family day at the 47th Annual Tioga County Fair. With it came an alligator, several snakes, a big hairy spider, a couple of lizards and a snapping turtle. All those reptiles were presented to a crowd of nearly 50 people, thanks to Canyon Country Reptiles of Wellsboro.Jack and Jessica have been coming to the fair over the last 5 years. Each year the crowd grows larger. Most of the crowd consisted of children ages 1 to 13 years old. However, there were a few younger and a number of older teens who were all accompanied by adults.
The children learned quickly that Jessica had no problem handling the numerous snakes, however, the tarantula spider was a different story. Jessica is still very afraid of spiders and the children laughed when she jumped while the spider walked up her husband’s arm. The children also learned that if a tarantula would fall from a high enough spot that it could explode into pieces when it hit the floor. This is due to the spider’s exoskeleton. Also the learned that if a tarantula would happen to crack it abdomen that if you glued the crack that the spider would survive and when it shed its skin it would completely discard its old shell and be back to normal.
Everyone in the room also got to learn a few things about each of the reptiles that Jack and Jessica handled. In fact, the couple brought a number of snakes in various sizes and colors. In 20 years Jack has only been bitten 5 times by Ball Pythons. These pythons have become very popular pets over the years.
Jack told the crowd of onlookers that these small pythons are Africa’s second largest export. “Over 2 billion Ball Pythons are exported out of Africa a year,” exclaimed Jack. “That’s about a $10 billion dollar business a year, as well,” Jack said.
Next came the Spotted Gecko which usually grows fro 6 to 7 inches long. The children seemed captivated by the little guy as Jack spoke about the defense geckos use when they are scared. Again the children giggled when Jack explained how a gecko can lose it tails when it is scared. Once that tail falls off the enemy is more interested in the wiggling tail that they forget about the gecko. This little stunt allows the gecko to slip away to safety. The tail will grow back completely in a year.
The next reptile is native to Northeastern Pennsylvania and it was the Snapping Turtle. This Snapping Turtle was no different, it snapped at Jack repeatedly as Jack was pointing out things to children about the turtle.
A Snapping Turtle is a bit lazy and uses its tongue to attract fish to come to him. Then when one is close enough, SNAP! Dinner is served. Jack and Jessica both warned the children about the dangers of just walking up to a Snapping Turtle. “You do not want to just walk up to one and try and pick it up, they are quick and they can really hurt you fast,” Jack warned.
Next came the Rat Snake which loves to climb and can grow up to 5 to 8 feet long. The Spiny Gecko was the second of three lizards that were shown to the crowd.
The group also got to see a Cobra, an alligator and very very long python that nearly stretched across the stage. Most of the children and a few of he adults were allowed to touch several of the reptiles. The two favorites were the alligator and the super large python.
The Canyon Country Reptiles truly brought showed learning in a different and unexpected way. Kids were thrilled with the variety of snakes. Some of the kids got to see their first pythons, geckos and alligator, while others got real close and touch these reptiles in front of them. Overall, family day with the reptiles was all in a day’s work for Jack and Jessica.
The Canyon Country Reptiles is located at 1623 Route 362 (5 miles West of Wellsboro, just past the Airport Road. They are open Monday-Friday from 5pm – 9pm and open Saturday from 9am – 6pm. They also do presentations for clubs and birthday parties. Call (570) 724-3488 for more information.