Thursday was my first solo trip in 6 1/2 years and part of the experience for the guests is an "interactive" reptile show, where they may delicately handle the baby alligator and or various docile snakes. Docile can mean they are actually pleasant to handle or chilled enough to not do much about being handled. Thursday was warm enough that all of the snakes were active and many were draped like Christmas tinsel on the lone ficus tree in the exhibit. My job is simple enough. Avoid the feisty baby crocodile, extract the baby alligator and retrieve a few snakes to display for the guests. Easy enough, but in front of a crowd of onlookers, I stepped down the step ladder into the snake exhibit, whacked my head on the roof of the cage and slipped into the pool of water below where an infant crocodile hissed disapproval. Embarrassed, I proceeded to grab the 18 inch baby gator and all was well.
(Please note the terribly tacky "Florida shirt" that was gifted to me by the VINS staff. You may never see it again!)
Keep in mind, all of the snakes in this exhibit are non-venomous, but they are resting in the sun and enjoying it like any Floridian would, so to be dragged from their peaceful rest can't be how they expected their day to go. Regardless, I did my best to extract the Yellow Rat Snake from the ficus as a woman asked the question "Will they bite?" To which I responded "Anything with teeth will bite, including my niece!" (I'll let my sisters figure out which niece I'm referring to). The key to handling these snakes, is to not hold them directly behind the head. I held it behind the head, and the terrified snake bit me. It did not hurt. It felt like a small scratch and produced a drop of blood. I was embarrassed more than anything. The snake was only defending itself. Later in the day it itched, but I discovered a very small tooth had been left in my skin. I removed it and was fine. I should have simply grabbed the snake and let it coil in my hands. Lesson learned. For some reason no one wanted to hold the snake after that.
Red Rat Snake (held improperly!)
I did suggest that my website "staff photo" would be taken with the aforementioned tacky shirt but opted for another look. I know I ate Arby's and Krispy Kreme donuts on my trip south to Florida, but does my hat make me look fat in this photo? My shirt was billowing in the 15 mph wind so I look like a bit chubbier than I am. Excuses excuses.