When Jason Clark was a youngster, he called 911 to tell dispatchers to contact him if someone called to report a snake they wanted removed. Never mind that he was only 14 and needed his parents to take him on calls.
Fast forward to today and Clark and his family run Southeastern Reptile Rescue, which performs snake and alligator removal, and also seeks to find permanent homes for animals that are turned over.
Clark brought a number of animals to the Jackson-Butts County Public Library June 25 to educate youngsters and perhaps ease fears and shatter some misconceptions about them.
There are 46 kinds of snakes in Georgia, Clark told audiences, only six varieties of which are venomous.
While draping one audience member in a rat snake, holding a king snake up for the audience to see and handing one young girl an opossum to hold, Clark entertained and educated a captivated and sometimes squeamish audience gathered as part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.
He also displayed two of the venomous snakes found in Georgia — a timber rattler and a cottonmouth — urging kids to watch where they put their hands and feet when outside, and telling them to simply back away if they encounter a snake.
“These guys, if you leave them alone, I promise they’ll do the same thing for you,” Clark said.
He also explained that snakes help keep rodent populations in check, and there are even medical uses for components of snake venom.
At the end of the program, he presented one audience member with an opossum to hold, explaining that the animals are immune to snake venom, cannot be infected by or transmit rabies and help dispose of animal carcasses before they can spread disease. It was all an effort to change perceptions about often misunderstood animals that elicit fear.
“The next time you see a snake, or a possum, or a person, make sure you get to know them a little better before you decide you don’t like them,” Clark said.
The Summer Reading Program continues each Tuesday throughout the summer at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. The morning and afternoon programs July 9 will feature “Lew-E’s UFO Show” with Lee Andrews. The 6 p.m. program will be a juggling and magic workshop. The library is located at 436 E. College St., Jackson.