In June 25 IssueBy Kim GrahamNews-Register Reporter
Many people run away or, at the very least, cringe at the sight of a snake but snakes were the stars of the show this week at Russell County Library's second kick-off Summer Reading Program event: Nature Rocks! Family Nature Club featuring South Kentucky RECC's Reptile and Amphibian Program.
"We had a good, good turnout," said Children's Librarian Mrs. Fill Cowell. "We were excited about it."
All told, 89 eager participants attended the program presented by Jeff Hohman, Manager of Member Services with East Kentucky Power and sponsored by South Kentucky RECC.
"It was awesome," said Alan Coffey, Member Services and Marketing Team Leader for SKRECC. "There was a big crowd there."
Children and adults were treated to an educational program followed by up close, hands-on experience with a Corn Snake, Milk Snake, Prairie King Snake, and two box turtles.
"We just want to help out in the community as much as possible and we always enjoy providing educational programs for children," Coffey said.
A love for nature and a deep belief in environmental stewardship, led Hohman to share his passion with others through education.
Hohman said he was hired by East Kentucky Power as a biologist to do environmental studies for endangered species when adding substations or other electrical facilities to determine the impact and whether or not a project was environmentally sound.
His job evolved into teaching outdoor safety and environmental stewardship at programs throughout the state for school students, libraries, civic groups, and safety groups he said.
Most folks wouldn't imagine that a power company would be environmentally conscientious but Hohman said East Kentucky Power is active in stewardship of Kentucky's natural resources.
"We make the same decisions corporately that we make individually," said Hohman.
Throughout the presentation, participants were enthralled by knowledge imparted regarding the lives of reptiles and amphibians.
"I thought the program was very interesting," Mrs. Fill said. "He gave enough information to keep adults and children interested."
Mrs. Fill has an appreciation and respect for the animals but is not one who wants to handle reptiles.
"Snakes are a good part of nature to control mice and rats but not to pick up," said Mrs. Fill.
Many people who have a healthy respect or even fear of venomous snakes are sometimes misinformed about the number of different types native to Kentucky.
"I think a lot of people think there are more poisonous snakes than there actually are in Kentucky," said Mrs. Fill. "In reality, in our area we only have Copperheads and Timber Rattlesnakes."
She said during Hohman's presentation, he covered how to recognize venomous snakes by their triangular head shape, vertical pupils in their eyes, and a thicker body than most non-venomous snakes.
"He did a really good presentation with wonderful pictures of snakes to recognize the different shapes and sizes," said Mrs. Fill. "After seeing the pictures, seeing the live snakes helped gain an understanding of snakes."
Even though attendees had an opportunity to touch the cool, smooth reptiles, Hohman cautioned that children should not approach snakes outdoors and stressed safety in the presence of wild animals.
Hohman discussed the many myths about snakes that are told throughout the country including snakes that chase people, jump into boats, or photos of snakes that are obviously altered to make the snake appear larger than in reality.
"Don't believe every story you hear," said Hohman. "These animals have value in nature."
His focus is recognizing interconnectivity of all living beings in nature and the preservation and protection of the environment.
"The message in our program is: take care of your nest," said Hohman. "Keep your air, water, and land clean and be good stewards of Kentucky's bountiful natural resources."
Summer Reading programs at Russell County Public Library begin July 5th at the Russell Springs Branch with a program about Africa.
Other areas of the world such as the Holy Land, Belize, Panama, Germany, and Ireland will be virtually visited at future programs during July.
Presenters will share local countries' food, photos, flags, souvenirs, and crafts.
Other attractions at the library's Summer Reading programs are Ronald McDonald, Chemistry Magic, Live Creepy Critters, and a favorite from last year, the stream hike on July 19th at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
For more information regarding RC Library's Summer Reading programs for the entire family, call 270-343-3545, visit their website at www.russellcountylibrary.com, or like them on Facebook.