- Animal ambassador Teddy Bear
Fear is a common human reaction to a slithering snake or a hairy spider. But a new nonprofit aims to change attitudes about the oft-maligned animals through outreach and education.
St. Albans resident Corrina King founded the Vermont Herpetofauna and Nature Center in June. King, who has degrees in environmental studies and freshwater biology and works for the Missisquoi River Basin Association, said she's always dreamed of creating a place where people can learn how to care for and protect reptiles, amphibians and arachnids. Earlier this year, she put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to help. Dozens of like-minded people volunteered.
Ultimately, King said, she wants to purchase a building that would serve as a hands-on educational center where people could surrender animals for rehabilitation and adoption.
But first, the nonprofit has to raise money. It's planning a fundraising event, Sips and Slithers, at a local brewery. King and others from the organization have also been posting entertaining videos of critters in action on the org's YouTube channel and visiting schools and libraries with "animal ambassadors."
They include King's 38-inch ball python, Teddy Bear, whom she describes as a "sweet little snuggle snake." To prepare him for his role, King has been placing him in the middle of a table while her family is playing Yahtzee. King's menagerie includes two other ball pythons, Basil and Luna; a corn snake, Noodle; a crested gecko, Cookie; a fire-bellied toad; and a tortoise.
On October 14, the Vermont Herpetofauna and Nature Center will partner with the Saint Albans Museum for a free Reptile Day, featuring displays on animal husbandry and Vermont's native species. Visitors can also make jewelry using shedded snakeskin and get photographed holding Teddy Bear or another reptile.
Tarantulas will also be on hand, but they won't leave their enclosures.
"With a large group of people, that can get a little worrisome," King said. "You want something a little bit more contained."
For more information, visit vthnc.org.