Kids get intimate look at wildlife

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2003

Cockroaches and prairie dogs and snakes … oh my.

Children got an up-close look at those animals and much more Thursday morning at the Selma Public Library.

Director Becky Nichols said the event was part of the library’s summer program. The Sara Jane and Schuster Siegel Children’s Trust Fund enables the library to host a number of activities for children over the summer designed to stretch their imaginations, Nichols said.

Email newsletter signup

But kids aren’t the only ones whose imaginations are challenged.

Michael Miller &045;&045; outreach coordinator with the Birmingham-based McWane Center &045;&045; hosted two animal-filled sessions Thursday. Starting with insects, he moved from there to lizards and a fuzzy prairie dog and then on to the finale &045;&045; Frank.

Frank, a 13-pound Burmese python, took two people to hold. It also took all the calming powers Miller and the library staff had to keep the children from fleeing the building.

Miller, though, assured those present that Frank was harmless and even had children line up at event’s end to pet him.

Other animals shown weren’t so easily petted.

Lenny &045;&045; a leopard gecko &045;&045; appeared oblivious of the crowd as Miller explained Lenny’s escape method. When necessary, Lenny drops his tail if pursued by a predator. However, since geckos store food in their tails it isn’t something done too often.

Half of Lenny’s diet goes to his tail. If need be, he can go for a month without eating because of all the stored food. Dropping his tail while in flight would cause the gecko, which is native to Iraq, to eat more regularly until it grew back.

A creature that drew children towards it instead of backing them up was Scarlett &045;&045; a prairie dog. Miller said Scarlett was a good climber and she seemed eager to prove it. Clambering around Miller’s back, she appeared both apprehensive and curious of the eyes watching her.

Cute prairie dogs are one thing, large cockroaches are another. One animal that sent children backing away from Miller was a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach. Miller said the cockroach must have been in a good mood since it wasn’t hissing.

That didn’t seem to improve its image with the children, though.

Miller said the cockroach hissed to scare predators away. He asked the children if they would eat a french fry that hissed at them. All exclaimed they wouldn’t.

And everybody present learned something they didn’t.

That’s one of the reasons Miller is with the McWane Center. He said he likes teaching and meeting new people and is glad to escape the confines of a desk.

Miller has been with the McWane Center for four years. He was originally a temporary worker, but ended up as outreach coordinator. &uot;Next thing you know it’s four years later,&uot; he said.

Miller spends most of his time on the road giving presentations to museums and schools and has presented to kindergartens and high schools.