While visiting the Aiken State Natural Area near Wagener on Saturday, Kinsey Robinson expressed her enthusiasm for snakes.
“I love pythons. I love to catch pythons,” said the 11-year-old from West Columbia. “I want to catch him so I can take him home and freak my mom out.”
OK, so there weren't any pythons at the state park; instead, a pet corn snake was there to delight Kinsey and other enthusiastic children during a talk by Park Manager Robert Mahoney.
“It's all about having fun and learning,” he said.
Jason and Kim Rentz of Windsor brought five of their six boys, ranging in age from 3 to 9, for the event.
“We just want to provide educational and memorable activities for our sons,” Kim Rentz said. “We live on a farm of 130 acres with cows, chickens and pigs – and a lot of snakes.”
The Rentz's children also had fun on a gym set and on paddleboats with their folks. Yet the corn snake still was the big attraction.
Mahoney explained to the children how people are omnivores, eating meat and plants. Snakes are carnivores – eating everything from insects, worms, birds and, depending on their size, larger animals.
Manoney pointed out that, of course, some snakes are poisonous and can be found in South Carolina – the cottonmouth, the diamondback rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake, the copperhead, the pigmy rattlesnake and in North America, coral snakes.
Mahoney also quizzed the children on the different ways people and snakes handle sun exposure. The kids know about that too – people use sunscreen, protect themselves with clothing or simply get out of the sun.
But snakes are much different.
“They will cross the road for heat and lay out in the sun,” Mahoney said. There's another factor, too, and he let the children touch the preserved moulted skin of a snake.
“They'll shed their skin six to 10 times a year,” Mahoney said. “When the skin becomes old, it's time to get rid of it. When snakes get sunburned, they let their bodies relax for a while. You may see a snake in nature that hooks itself around an object (that helps) pull the skin off.”
Javier and Gemaly Silva, of Aiken, brought their children, Nagely and Joshua, to the park for the program.
“We like to take the kids out and learn how to cope with nature,” Javier Silva said. “They like it.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT This corn snake, a pet at the Aiken County Natural Area, entertained children during a talk about snakes by State Park Manager Robert Mahoney on Saturday.×
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Jeremy Ashton, of Augusta, gets to take a look at this snake skin, which he got to take home following an event at the Aiken State Natural Area on Saturday.×