Snakes, lizards & alligator spotted at Kutztown Park! Jesse the Reptile Guy visits Kutztown Library scientists during summer reading program

Photo by Roxanne Richardson Kutztown area children meet a snake during Jesse the Reptile Guy program at Kutztown Park for Kutztown Library's summer reading program July 17.
Photo by Roxanne Richardson Jesse Rothacker, president and founder of Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary. Rothacker does reptile rescue and live reptile shows.

About 200 kids and 76 adults piled into Kutztown Park’s bandshell for Kutztown Community Library’s annual program about reptiles with Jesse Rothacker.

President of Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary, Lancaster County, a 51C3 Non-Profit Rescue and Education Group, Rothacker introduced the young serpent scientists to 15 different species from around the world of live snakes, lizards, turtles, and even an alligator.

“It is nice to see some impact. These kids are trapped inside a three-inch screen that they hold in their hands and they don’t see the world that’s going on around them. They don’t know there are different shaped leaves on different trees, know less 75 reptile and amphibious species just in Pennsylvania alone and so it’s nice to bring them out of that to kind of help them see that there’s this magical mysterious world all around us,” said Rothacker.

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Stacey Sperber said she and her daughters, Lilly, 4, and Abbey, 3, go to Story Time at the library every week and were excited about the reptile show.

“I think it would just be a fun experience for my kids to learn about different animals, all the different kinds, and reptiles have a stigma of being scary and if they learn about them now, younger in life, they won’t be scared of them later in life,” said Sperber.

Sperber also said they would learn to know which ones to avoid and which ones were okay to touch.

“This is a library program and we’re trying to come to library programs and reptiles are cool,” said Jacob Peters, 10, Fogelsville. “I like how they feel and how they slither and all that.”

Veronica Querio, 11, Kutztown, got picked to go up on stage and hold a snake or two.

“It was a little scary at first, but then I got used to it because I knew they wouldn’t fall off. It actually felt kind of smooth when they were wrapping my hand,” said Querio with a huge smile as she held a long purple stuffed snake she was given for being up on stage. “It felt really cool to hold a snake for the first time.”

Querio said she might get a snake for a pet after this experience, but one that doesn’t bite like maybe a garter snake.

“Every animal has a purpose on the planet and every human does, too,” said Joy Newswanger, Youth Librarian, Kutztown Library.

Newswanger said the kids are seeing the sciences everyday so what Jesse said to the kids about being a scientist if you are watching, if you are using your senses, if you are observing, it tied in with the Yocum Theatre play How to Think like a Scientist performed at the library recently.

“Berks doesn’t realize it has really rich reptile and amphibian resources,” said Rothacker.

Rothacker said there were more than eight snake species confirmed at one site found along a popular hiking area. He encouraged his audience to participate in the program, PARS, Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey. The PARS project utilizes observations made by people to gather new information about the state’s reptile and amphibian populations. To register for this event, contact www.berks.lib.pa.us/sku/.

Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary is celebrating 10 years of service this year.

“Every year we do about a 100 outreach programs for schools, churches, libraries, camps, scouts, different family events,” said Rothacker.

Rothacker said they like to think their program has an impact. They get to visit thousands of people every year through shows, television, and radio programs.

“Every once in awhile you hear these types of stories talking to someone who said, oh yea we ran into a rattlesnake up in the mountains and normally I would have killed it, but I thought aww Jesse’s going to be upset, so it’s nice to hear those types of stories,” said Rothacker.

Forgotten Friend tries to work closely with a partner organization called the Lancaster Herpetological Society. This year they giving away $1,000 of copies of the book, Miles and Miles of Reptiles, to schools and libraries to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary.

“We figure that’s something that’s lasting even though we’re not coming out doing programs. There’s a book that’ll get checked out for a number of years,” said Rothacker.

Newswanger said this is everyday life and animals are endlessly fascinating. Kutztown Community Library’s next program brings Rick Mikula, the Butterfly Guy, on Thursday, July 24, at 10 a.m. For more information, go to kutztownlibrary.org.