Forget the steers and hogs. This Fort Worth Stock Show event has snakes and bugs.
Kids Gone Wild, a one-day Stock Show event Sunday in the arena area of the cattle barns, offered young patrons the opportunity to see and handle wildlife ranging from raptors to reptiles, shoot rifles and bows and arrows, learn about nature and wildlife conservation in a variety of ways and even drop a line in a fishing tank.
“A lot of these kids live in the city and they don’t see wildlife,” explained Helen Holdsworth, the director of conservation legacy at the Texas Wildlife Association, who organizes and oversees the event for the Stock Show. “We are just trying to make the connection with the outdoors and encourage them to get outside and learn about the outdoors."
And apparently one of the best ways to make that connection is with a snake, judging by the number of slithering reptiles on display.
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“The most common question is, ‘Are they poisonous?’” explained Stefanie Spivey, program executive at the Boy Scouts of America’s Longhorn Activity Center here. “But there is no such thing as a poisonous snake. Poison is something you eat. The word we try to teach the kids is ‘venomous.’ Which means they have to bite you.”
A rusty red-colored corn snake was curled lazily around her neck like a necklace.
“Our goal is to get people over that initial fear,” said Spivey, who also brought along a prairie dog named Josephina to show the youngsters. “So if we can get the kids interested when they are young, we hope they will be less likely to be fearful [of snakes] as adults.”
The bugs were a big hit as well at the event that was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., but swarming with eager children an hour before.
“The most popular one is probably the Hercules beetle,” said Jennifer Hoffman, director of outreach at the Texas Discovery Gardens in Dallas’ Fair Park, holding up a huge bug with a hornlike appendage. “I think they like them because they are not used to something so big. The kids are attracted to anything big and icky.”
That would explain the tarantulas in the clear plastic case next to the bugs.
Also drawing a crowd was Sherman the turtle.
“He’s a tortoise, not a turtle,” quickly corrected Mark Pyle, president of the DFW Herpetological Society. “Primarily, tortoises are land and turtles are aquatic.”
Sherman, with an imposing shell measuring almost two feet across and a head the size of a small dog, looked like he could live anywhere he wanted.
“He was a rescue,” said Pyle, who theorized that he had been released into the wild by owners who acquired him as a pet without realizing how big a sulcata tortoise (also known as an African spurred tortoise) like Sherman can get.
“In extreme cases, they can get to be about 36 inches long,” said Pyle, adding that Sherman, who is probably 7 to 10 years old, is still growing.
“Because he looks like a tank.”
No argument there.