'Hiss' is the word at Wilbur D. May Museum
The Sssnakes Alive! Exhibit at the Wilbur D. May Museum can test your mettle, whether that's holding a snake in person or sitting just a few seats away from the live boa constrictors, pythons and more brought out as part of a weekend show.
And, if the Brazilian Rainbow Boa highlighted as part of a show doesn't strike your fancy, how about the Kenyan Sand Boa or the Reticulated Python, which is considered to be the longest python species in the world? While families and school children attending the museum during the week won't get to see these weekend-only shows, they still will have the opportunity to touch and hold snakes, like the Black Milk Snake, due to the snake handlers that regularly circulate, providing hands-on, up-close experiences as part of the exhibition.
"The snake handlers are here every day so kids can hold different snakes and get their pictures taken," said Samantha Szesciorka, assistant curator at the museum. "In addition, we have special programming on weekends that includes snake presentations and additional snakes on display from the Great Basin Herpetological Society."
The exhibit, covering three rooms-plus at the Wilbur D. May Museum, runs through April 10, and can be experienced Wednesdays through Sundays, the museum's open days. Sssnakes Alive! provides all kinds of interesting details about snakes, ranging from the family and species of particular snakes on exhibit to their common names and the geographic regions in which they are found. In the room directly off the main entrance to the museum, live examples of the Arizona Mountain Kingsnake, Hognose Snake, Black Eastern Kingsnake, Yellow Rat Snake and others can be found. There also is a 25-foot model snake on the floor to climb through, but that is not for climbing on top of, according to a sign posted nearby.
"People should come to the exhibit because it’s really fun and educational for all age levels," said Szesciorka. "It’s a great way to spend the afternoon and, honestly, you can’t beat the looks on the kids' faces when they’re holding a big snake."
Heading toward the back of the exhibition, there is information posted about some of the more common snake myths and mythologies, the benefits of snakes – a 5-pound snake eats 140 to 150 mice annually, saving several tons of grain each year, as an example – and how to prevent and treat snake bites. Never poke at or kick a snake is an idea.
In a back room, there is a bridge on which to walk over (enclosed) fake and real rattlesnakes, and more information about snakes such as the Coral Snake, Copperhead, and Cottonmouth, although live versions of these are not on exhibit. In another back room, several Great Basin Rattlesnakes – all in a secure glass cage -- can be found. And yes, this is a type of venomous snake that lives in the Great Basin.
"The response [to the exhibit] has been really great," said Szesciorka. "We have had record-setting attendance. I think people really like the chance to see different snakes, hold them, and get over any fears they may have. Also, you can’t beat the bridge over the rattlesnake pit."
Visitors also can discover important snake-related terms, such as 'herpetology,' which is the study of snakes, and 'ophidiophobia,' which is the fear of snakes. As well, all of the information is displayed in English, but has Spanish translations available directly below. For visitors, like Nathan Padilla, 15, Sssnakes Alive! can be a real eye-opener.
"You can learn new things," he said. "I learned a few new things about snakes, like if a [venomous] snake bites you just to stay calm and try not to freak out because then the venom will run faster through your body."
Admission to the museum also provides access to the permanent collection of items owned by Wilbur D. May, who, of course, the museum is named after and who formerly owned the Double Diamond Ranch in South Reno. This permanent exhibition always can be worth a visit, as all of the items on display, including the large stuffed Polar Boar to several miniatures examples of snuffboxes, once belonged to May, an avid world traveler.
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