BRISTOL - The Moize family traveled from afar to the Harry C. Barnes Nature Center Sunday, where they met snakes of all colors and lengths.
Dirck Moize would not disclose where exactly he and his wife and their two sons, John, 4, and Eric, 2, lived, but said their visit was an important one.
“We home-school them so my wife and I thought this would be a good place to come and teach them a little bit about life,” Moize explained.
The family was among nearly 50 attendees of the hands-on program, an up-close and personal chance to meet the center’s reptilian residents.
Leading the charge were volunteers Luke Ricciardone and Nick Boggio, both 12, along with Jessica Maack, a master wildlife conservationist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Maack has been leading wildlife programs at the center since this past November and attendance has picked up rapidly since the start of the year.
The youths spent some time describing different species of snake before bringing out the live specimens. Informing the public is vital to the animals’ welfare, they pointed out.
“We have a lot of harmless snakes here that we’re losing because people think they’re venomous,” Maack said. “We’re here to spread the knowledge.”
Common snakes in this area include the garden variety, along with the northern water snake. Both are harmless, but the rarer northern copperhead and timber rattlesnake are, in fact, the keepers of venomous fangs.
“You can tell because they have the vertical, cat-like pupils,” Nick Boggio told the crowd. “These are of special concern in New England.”
Ricciardone gently carried around “Pepper,” a five-foot black rat snake, for visitors to see up close. He cautioned them to turn their camera flashes off when capturing photos of the animals, because the bright light is harmful to their delicate eyes.
Next to make the rounds was “Miss Hiss” a western hognose that is not native to this climate. Both live at Barnes full-time.
“It’s nice to see so many people interested in learning about wild animals,” Program Coordinator Fern Vaughn said. “I like to encourage young children to share what they know with people.”
Bristol resident A.J. Sirianni and his daughter Stella, 8, had a unique reason for checking out the snakes Sunday.
“Stella’s just getting into snakes,” Sirianni said. “This is a perfect opportunity to learn more about them before we buy one.”
Next Saturday, March 17, the center is hosting All Things Green for St. Patrick’s Day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or email@example.com.