97 Days (and Ways) to Play

Last Saturday night, after the kids were in bed, I decided to head to McDonald’s for an ice cream.  So what?  It was a craving.  Anyway, as I flipped on the light at the front door, I caught a glimpse of something black and ropelike lying just beyond my potted plants.  It was a snake.  I caught my breath, spun around, and yelled to Scott, “Get the kids!”

The Eastern Kingsnake.

All five of us gathered around the doorway and watched it through the window.  It was about 2 ½ ft. long and black with a white chain-like pattern – and it was finishing off something long.  Judging by the bulge going down it’s body, I would guess its meal was approximately 5” long – maybe a lizard?  The snake was still working on the remaining pine needles sticking out if it’s mouth.  It almost looked like it was gagging on the stuff and I briefly wondered if one of us would have to pull it out.  After several minutes it was finally able to get it all down, then slowly make its way into the bed of pine straw next to the shrubs where it disappeared.

After doing some research (ok, I Googled it), I discovered it was an Eastern Kingsnake.  I’m not a snake person, but something in the Wikipedia article caught my eye.  Their diet consists of toads, lizards, bird’s eggs; but they also like to eat other snakes including Copperheads, Rattlesnakes, and Cottonmouths.  Now that’s my kind of snake!
It just so happened that we had purchased a family membership to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History just the week before, so I knew that Sunday (the very next day) was Reptile Day.  Take one guess where we went the next day…
Reptile Day was part Fernbank’s “97 Days (and Ways) to Play” the summer.   Zoo Atlanta was on hand to show off some of their reptiles, including a Milk Snake from Honduras – a type of kingsnake. When the woman asked the crowd what was special about kingsnakes, my son Michael raised his hand and said, “They eat other snakes!”  He also told her about our kingsnake.  She said we were lucky to have one in our yard – that it would keep the poisonous snakes away.


We also listened to stories about reptiles with Mama Koku in the auditorium. 

Liam with Mama Koku.

Much to my surprise, (his PK3 teacher will be shocked) my shy son Liam volunteered not once, but twice, to help Mama Koku by playing the part of an ostrich and a monkey.  

Both of my boys made a craft, a blue-tongued skink, in the Naturalist Center.
Our last visit was to the Animal Encounters room where we got to touch a Bearded Dragon (two fingers only!) from Australia.  
It was a wonderful way to tie in our “real life” experience with the Eastern Kingsnake at our front door the night before with a learning experience at the museum.  Michael had such a good time that he cried when we left.  I promised him we’d go back soon.
There’s still time left in the “97 Days (and Ways) to Play.”  For more information, visit http://www.fernbankmuseum.org

My little blue-tongued skink.

Jill Prouty

Jill is a reader, writer, and professional librarian who enjoys spending her free time with her husband of twelve years and their two sons. She has an MSLS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

July 14, 2010