DNR brings animal display to students

February 19, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - Most of her classmates squealed with excitement as Ranger Mark Spurrier pulled the large boa constrictor out of a black duffel bag and wrapped it around his body.

But Greenbrier Elementary School fifth-grader Kelly-Jo Kibler sat hugging her shoulders and grimacing while her peers jockeyed for a better view of the snake - nearly 6 feet long and as thick as a grapefruit.

"They just kind of look bad to me," said Kelly-Jo, 11, who said she's afraid of all snakes.

Many of the students, however, lined up to pet the snake on their way out.

The impressive reptile proved a grand finale to the well-received "Scales and Tails" program, presented in two sessions Wednesday afternoon in the school's gymnasium.


From the moment each 45-minute session started, Spurrier held the students' attention with a stream of questions, answers and factual information about the various animals he brought with him.

The Department of Natural Resources program is designed to teach students more about wildlife and how their actions can affect wild animals, Spurrier said.

He said all of the animals he brought - including the snake, an iguana, an owl and a mallard duck - should be in the wild but couldn't survive there.

The snake and the iguana were both pets who grew too large for owners to handle, Spurrier told the children.

Because they were kept as pets and they're not native to Maryland, they probably wouldn't make it if set free and they could be harmful to native wildlife, he said.

The owl and duck were both injured as the result of human action, he said.

The owl was blinded when he was hit by a car when he swooped down to prey on a rodent, Spurrier said.

Spurrier asked the older group of children if they liked to go to ponds and feed ducks.

"Yes," they yelled in unison.

Then he asked them what they liked to feed the ducks.

"Bread," many said.

Feeding wild ducks is a bad idea because it makes them dependent on humans to the point they won't migrate south, Spurrier said. He said many ducks and geese died during last winter's blizzard because of that.

Feeding bread to ducks is especially harmful because it's hard for ducks to swallow, it contains preservatives that are bad for ducks and it attracts them to anything white they find in the water, he said.

Believing a ball of fishing wire to be a piece of bread, the duck tried to eat it and broke his bill, Spurrier said. Now he can't feed himself.

Fifth-grader Courtney Holzapfel said she didn't realize that feeding bread to ducks would hurt them.

"I think it's kind of sad that the owl got hit by a car," said second-grader Christopher Heim, 7, who said he was glad he learned what to do if he found a hurt animal.

Third-grader Amy Cornelius said she found the presentation interesting.

"It told me a lot about different animals," said Amy, 8, who said she hadn't known that some owls hunt in the day as well as night.

First-grader Patrick Solberg, 6, said that while he liked seeing all the animals, he didn't really learn anything new.

"I already knew everything," Patrick said. "I know everything about animals. I read about them and watch about them. It's easy to learn about them if you know how."

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