Westborough – Saturday, March 31, the Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) invites the public to the live animal program, “Snakes of New England and the World,” presented by Rick Roth and the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team. The program will be held at 10 a.m. in the Knights of Columbus Hall, 17 Willow St. The presentation is free, but donations will be accepted.
While other boys were playing with LEGOS, Rick Roth was collecting snakes. His fascination with snakes dates back to kindergarten, when a small northern brown snake crossed his path.
“I was hooked,” said Roth.
Soon he began bringing home local snakes like garter snakes, and milk snakes to the surprise and approval of his mother. When it was apparent that his interest was real, “I got a snake book for every birthday, and my knowledge just grew,” noted Roth. “As I got older, I bought more exotic snakes and had a boa in high school.”
Now 80 snakes share Roth's home in Gloucester. Collecting many snakes requires a license, and Roth has both a scientific collecting license and a propagator's license.
“My permits are for education; that's the whole reason I have snakes,” said Roth.
He and the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team take the snake program into schools, libraries, and camps to teach children about snakes and to appreciate their beauty.
“I believe that fear of snakes is acquired,” he said. “Children aren's afraid of snakes, and by the end of the program most children will touch them.”
The Cape Anne Vernal Pond Team, of which Roth is a member, emphasizes the preservation of wild habitat.
“There's no wildlife that hasn's suffered a loss of habitat,” says Roth, “and snakes are no exception. The beautiful black indigo snake of Florida is on the endangered list, purely due to development. In Massachusetts, the copperhead and timber rattlesnake are rare because the Colonists exterminated them out of fear, and the populations have not bounced back.”
The farther north, the snake population is less. For example, Arizona has more than 100 snake species but Massachusetts has only 14 species.
“People often can's tell one snake from another although they claim they can,” said Roth. “Many people kill any snake they see, and we'se trying to change that.”
By helping people to become compatible with animals, like snakes, the Cape Anne Vernal Pond Team hopes to encourage people to think about wild habitat when they make a choice affecting the environment.
“Snakes of New England and the World” is supported in part by a grant from the Westborough Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. To find out more about this and other programs of WCLT, visit http://westboroughlandtrust.org/.