Scalies and Slimies of Arkansas

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Photos by Steven Looney

A group of very inquisitive youngsters and parents were on hand Saturday morning at the Mammoth Spring State Park pavilion, to learn about some of the "critters" found under rocks, in fields and in streams of Arkansas. Ben Wheeler with the Arkansas Department of Conservation, brought and passed around some reptiles in plastic bags, to avoid contact or any spread of disease. For educational purposes, Wheeler brought a lizard with a missing tail, teaching the children that lizards can and do grow back their tail. He also had two turtles. He asked the kids and parents which one they thought was the male and which one was the female. Most of the time the larger one would be the male, but in the case of the turtle, the female is larger. They need the extra shell space to carry the eggs. Wheeler also brought a small ring neck snake, which had a band of color around its neck, and a large rat snake, who uses its forked tongue to smell. Perhaps the highlight of the presentation was the Alligator turtle. The large prehistoric looking reptile can live for many years. The pointed snout and points on the back of the shell make it quite formidable looking. The dangerous beaked mouth could do some very serious damage if it got hold of you, Williams said. To finish out the program, Wheeler presented and allowed some of the young children to touch a baby alligator, captured in a stream in southern Arkansas.