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SNAKETALK IN THE NEWS:

Dallas Morning News
Country World News
Neighbors GO (Irving)
NLC News Register (10-23-06)
NLC News Register (11-26-07)

Opening remarks:

Through past affiliations, I have worked with individuals from both the Dallas and Fort Worth Zoo Herpetariums. I was a charter member of the Dallas Herpetological Society through the 1980's. I still maintain today many of the professional relationships formed during that time. I have worked in the pet trade at both the retail and wholesale level. I have bred and maintained many different species of snakes in captivity, most recently, Boa constrictors. I worked as a Wildlife Ranger at the International Wildlife Park in Grand Prairie in the 1980's. While employed there, I made public reptile presentations with venomous and nonvenomous snakes, as well as being responsible for the health and well being of the captive reptiles at the park. All of this experience has helped shape SnakeTalk. I have seen the good side and the bad side of keeping wild animals in captivity. For some species, captivity may be their only future as their wild habitat is gone or virtually gone. SnakeTalk is my small contribution to educate others about these issues, but to also entertain along the way.

I am always learning. My passion for knowledge is what drove me to delve so deeply into herpetology rather than just be another guy with a pet snake. Over the years I came to accept certain ideas as fact. For instance, I read in books and was taught early on that since snakes have no external ears, they "hear" exclusively via vibrations through surfaces with which they are in contact and therefore are clinically "deaf." Recent studies and observations now indicate that in spite of the fact snakes have no external ears, they do have inner ear mechanisms and can "hear" airborne sound. According to Dave and Tracy Barker in their book, BALL PYTHONS, The History, Natural History, Care, and Breeding, (citing several studies) in addition to somatic hearing, snakes are able to detect airborne sound via their inner ears. Another accepted fact was that snakes have no emotional states and all activity is a simple autonomic response to external stimuli. A quote that I used for many years (until very recently) is, "Snakes have all the intelligence of a Styrofoam cup." I had been taught and had always believed through my own observations that snakes (and other herpetofauna) could not recognize an individual human being, but were so accustomed to human contact that they felt no threat and no defensive response was indicated. Dave and Tracy's observations with Ball pythons over the years indicate that Ball pythons can in fact recognize individuals (you should read their book to get all the details). Extrapolating from these observations leads me to believe that this ability to recognize individuals may extend to other species as well, and if recognition is possible could I have been wrong all these years regarding a snakes potential for emotional responses? That would perhaps be stretching logic to the limits of reason. I am not ready to start telling my audience that my snakes love me, and I am not encouraging anyone to throw away all their old books. Much of what we have always accepted as fact is in fact, fact. My main point here is that we must never close our mind to new possibilities; never stop learning.


Purpose:

The purpose of SnakeTalk is to entertain and educate youngsters with special emphasis on dispelling myths about snakes. SnakeTalk is safe. No venomous species* are used in the regular presentation. SnakeTalk is "Hands On" whenever possible.


General Information:

SnakeTalk is as simple or as complex as best suits the needs of the audience. The first part of the presentation is used to point out general anatomical characteristics, how snakes shed, feed, propagate and the purpose behind the snakes pattern and color. The remaining time in the presentation is used for open discussion. I use snakes from my own collection as well as from other sources. SnakeTalk presentations are timed to run approximately 50 minutes to accommodate standard class periods, but can be custom tailored to suit any time frame.

Field protocols are covered in the standard SnakeTalk presentation. I point out that there is never any reason to touch a venomous snake with your bare hands. I also point out the current accepted procedures for venomous and nonvenomous snakebite. Additionally, I have stories of people I know who forgot the standard safety protocols for a split-second and suffered the consequences.

General philosophy, ecology, ethics and ramifications of keeping snakes or other "wild" animals in captivity may also be covered. Husbandry of "wild" animals is a secondary topic and is usually broached during question time at the end of the talk. There is almost always at least one individual in the audience who will ask, "Where can I get one?"

Another common question, which is usually the first question, "Do they bite?" I usually simply answer, "No." That is the simple response. The more lengthy, but more accurate response is, "Any animal with a mouth and teeth is capable of biting, but these are long term captive snakes and feel no threat from human contact which leaves their defense mechanism dormant."

Accurate information is the main purpose of SnakeTalk, and kids are the primary concern, but the presentations are suitable for an adult audience as well.


SnakeTalk presentations:

Living Vinyl The general presentation. Description of anatomical characteristics, life cycle, and ecological importance of snakes in the environment, with an extended question time. This is a great talk for any age group; any venue.

God's Design This talk focuses on God's design of nature and the creatures and the fact that if left to function as designed, everything works well. When the natural design is disrupted on a large scale as by habitat destruction, or on a small scale as with the introduction of foreign substances (drug abuse) into the body, the results are frequently quite devastating. This presentation encourages drug awareness, and is designed to exemplify through comparative analysis the destructive effects of drug abuse♦. God's Design is a rational presentation based on fundamental constants. Central to the presentation is the assumption that God does exist, and is the Creator. Beyond that, every aspect of the presentation is simple logic. The presentation is kept on a very basic level using core values and is in no way theologically controversial.
Although the drug awareness is a key aspect of the presentation, it is not of prominent focus. I have found that to place too much emphasis on drug abuse comes across as "preachy" and defeats the purpose.

My Faith and God's Design:

        I was raised in a Presbyterian church with a strong foundation in theological study, and yet with a great respect for other faith traditions. Perhaps it is the tolerant spirit of that church family that brought me to think of myself not as a Presbyterian per se, but rather just as a simple Christian without any deep denominational ties. I taught Junior High and Senior High Sunday School classes for several years, sometimes writing my own curriculum (approved by the Director of Christian Education), and I am an ordained Elder of the Presbyterian Church, USA.

What I believe:

  • I am a sinner.
  • I believe my only chance for salvation is by the Grace of God.
  • I believe that faith is a journey, not a destination.
  • I believe judgment is something best applied to oneself, not others.
  • I believe witnessing is an integral part of one's faith journey, but must be offered with joy, not forced with doom saying.
  • I believe in the One Triune God, because it makes good spiritual sense and I have never been very good at mathematics.
  • I believe that science is the tool we use to discover God's Design.

In addition to formal educational presentations, my snakes have been used many times for photo shoots. They are not camera shy, are perfectly comfortable working with models, and in a relatively short period of time I can train the model to work with the snake. See the rates page for more information.

(Dallas/Fort Worth and surrounding North Texas area - see rates page for details.)


26 October, 2007
THE PARTY

My snakes love meeting new people and socializing. Banana and some of his friends would be happy to be at your child's next birthday or other party. Or perhaps you would want Banana and his friends to liven up your next office party. My snakes also love the camera and will be happy to pose with you and your friends for pictures.

Contact me or see the rates page for more information.


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Email for more information or to arrange for a SnakeTalk presentation for your group.

SnakeTalk presentations have been made for many groups and institutions including:

  • The Boy Scouts of America
    (Cub Scout Day Camp, Pack & Troop meetings, Den Meetings...)
  • Irving Independent School District
  • Richardson Independent School District
  • Wylie Independent School District
  • St. Cecilia Catholic School (Dallas)
    and others private schools
  • Sonrise Fellowship (Irving)
  • Clown Alley #85

    And also seen on...

  • Animals, Animals TV Show
  • Animals, Etc. TV Show

Qualifications for working with snakes and kids...

  • Over 30 years experience working with Herpetofauna (and other wildlife)
  • Over 25 years experience working with kids
  • Past Executive Officer/Board Member Dallas Herpetological Society

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Dear John,
        Again thank you for bringing your snakes to our class!
What fun!
Best, Chris Fulmer
(VP Arts —North Lake College)


        I am writing applause for John Hunter's continuing efforts to introduce the diversity, interdependence, and the importance of conservation in the world of herpetology.
        I have worked with John for many years and as an educator I have both witnessed and acted as a resource for his programs dealing with reptiles. John enjoys sharing his expertise and his audiences always receive an awareness, knowledge, sensitivity, and appreciation for the snakes of the world.
Sincerely,
Jim Dunlap
(Curator —Plano ISD Living Materials Center)


        You did a great job and as you could tell by the squeals, laughter, etc... They were also listening because I heard the kids saying "they have the intelligence of a styrofoam cup"! I have always been scared of critters and my husband didn't believe I held Squash! I know everyone enjoyed it.
Stacy Bradshaw
(3rd grade room mom —Akin Elementary School)


John,
        The snakes were some of the kid's favorite part of the entire night --
Thanks again for a great night --
Shannon McMahon
(Children's Director I —Fellowship of the Parks)


Mr. Hunter,
        Thank you for taking the time to talk to our students. It appears as though you have corrected many of their myths. I thought the snakes were cool, and so did the students. We appreciate your generosity and once again want to thank you for sharing your wealth of information.
Thanks,
Chad Wittrock
(Science Department —Lamar Middle School)


Dear John,
        The kids are still talking about you! Great job! Thanks so much. You not only taught them about reptiles, but also about a clear head & clear thoughts. It was perfect.
Truly yours,
Pattie Cimaglia
(Principle —St. Cecilia Catholic School)


John,
        Thanks again, you were a big hit!
Best,
Leigh Koch



Suggested Reading…
  • A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians
    of Eastern & Central North America
    (Peterson Field Guide Series) by Roger Conant, Joseph T. Collins, Isabelle Hunt Conant -Artist, Tom R. Johnson -Artist, Suzanne L. Collins –Photographer
    ISBN: 0395904528 -Houghton Mifflin Co.
    This is probably the best Field Guide for our area. There are other books with prettier pictures, but this guide and the companion guide,
    A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians:
    Field Marks of All Species in Western North America, Including Baja California

    by Robert C. Stebbins (ISBN: 039593611X) have long been considered the most accurate source(s) of information about North American Reptiles and Amphibians.

So you think you want a pet snake... !CLICK HERE!

Amphibians and Reptiles of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
by Terry Hibbitts

Venomous Snakes of Texas
Resourced by Gerald Keown

*Presentations with venomous snakes may only be made by special arrangement and may not always be available. 60 days advance notice is required as these snakes must be obtained from an outside source.

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