Scientists and farmers teamed up this week to teach kids about all the critters that live on and around a farm – including salamanders! Kim and JD were at the annual Farm Field Day in Glade Spring, VA, where more than 300 local 6th graders learned about everything from corn to canebrake rattlesnakes. As a state herpetologist, JD taught the kids about some of his favorite local species, from bog turtles to Yonahlossee salamanders. Some of the kids were surprised to learn that there are only two species of venomous snakes in southwest Virginia, the copperhead and timber rattlesnake. While many people mistake harmless water snakes for venomous cottonmouths, these latter snakes are only found in the southeastern part of the state.
Kim borrowed an ‘ambassador’ hellbender from Buller Fish Hatchery (home of a state-run hellbender conservation program), and it was a HUGE hit at the farm. It was the first time many of the kids had ever seen one of these giant salamanders, but many had stories of their relatives inadvertently catching hellbenders on fishing hooks. The kids learned that hellbenders are NOT poisonous or dangerous, and that it’s illegal to keep them as pets. By the end of the day we had 300 enthusiastic kids ready to help protect salamanders in southwest Virginia.