Area youngsters get a feel for reptiles in zoo’s library demonstration

The Blue-Tongued Skink was one of several Reptiles on hand during “Leapin’ Lizards” Monday at Clovis-Carver Public Library. The program was a hands-on program by the zoo to teach kids about amphibians and reptiles. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

When Clovis’ Becky Huerta was a little girl, she said she brought home a wagon load of frogs and dumped them in her mother’s bathtub.

Her mother was not in the tub at the time, but that didn’t stop her from screaming when she discovered the romping amphibians.

Huerta said one of her sons has inherited her fascination with critters.

“Jayce brings home bugs, frogs, reptiles … you name it,” she said. “He gets it from me.”

Jayce Huerta, 6, his brother Jacob, 11, and Becky Huerta were among dozens on hand at Monday’s Leapin’ Lizards demonstration at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

Clovis zoo curator Mark Yannotti and zookeeper Mike Burns brought the honored guests, most of whom had scaly skin and tails.

As Yannotti spoke of the care and caution needed for reptiles and amphibians, a slimy tree frog squirmed from his hands, a sophisticated skink stuck out its blue tongue, and Yanotti’s wrist became coiled in a slinky snake.

The children could touch the snake — if they wanted to.

“It feels like my leather jacket,” said Nate Carter, 12.

“It’s just like a baby’s skin with some bumps,” said Amanda Pratt, 9.

Others found the lizards the coolest, especially Yannotti’s favorite part of the presentation — Joanna, the Nile monitor.

“It gets my adrenaline going to walk her around the room,” Yannotti said of the 2-foot beast. “I always have to bring one that’s big and bad.”

One youngster expected to see creatures even bigger and badder.

“She wanted to come because she thought there’d be an elephant,” Sarah Struthers said of her daughter Melissa Struthers, 3, who attended the event with her brother, 5-year-old David Struthers. Melissa Struthers promptly forgot about the elephant, however, when confronted with the snake, which she said she liked because it was beautiful.

Others were more enamored with the frog or the tortoise, like 9-year-old Emmaly Fogerson whose favorite animal is the turtle.

“My mom gets me turtle things, like a turtle beanbag and a turtle pillow,” Emmaly said.

Although reptiles and amphibians are notoriously quiet — save for the telltale warning of the rattler — the room did erupt in yelling and laughter when Yannotti walked around with a python.

“See how much noise a snake can make,” he said.