Exotic species part of Fort Discovery exhibit

Fort Discovery has a new live attraction.


The science center now offers a demonstration where patrons can watch several exotic species being fed.

They include Spot, a red-tail boa, which eats three live mice per feeding.

Joshua Bush, an interpreter at Fort Discovery, drops the mice into Spot's container with tongs. The snake catches and constricts the mice before swallowing them whole.

Red-tail boas are not venomous. Onlookers are allowed to touch the snake - when he's in a good mood, said Pam Schretzmann, another interpreter.

The collection of creatures also includes two leopard geckos: Popcorn and Crackerjack. Popcorn is albino, which makes it possible to see his internal organs.

"We get lots of Geico jokes," said Mrs. Schretzmann.

The other members of the animal menagerie are Fire and Ice, two Oriental Red-Bellied toads; Rosie, a Chilean Rose tarantula so fragile that the interpreters never handle it; and Queen, an emperor scorpion.

Grasshoppers and mealworms are the food of choice for the smaller creatures.

With the exception of the scorpion, they didn't eat much during Wednesday's feeding.

On Sunday, thousands of grasshoppers were accidentally released in the science center. Once caught, they were put into the cages, and feasting ensued.

The animals came to Fort Discovery for use in the summer camp Jeepies it's the Creepies. Instead of studying the animals on a computer, the instructors used live subject matter.

"We wanted to do something different. Kids love critters," Mrs. Schretzmann said.

The interpreters said most people are terrified of snakes, scorpions and the like because of the way they are often portrayed in movies.

"These are creatures that people normally fear," Mr. Bush said.

"We wanted to teach people to respect them."

The Fort Discovery feedings happen at noon every Wednesday. The animals are brought out into the museum on other days when there are large groups.

Reach Freda Smith at freda.smith@augustachronicle.com.