Event makes learning ‘possum’ble

  • An opossum was one of the animal visitors that came to the Williston Library on July 6.

The Williston Library has several books about animals, but children got an up-close lesson on reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals last week.

Sean Poppy from the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL) visited the library on July 6 as part of the ABBE Regional Library System’s Summer Reading Program. He previously visited the Barnwell and Blackville libraries.

“They don’t want to bother us,” said Poppy of how most animals are afraid of humans and typically do not attack unless provoked or threatened.

One of the reptiles Poppy brought was a glass lizard, which is a long, slender and legless lizard that resembles a snake. Unlike snakes, glass lizards have moveable eyelids, external ear openings and inflexible jaws, he said.

Poppy also showed the children two young alligators that are siblings. One was eight months old while the other is about three years older. Their mother is nine feet long and the father is 13 feet long. Poppy explained differences between the two, including how the youngest one has about two more years before the mother will kick it out.

An owl was the next guest and it gazed at the crowd of youngsters as it swiveled its head. They turn their heads because their eyeballs are fixed to their skulls. While owls have a very poor sense of smell, Poppy said they have great vision.

As he moved on to mammals, Poppy introduced an opossum, which he said has a good sense of smell. He said the marsupial is also a good climber due to having a thumb on each feet as well as its strong tail. “They clean up the environment,” said Poppy of how possums eat trash.

The last animal was a coyote that was almost dead when Poppy found it on the side of the road five years ago. He said coyotes in South Carolina are a mix after western coyotes came here and mated with dogs and wolves.

Poppy reminded the children to never feed wild animals because it puts the animal and human in danger.

The public is invited to get an close look at reptiles, amphibians, plants and more during Touch an Animal Day on Saturday, August 26. It will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the SREL conference center on Highway 278 in New Ellenton.

For more information on the event, go to facebook.com/UGASREL or email outreach@srel.uga.edu.