By Sara Prall
The smiling man gently held the large, hairy spider aloft and invited the startled students to pet it. He said to think of it “as an eight-legged puppy.”
The tarantula — a breed of bugs that usually strikes terror into the hearts of wilderness travelers and couch potatoes alike — is friendly when domesticated, and also has very soft fur, the animal expert said.
Even so, it took a little while for some students to become convinced that all was safe and the huge spider could be treated like a house pet when the college held a free showing of “Snakes Alive!” in the galleria.
Animal expert Tom Kessenich also brought along an iguana, an alligator and many snakes.
Students greeted him with excitement, intrigue, or even fear when the visit took place on 9/25.
Clearly fascinated by these creatures, students listened to him, drawn in by the amazing facts that he had to tell about these commonly misunderstood animals.
The host animatedly invited the SCCC community to join in and interact with these animals, clearly excited to share his love with the world.
A big crowd pleaser was an alligator — named Itty Bitty Gator — which is not a baby alligator, even though most people think that’s what it is at first.
He is a 10-year-old alligator, and although most of his kind reach great lengths, he is not quite four feet long. Cromer explained that the reason for Itty Bitty Gator’s stunted growth is his metabolism.
He was raised in the northern part of the US, and gators like warm climates such as Florida. Since Itty Bitty Gator wasn’t raised in the warmer south, his metabolism slowed, causing him to stay very small.
Learning about reptiles helped many students to get over their fear of them, and some may have even fallen in love with them.