Students get a look at the wild side during exotic creature presentation

Tuesday, Mar 06, 2012 06:00 am | JENNIFER ISAAC
Andrew Crossett/Mountain View Gazette
Andrew Crossett/Mountain View Gazette
Reed Ranch student Christopher Johnson takes a closer look at an albino boa constrictor as Korbin Cornell feels it during Dean Harper's Wrappin About Reptiles presentation at the school last Tuesday. Students learned about the proper way to care for exotic critters.
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Students at Reed Ranch School had a chance to pet some exotic creatures recently, during a reptile presentation in the school’s gym.

Dean Harper, owner of the Olds-based organization, Wrappin About Reptiles, brought an assortment of breathable plastic totes containing turtles, snakes and lizards to display to the enamored students and staff.

“This is so cool,” one Grade 5 student said, as Harper “walked” each animal through the gym, inviting them to feel the snakes and turtles. A few of the visiting adults decided to simply observe as the animals passed by.

“I like to provide a hands-on education that informs the public in an entertaining atmosphere,” said Harper. “In our travels, we have visited thousands of children and adults across Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We talk about the benefits of reptiles, their loss of habitat and endangered species.

“Most importantly, we discuss the conservation of all wildlife.”

The students were spellbound when Harper brought out an albino boa that wrapped itself around his arm.

“Lots of boa owners get hurt by their boa because what they do is put it up around their neck,” he said. “Of the 2,800 different types of snakes on the planet, you should not do this with it. If you put this snake around your neck, you will not be breathing for long. The power of this animal is amazing.”

Harper then displayed to the students how the snake was holding him. “I’m not holding the snake,” he said. “That’s what makes him so dangerous. He’s stronger than I am.”

Harper started his company in 1995, with a small family of reptiles and amphibians and a mission to educate the public. “I wanted to dispel the myths surrounding these creatures,” he said.

He explained that the initials in his company name spell out WAR. “I’m waging a war on the misinformation and misunderstanding of these animals,” he added.

Currently, his collection contains more than 250 reptiles and exotics.

“We’re always adding more and one day we hope to have one of the largest collections in North America,” he said.

Harper has worked in the film and television industry, providing reptiles for shows that include Animal Planet, Great Big Saturday Morning and The Movie Show. He also has supplied exotic creatures for commercial work and print ads.

At the school, Harper brought out a royal python for the students to observe. “People call them ball pythons,” he said. “The reason they call him a ball python is because when he feels threatened, it sticks its head inside its body, kind of like an armadillo does, and rolls itself into a tight ball to protect its space.”

He also displayed a snapping turtle and a corn snake, which was a crowd favourite for its “cuteness.”

“My biggest thing is, I’m able to bring the field trip to the school,” Harper said. “These are animals the students are not going to see in zoos or pet stores.

“If I can help just one person to see the usefulness and beauty in a reptile, then I have succeeded.”


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