The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Boy alerts playmates to snake
By LAURA L. HUTCHISON
Mekhi Brown just finished first grade, but he has far more than an elementary knowledge of reptiles.
That knowledge helped keep him and some of his friends safe from what he believed was a venomous snake that found its way into his family’s Spotsylvania County yard.
“The kids were out playing in the yard,” said Rhonda Brown, who was watching her son and some other children who thought they’d found a skink near the edge of the yard in the Holleybrooke subdivision off Courthouse Road. “Mekhi came over and said, ‘That’s not a skink. Get away. That’s a dangerous snake!’”
At first, the other children didn’t believe him.
“They didn’t listen at first,” Mekhi said. “I just backed up and pulled them with me.”
Brown enlisted help from a man nearby, who dispatched the snake.
Mekhi said he thought the 3-foot-long juvenile snake was a copperhead. A friend in school told him that a snake with X’s (or hourglass shapes) on it could be a copperhead. He also knew that snakes with triangular heads were ones to avoid, as they are often venomous.
Though this snake was a nonvenomous Eastern garter snake, according to J.D. Kleopfer of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, copperheads are common in Virginia, and wildlife officials say children should be taught not to touch or approach any wild creatures.
“Snakes are just like most any other animal; if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone,” Kleopfer said. “And contrary to folklore, they do not chase people. Nine-hundred ninety-nine times out of 1,000, most snake encounters are with harmless, nonvenomous snakes.”
Even so, people should not attempt to pick up a snake with their hands.
“Too many ‘Animal Planet’ biologists end up getting bit, thinking they know how to handle a snake,” he said.
Mekhi is a fan of “Animal Planet,” but he knew not to touch the snake and to keep his friends away from it.
“I watch ‘Animal Planet’ and animal movies,” he said. “I check out animal books from the library at school.
“Did you know that there’s a cobra that can spit its venom, and blind you? For real. Watch out for that spit.”
Snakes aren’t his only area of interest. Mekhi also loves other reptiles, insects and dinosaurs.
“I know every dinosaur. Well, not every, but most. You want me to tell you about them?” Mekhi asks, before launching into a spiel about pterosaurs (bird-like dinosaurs), velociraptors and Tyrannosaurus rex.
Mekhi wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. For now, though, he’ll keep studying up on those dinosaurs and pondering questions such as, “I wonder if an anaconda could swallow a Komodo dragon whole?”
His mom and friends are happy that he’s continuing to build his knowledge of the natural world.
“They were out the other day,” Brown said, “and one of the girls said, ‘Be careful, and if you’re not sure if it’s something dangerous, we’ll get Mekhi.’ They know Mekhi will save them.”
Laura L. Hutchison: