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Rescue group educates public on snakes

Most people do not find snakes to be warm and cuddly, but Jason Clark with Southeastern Reptile Rescue hopes visitors to this year's Cherry Blossom Festival can learn enough about them to overcome their fears.

"Our goal is not to have people fall in love with snakes, but to learn to appreciate them, which will keep from getting bit," Clark said. "If you have no fear, it will cut down on chances of snake bites."

Located in the Man's Land section of the Cherry Blossom Festival, Clark, along with a number of his reptilian friends, will be on hand to teach visitors about the proper care of snakes, alligators and more.

Clark is licensed by the state Department of Natural Resources and operates Southeastern Reptile Rescue based in Griffin. He is often called upon to provide temporary shelter for reptiles that need rescuing. For instance, he was preparing to receive three alligators earlier this month from Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Newton County.

"We take in every kind of reptile imaginable," he said. "Currently, we have about 60 to 80 snakes on hand. About half of those are venomous and half of those are exotic venomous."

"I work closely with the DNR as well as animal control agencies, 911, fire and police. When they have an issue, I can help them remove animal," Clark said.

The majority of the exotic venomous snakes he has were confiscated from Georgia residents who simply were not licensed to keep the animals.

"Many people are just fascinated with them and the majority know what they're doing with them, I'm just legalized to take care of them," Clark said.

He said the animals he takes in are adopted to legal homes that can care for them, released back to the wild or kept by Southeastern Reptile Rescue for educational purposes.

Some of his educational programs will be on display this weekend at the Cherry Blossom Festival. Clark will have an interactive exhibit set up with a display of venomous snakes from Georgia, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths.

At 11 a.m. Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Sunday, he will have a live stage show where the animals will leave their cages and join him on stage.

"Most people don't like snakes and they just want to know what to do if they see one," Clark said.

His snake program is a bit different from others that simply put the attributes of snakes on display. Clark said he uses humor and comedy to engage his audience, which he says helps make them more receptive to the words of advice he offers.

For more on Clark and Southeastern Reptile Rescue, visit his booth in Man's Land or go online to www.snakesareus.com.