What likes to bite, scratch and pee?
Captain Bitty does all that and more, according to Brian Kristal, who showed the young snapping turtle off to the oohs and aahs of the youngsters at Hereford Library.
Pretzel, a large Burmese python, likes to eat whole chickens, and perhaps a small child or two, some may have thought. But those attending the Reptile Wonder show on a recent June weekend had no need to fear. The python only has to eat every three weeks, Kristal said, and Pretzel ate two weeks ago.
"He's heavy!" a youth yelled as Kristal and an intern, Ryan McGuirk, helped each child in attendance hold the 5-year-old snake.
Kristal is the owner of Reptile Wonders, a traveling nature center based in Carroll County. He takes care of 78 reptiles — 95 percent of them given to him by owners who no longer wanted their pets.
That's how Mr. T came to be part of Kristal's menagerie.
When Mr. T was 4-years old, Kristal received a call from his owner to come get a large African spurred tortoise. He took his biggest carrier out to the home to get the animal, and found, to his surprise, a small tortoise. Now 15, Mr. T is quite large and cumbersome with large scary-looking spurs on his legs that can dig 6-foot deep tunnels.
"Always read about them a bunch and make sure you can take good care of them," Kristal advised the youth about preparing for a new pet.
Ellie Carr, 5, recently found a little turtle outside and brought it home. The youth was thrilled to learn more about it.
"She's named Myrtle," Ellie said. "I love turtles."
Ellie's friend, Filip Pregels, 6, gave up his Taekwondo lesson to attend.
"I like reptiles," Filip said. "All of them. "
During his show, Kristal showed the crowd 10.5 reptiles including turtles, lizards and snakes. The .5 was a box turtle shell named Miss Maggie.
"She was meat in a bowl," Kristal said, as he allowed everyone to touch the backbone embedded in the shell. "Everybody is somebody's lunch."
This was the first time Kristal has brought his show to Hereford Library. As part of Baltimore County Public Library's summer reading program, "Fizz, Boom, READ," Kristal was hired to present his show at several branches around the county.
"This is a pretty high turnout," said Olivia Mirot, outreach coordinator librarian for Herford, of the 15 youth in attendance. "Children enjoy it and adults, too."
"We loved it .It was awesome," said Sindhu Moon, of the program, which she attended with her son, Logan, 6.
"He has animals," she said, of her son. "Since we live here in Monkton, we have a lot of animals in our yard."
"It was pretty good," Logan said. "I noticed the snakes were heavier than the turtles, though the bigger tortoise was probably heavier than the snakes."
Kristal likes to offer hands-on programs, he said, and he always has hand sanitizer available to wash up. And while some children did hide their faces, the majority held out their hands to touch the snake or stroke the tortoise shell.
"They are so soft," Filip said, of the animals. "I like it because we got to touch the animals."
He was quick to add it wasn't the first time he has touched a snake.
"Last year I petted a bigger snake," he said.
All of the animals are used to Kristal and his staff, Kristal said, though he stressed that the animals are not trained, but tolerant. If he finds an animal not quite itself at a show, he won't bring it out. He brings different animals to different shows based on the age and attendance expected.
"For a younger crowd, I bring animals easier to work with," Kristal said.