Christopher Smith holds Jade, a green tree python.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Seven-year-old Christopher Smith had a grin on his face as Jade, a green tree python, curled around him and popped up behind his head.
Jade, and a half dozen or so other exotic creatures from Uncharted Wild of Troy, N.Y., had a roomful of children oohing and aahing at the library on Thursday. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the North Adams Public Library as part of the programming for the February school vacation.
Adam Bornt, owner of Uncharted Wild, said he brought a skinny snake, a short snake and a very long snake.
"For the long and skinny snake, I need a very, very brave helper," he said. One jumped up but when Bornt handed him heavy gloves and said it was venomous, he changed his mind.
Christopher, of Pittsfield, quickly took his place, put on the gloves, took the snake tool and was ready.
"Now, if you see a venomous snake in the wild do you pick it up with your bare hands or do you pick it up with tools and gloves," Bornt asked the children.
"Tools and gloves!" they all responded. "Nooo!" he said. "You leave it alone!"
He joked to Christopher that something weird was going on, because "I just told all these adults I'm about to give a kid a venomous snake, and no one's tried to stop me. They're either very confident in me or they're confident in you."
The snake, of course, was not venomous but the very bright green and curious 15-year-old Jade, who proceeded to investigate Christopher.
"They smell with their tongues, they don't smell with their nose like we do," Bornt explained. "They breathe with their nose holes, and they keep their mouth closed. ...
"She does not have what we call a 'personal bubble.'"
And then there was chunky Butters, a yellow and white ball python whose unique patterning included a couple yellow hearts, and Maya, an 8-foot boa constrictor that four or five children got to hold at a time. He also had a giant bullfrog, a tortoise, a couple walking sticks, and Big Lou, blue tongue skink that enjoyed making a mess of 8-year-old Julia Daly's hair.
And Norman, an 18-pound black and white tegue Bornt rescued when he began outgrowing a small fish tank in the Bronx, N.Y., within six months.
"He went from two pounds 12 pounds in a single year," said Bornt. "They are very big, very fast growing animals."
The tegues are South American cousins of the Komodo dragon, the largest of the lizards, and do well in warm climates.
"These guys are quickly becoming the biggest invasive problem in Florida," Bornt explained. "Because the big snakes they are finding really only like living in the humid environment of the Everglades. This thing can take down something three times its size, it's not scared of humans, it'll go right up on your porch and eat your cat."
Norman wasn't particularly frightening though, with his big pink tongue that regularly whipped out of his mouth. Bornt described him as a "big chubby, friendly baby," but a baby with long claws and fast feet.
He spent nearly 45 minutes showing the animals and explaining about them — how they weren't particularly dangerous to children and how they lived in the wild. The kids were at times enthralled, laughing and had correct answers to many of the questions he asked.
"The reason we went with reptiles is that it is a popular one when kids are coming to check out books, and they're asking for snakes or turtles or whatever," said Sara Russell-Scholl, youth services librarian. "So when we were looking for our February break program, I had heard from the youth services librarian in Pittsfield that Adam did a great job. ...
"We had such a huge response to the event that we actually yesterday decided to open up a second show."
She said children seemed to go through a nonfiction phase between second and fourth grade.
"They just want all that information, you know. So animals is one of those things I think they look for," she said.
Christopher said he liked to learned about snakes. "I catch garter snakes a lot," he said. "And I like pythons, boa constrictors."
Julia wasn't too sure about her relationship with Big Lou, and a little surprised because she couldn't see what Bornt was setting on her head, thinking at first it was one of the walking sticks.
"It was a lot bit scary," she said. Julia did, however, like the last animal Bornt pulled out: Lola, a chinchilla.
"I like the fluffy and soft better," she said.
Lola is exceeding soft and has 70 hairs to her hair base compared to humans' one. She was an immediate favorite when she was pulled out at the end, with her black eyes and vibrating whiskers. Bornt said he didn't dare let her down because she was fast and an expert parkour.
Only about 6,000 chinchillas are still in the wild, down from millions, but he said they are such popular pets now that they're save from extinction.
The reptiles were still the stars of the show and the children lined up afterward for the few minutes in between presentations to hold or touch them.
"I love how he sort of tried to bust some of the myths that people might have about reptiles," said Russell-Scholl. "You know, that's a really nice way to connect people to animal they might feel funny about."
It was enough for one adult to overcome her fear of snakes to reach out and touch Maya — even if just briefly.
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CARES Act Offers Help for Investors, Small Businesses
Submitted by Edward Jones
As we go through the coronavirus crisis, we are all, first and foremost, concerned about the health of our loved ones and communities. But the economic implications of the virus have also weighed heavily on our minds.
However, if you're an investor or a business owner, you just got some help from Washington – and it could make a big difference, at least in the short term, for your financial future. Specifically, the passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act offers, among other provisions, the following:
* Expanded unemployment benefits: The CARES Act provides $250 billion for extended unemployment insurance, expands eligibility and provides workers with an additional $600 per week for four months, in addition to what state programs pay. The package will also cover the self-employed, independent contractors and "gig economy" workers. Obviously, if your employment has been affected, these benefits can be a lifeline. Furthermore, the benefits could help you avoid liquidating some long-term investments you’ve earmarked for retirement just to meet your daily cash flow needs.
* Direct payments: Individuals will receive a one-time payment of up to $1,200; this amount is reduced for incomes over $75,000 and eliminated altogether at $99,000. Joint filers will receive up to $2,400, which will be reduced for incomes over $150,000 and eliminated at $198,000 for joint filers with no children. Plus, taxpayers with children will receive an extra $500 for each dependent child under the age of 17. If you don't need this money for an immediate need, you might consider putting it into a low-risk, liquid account as part of an emergency fund.
* No penalty on early withdrawals: Typically, you would have to pay a 10 percent penalty on early withdrawals from IRAs, 401(k)s and similar retirement accounts. Under the CARES Act, this penalty will be waived for individuals who qualify for COVID-19 relief and/or in plans that allow COVID-19 distributions. Withdrawals will still be taxable, but the taxes can be spread out over three years. Still, you might want to avoid taking early withdrawals, as you’ll want to keep your retirement accounts intact as long as possible.
* Suspension of required withdrawals: Once you turn 72, you will be required to take withdrawals from your traditional IRA and 401(k). The CARES Act waives these required minimum distributions for 2020. If you're in this age group, but you don't need the money, you can let your retirement accounts continue growing on a tax-deferred basis.
* Increase of retirement plan loan limit: Retirement plan investors who qualify for COVID-19 relief can now borrow up to $100,000 from their accounts, up from $50,000, provided their plan allows loans. We recommend that you explore other options, such as the direct payments, to bridge the gap on current expenses and if you choose to take a plan loan work with your financial adviser to develop strategies to pay back these funds over time to reduce any long-term impact to your retirement goals.
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