‘Creature Feature’ draws crowd at Midland Library

Snakes alive! Take a look at the reptiles Steve Lattanzi brought in for his fascinating shot-and-tell …

Steve Lattanzi of “Steve’s Creature Feature Show” introduces his Gaboon viper.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Everyone there – from little tykes to grandparents – were delighted, or troubled, or downright squeamish, when “Steve’s Creature Feature Show” came to visit the Midland  Library not long ago. The creatures in question were reptiles.

As he prepared for his program, Steve Lattanzi told us, “I’ve been interested in herpetology, specializing in venomous species, for 30 years. For about 17 years now, I’ve been doing these shows.”

Lattanzi said he’s been fascinated with dinosaurs ever since he was two or three years old. “Then, I was fortunate enough to find my niche in life about 17 years ago. I love every aspect of it; even cage cleaning”

Faith Barbie and Colby Lukesh hold get an up-close visit with a Honduran milk snake.

He brings his unusual world of reptiles to audiences in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, Lattanzi mentioned and even started his own private reptile zoo 20 years ago.

“I got a degree in herpetology, and I’m working on a degree in entomology. I’ve studied biology. I guess you could say that I love studying animals.”

As Lattanzi started his show – asking everyone to stay behind the tape line on the floor – he showed three venomous snakes: A King Cobra, a Gaboon Viper and a Western diamondback Rattlesnake.

Because it’s heavy, Lattanzi advises young helpers simply to “hug” his albino Burmese python.

Its rattles were sounding as Lattanzi carefully showed the Western diamondback Rattlesnake. “80% of rattlesnake bites happen because the person chose to interact with the rattlesnake. He would rather hide and then bite you. And a rattlesnake calculates how much venom, if any, to inject in the person or animal is attacking.

“It’s true: Even a dead rattlesnake, if touched, can still attack, because its autonomic nervous system keeps working hours after its brain no longer functions.”

Then he brought out Joanna, his Komodo dragon. “This lizard can run up to 30 miles per hour.”

The show became tamer as he invited guests to wear a Honduran Milk Snake as a bracelet or necklace. And, it took a dozen kids at a time to “hug” Steve’s albino Burmese python.

Lattanzi’s American alligator waves “hello” to kids and adults attending the program.

Only the brave ventured up, at the end of his program, to pet his American alligator. “They can exceed 12 feet in length, and travel as fast as 15 miles per hour on land,” he said.

Packing up his scaly friends, Lattanzi commented, “For me, this started in grade school as an interest; as an adult, turned into a passion. Thank you for coming.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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