Florida Sportsman's Expo, Tamp FL Sept 22-23
During the weekend of September 22-23rd, 2012, the Suncoast and Southwest Florida CISMAs teamed up to host a "Don't Let it Loose" exhibit at the Florida Sportsman's Expo in Tampa. The Florida Sportsman Expos are staged like a three-ring circus for anglers, boaters and hunters. The Expos feature continuous seminar stages, casting ponds, kids' events, a hands-on rigging table, free fly- and net-casting lessons, the newest line-up of boats of all sizes and exhibits by Florida's Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and other groups.
On Saturday, Cynthia Grizzle (Suncoast Chair) and Brett Gorman from the Suncoast CISMA; and Ian Bartoszek and Erin Myers from SWF CISMA set up the exhibit, dispensed invasive reptile identification and reporting handouts, spoke with numerous children about exotic species and informed people about pythons in South Florida. We were pleasantly surprised about the number of people who were already aware of pythons invading the Everglades, but we were still able to educate about the size of these reptiles (with the help of a 15ft python skin) and how they were impacting native wildlife and habitats. During the afternoon, Brian Pavlina, with the Suncoast CISMA, brought in a live 7ft albino Burmese python, Savannah monitor lizard and Sulcata tortoise for people to touch and learn about the biology of these species. For several attendees, this was a first time to touch and learn about reptiles. With over 1000 attendees and 80 vendors attending this event, I believe we were able to teach several individuals, especially children, about choosing pets wisely and "Don't Let it Loose"!
Erin Myers with Lauren Heath: Her first snake encounter