While completing his Masters in Science in Biology, Larry took a side job for a snake removal company. He noted that it is against the Virginia law to relocate snakes so unfortunately the first course of action by these businesses is to destroy the snakes that have come into people’s dwellings and outbuildings. He is constantly looking for opportunities to share the important role that snakes play in the environment. “A couple of snakes in your yard will take care of your rodent population,” he said. “If you have chickens, snakes will make sure your hen house is free of rodents,” he noted. “If they take an egg or two once in a while, it seems like a fair exchange for their protection,” he said with a grin.
When and how did you become interested in nature and the natural world?
“My earliest memory of nature was dinosaurs,” Larry stated. “They looked so much like dragons.” This led to a love of reptiles of all kinds. There was a particular park his family visited frequently that he recalled being “filled with lizards.” He was not allowed by his mother to bring any home – but one day he caught a lizard, put it in a cup, and snuck it into their car. Unfortunately the lizard jumped out of the cup and he couldn’t find it. He has a vivid memory of what happened next. “Two days later my mother was eating fast food in the car while waiting for his father to run an errand on base and the lizard jumped up into her lap, “ Larry said. “My mother threw her French fries into the air and screamed.”
Describe what you do on your property to support a healthy ecosystem.
Larry and his wife live in Glen Allen, about 20 minutes from Richmond. While the 295 interstate is close by, his home is in a wooded area where it is easy to get out and enjoy nature. “I’ve stopped raking leaves,” Larry said, explaining the importance of letting leaf debris decompose into a natural soil amenity. One of his best friends is a leader in the Virginia Native Plant Society and is urging Larry to plant natives on his land. “I know he would be a consultant – and might actually offer to do the planting for me,” Larry said with a smile. He definitely wants to make part of his yard a place for Monarch butterflies. “Their life cycle is simply amazing,” he stated, “and I’d like to be part of the effort to create the habitat they need to survive and thrive.”
What is the most amazing thing you have experienced in nature?
One of the most amazing moments in nature he experienced was when he and his wife were on vacation at Bethany Beach Delaware. It is normal to see pods of dolphins out in the distance on the Atlantic coast from a beach, but what was really amazing was when he was swimming and dove under water, he could hear the dolphins calling and making sounds. “It was so neat to actually hear them under water as they were chatting away and communicating, probably organizing hunting or who knows” he related. “But that was an amazing experience.”
What is something you would like to share with ORMN members?
Larry serves as the Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Virginia Herpetological Society (“a one-man show”) where he is an advocate and liaison with the community. He is also on the educational outreach committee and travels all over Virginia, giving talks, tabling at various events, meeting with educators, outreach coordinators, and others to share his knowledge of snakes and to help more people appreciate the invaluable role they plan in the natural world. He has presented to a number of Master Naturalist chapters in Virginia as well as given talks to preschools, and emergency management certification courses on snake bite treatment and venomous snake identification to help them better understand the physiology, behavior and value of snakes in Virginia.
This liaison role led to Larry appointment as stakeholder to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources planning group, which was charged with developing a plan to encourage people to view wildlife. “VDWR never had a position or information on viewing wildlife so the planning group asked a researcher from Virginia Institute of Technology (VTEC) to help. With the help of this VTEC researcher we developed a statewide plan with goals and milestones that were published in 2021,” Larry explained. He is very proud to have been a part of this effort and looks forward to more opportunities to give back to the community.
Interviewed by Charlene Uhl, January 2023
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.