2024 Annual Meeting

“Snakes of the World and New England” presented by Rick Roth of Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

A group of Acton Conservation Trust board members waited in the parking lot of Acton Town Hall on Sunday, March 17 for Rick Roth, president of Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team (CAVPT). CAVPT’s mission states: “Our focus is vernal ponds. The issue is the preservation of wildlife habitat, which is ultimately about the health of the planet.” Rick was to be the guest speaker at ACT’s Annual Meeting, featuring “Snakes of the World and New England,” and he was bringing 25 snakes plus a few volunteers. 

Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team van with mission statement
Timber Rattlesnake, native to Massachusetts

Introductions were made to Rick and volunteers Emily, Zachary, Erica, Nuala and Megan. As the van’s rear door opened, two clear plastic locked snake boxes fell out. Locked, because they contained the timber rattler and copperhead snakes, two venomous snakes found in Massachusetts. Boxes and snakes were both fine! We transported three large coolers of snakes and a big hook at the end of a long pole, for “wrestling out of control big snakes.” Hopefully we wouldn’t need it. 

The meeting followed an agenda: a short business meeting to re-elect officers, then the presentation of the Carol Holley Conservation Award for outstanding contributions to the environment. Our recipient this year was John Watlington. John is a member of the Land Steward Committee and can be found throughout Acton conservation lands, combating invasives and clearing trails of fallen trees. In the past year he has cleared 60 trees from Acton trails! Bruce Rachman, a previous Holley award winner and fellow Land Steward Committee member introduced John and described his many accomplishments over the years. 

L-R Board members Nan Millett (former), Hart Millett and Pam Resor
Aye! Vote for officers was unanimous
Board members Dave Hardt, Susan Mitchell-Hardt, Joanne Bissetta
Hart relays ACT’s financial report with board members in the background
L-R Bruce introduces John for the Holley award
Bruce and John with the Holley award
Bruce Rachman and John Watlington

Dave Hardt introduced our newest land protection project: Preserving Wetherbee Woods, the Agricultural Gateway to Acton.   To learn more about Wetherbee Woods read page 2 of our 2024 ACT Newsletter

Dave discusses the Wetherbee Woods project
Wetherbee Woods poster

We had a nice crowd at this point, about 90 to 100 people, many of whom were children eager to see the animals. Rick introduced himself to the audience as “200 pounds of rompin’, stompin’ dynamite!” He began by pulling snakes out of his self-described “fashionable clothing,” which contained lots of cargo pockets for stowing snakes. Rick modeled each snake as he told us a bit about it. Massachusetts has 14 native snakes, including the two venomous snakes mentioned earlier. As Rick moved on to each snake in his presentation, he handed off the previous snake to a CAVPT volunteer so people could get a much more personal view if desired. For most of the snakes brought to the meeting, the rule was to not touch their heads, as animals find this aggressive behavior. There were also several small baby snakes, which were in clear plastic deli containers. Of course he asked us not to open the containers! 

Many of the young attendees enjoyed the front row view
Rick “The Snakeman” Roth and friends

A few of the snakes we saw included: Evelyn the white-lipped python which is iridescent in sunlight, Maryann, a long, heavy boa constrictor, a red and black eastern hognose, a dark red and white albino milk snake with colorful rings, a smooth green snake with a yellow belly, a gopher snake, a diamond python, Reggie the albino reticulated python, a ring-necked snake, a timber rattler,and a copperhead. 

Eventually, Rick’s volunteers were all engaged with a snake, so Rick asked for volunteers from the audience. Enthusiasm was the main criteria, and we had volunteers from eight to eighty. Soon, all twenty-five snakes were being shared around the room, from the young snakes in containers, to the two venomous snakes in plastic boxes to 8 or 10-foot long pythons and boa constrictors. At this point the meeting took a delightful turn (if you like touching snakes) and the audience was invited to participate! Children, parents, ACT members and trustees were all holding snakes. While it was a wild and wonderful ending to our Annual Meeting, our hope is that this joyous introduction to snakes will inspire a young generation focused on the environment and the health of our planet. 

Photo credits: Susan Mitchell-Hardt, Dave Hardt, Leona Burgess, Barb Ryan, Alissa Nicol, Brewster Conant Jr., Jody Harris