Meet Max, the Science Center Snake

Photo by Lauren Canna/The Choate News

Photo by Lauren Canna/The Choate News

For six years, Mr. Benjamin Small, Head of the Science Department, has courageously lived in the same quarters as a corn snake, a pet not usually seen around campus. Mr. Small’s snake, named Max, has inhabited the Science Center for six years. Last week, Mr. Small agreed to comment on his scaly companion.

How long have you owned Max? What type of species is he? The pet snake was given to the science department six years ago by the grandson of a former teacher. Max is a corn snake, which is a very common snake throughout the United States.

Where does Max live? Max currently lives in the second floor of the science center. His home is displayed through glass so that students may watch him. Sometimes students will ask me or others to take him out and hold him, and we let people do that.

What are some advantages of having Max? A lot of students are curious about Max, and I want our science building to be a place that has many interesting things in it. I want students to be inspired and curious about the natural world. That’s why he’s in the science building, and that’s why he’s on display there.

Do you think there are any disadvantages? There aren’t many drawbacks towards keeping Max. Someone has to clean his cage, which is what I do, and feed him. He eats mice about once a week, which means I have to purchase mice, raise them, and kill them specifically for Max. It’s a little bit of an ethical issue: killing all those mice to feed a snake. But aside from that, there aren’t many drawbacks. He is very easy to take care of.

People often feel insecure around snakes; how do others react towards the pet? Some people do have a very strong aversion to snakes, but they don’t have to hold him or pet him, and, even if someone did, he’s not dangerous. I think, actually, when I’ve brought him into classes, there are students that are sometimes squeamish, but then, by actually interacting with Max, students can sometimes get over their squeamishness. I’ve seen students come over and say, “I’m afraid, but maybe can I pet him?” and they’ll touch him really gently. After a while, they’ll ask, “Can I hold him?” Maybe, with some familiarity and time, some students can get over that fear and see that he’s just another animal.

Has Max ever bit anyone? He bit me one time, but he has never bitten anyone else. It was completely my own fault. I had been handling mice, so my hands smelled like mice when I went in to feed him. I just reached in, and he bit my finger. His teeth are incredibly small — probably less than a millimeter long. So it didn’t really hurt very much.

What would be an interesting encounter with Max? The most interesting story is probably the time when Max escaped and disappeared in the science building. He was missing for almost a month. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find him, and then he just came back. We found him on a teacher’s desk — right next to his cage. He basically came home. He was very hungry and very thirsty.

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