Will Waldenmaier, in the white T-shirt, and Joe Groves, right, pet a ball python Thursday during Ballard Elementary summer camp. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Ballard campers have a ball (python)

Published 3:17pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

With a 4-foot-long ball python wrapped around her forearm, zoologist Anna Pelc stood in front of a crowd of around 100 young campers.

“What does she eat?” asked a curious camper.

“Rats,” Pelc answered, eliciting a low groan of “ewwwws” from the group of kindergarten through fifth-graders Thursday in the Ballard Elementary School cafeteria.

Pelc’s visit coincided with the third week of the five-week camp. Campers meet four days a week for about five hours at the Niles school.

Many campers are doing research for a report on animals in addition to learning camp songs and how to tell campfire stories.

“We want it to feel more like camp and not like school, but they are still learning,” said camp instructor Pam Small.

Pelc, a zoologist at South Bend’s Potawatomi Zoo and Ballard alumna, brought with her “Katie,” the ball python, and an African spotted tortoise, from home.

Campers learned a few interesting facts about both reptiles, including that the tortoise could live to be more than 100 years old.

“It is going to be willed to our son,” Pelc said.

Pelc also explained a ball python gets its name because it balls up as a defense mechanism. The python eats a rat about once every two weeks.

Campers also learned tortoises are land dwellers, while turtles spend most of their life in the water.

Campers wrapped up the session by petting the python on the way out of the cafeteria.

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