From television appearances to classroom presentations, Jamestown Community College alumna Candace Luce is working to save her scaled friends and the reputation of what she calls "the reptile community."
On Tuesday, Luce, with eight years of snake-handling experience under her belt, visited JCC associate professor Jan Bowman's conservation biology class to educate students on what she is currently doing to save endangered species of snakes in New York state, like the timber rattlesnake, and also to raise awareness about the illegal reptile trade.
"It's important for people to know that illegal snakes are being sold without proper permits," Luce said. "I believe these sellers are going to end up giving the reptile community a bad name because they're selling carelessly and these snakes are getting into the wrong hands - people who've seen the Crocodile Hunter and think they can handle a venomous snake - until they get bitten and possibly die."
Candace Luce is shown displaying various reptiles to Jan Bowman’s conservation biology class?Tuesday at JCC. Luce, a JCC?graduate, works with the wildlife education group Scales and Tails.
P-J photos by Chad Gustafson
Luce, who works with the Rochester-based wildlife education group Scales and Tails, recently appeared on the CBS program "Inside Edition" to demonstrate how to properly handle a green mamba - one of the deadliest snakes in the world - much in the way she would educate law enforcement agencies in handling venomous snakes.
"We do a lot of educational programs at schools and also with law enforcement," she said. "If they go in and bust a drug house or something like that and perhaps come across a rattlesnake or a cobra, they have to know how to identify what they're dealing with and know what to do about it. That's one of the big things we do at Scales and Tails."
Luce's boss, wildlife educator Tom Hudak, requested that Luce be in charge of the television demonstration given that she has the most experience working with the deadly green mamba.
"I was really against them having a mamba on television," Luce told Bowman's class. "You've probably heard the word mamba and know that it's a deadly snake but they're also the quickest venomous snake and they spook extremely easily. To have it on television with all the lights and cameras I thought was a very bad idea, but Tom asked me to do it because I have experience with mambas and he actually does not."
Luce spoke to students about her television appearance and her eight years of experience with snakes - which includes an internship at the Buffalo Zoo, a second internship with Hudak at Scales and Tails and a third at a venom extraction lab in Florida, among others. Currently she said she is working with Scales and Tails and also with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, helping monitor the state's declining timber rattlesnake population.
Tuesday's presentation was particularly enjoyable, she said, because she was able to visit her alma mater and present for a past professor of hers.
"It's great to be able to come back to Jan's class and talk to students about what I've done and what I've accomplished while at JCC and since graduating," Luce said. "And I want them to know that no matter what they want to do, they can do it."
Bowman said that she was proud of Luce's television appearance and wanted to get Luce into her classroom before she moved to Florida to continue pursuing a degree in zoology, which Luce said she will be doing in the upcoming weeks.
"Candace had been a student of mine for several years," Bowman said. "I oversaw her internship working with the timber rattlesnake and also at the venom extraction lab, helping her get those set up. We've learned a lot from Candace so it's great to get her into our class."