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Success dependent upon many

July 15, 2016
Vanessa McGuigan - Chronicle Staff , Shepherdstown Chronicle

Children were full of questions and delight at a Shepherdstown Library's summer program called, Critters and Conservation, as Melissa Kowalski brought a few of her critters for show and tell.

Kowalski owns the business, Critters and Conservation and operates out of her home in Ranson.

The children first met and learned all about a four-foot, 10 year old ball python named Moonlight. Kowalski explained that those snakes curl into a ball and hide their heads when they are frightened, and are aptly named for this action.

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She went on to talk about how these snakes smell the air, eat, sleep and have young. A few of the children said they didn't like snakes, but Kowalski explained that they are an important part of the cycle for population control, rodents in particular.

Kowalski continued the show with a blue-tongued skink lizard, named Zelda, a Russian tortoise named, Boris, an African pygmy hedgehog named, Apple and a green aracari toucan named Squishy, who the kids got to pet at the end of the show.

Kowalski has a deep love for animals and conservation.

"Part of the reason I do these shows," said Kowalski, "is that I hope children will remember these animals when they grow up and are able vote for conservation issues. The hands-on aspect really brings it to life for these kids."

Kowalski has over 25 species of animals at her home, not including insects.

She said she started out as primarily a rescue facility for animals that people no longer wanted or could not provide adequate care for.

"I get a lot of my animals from classified ads where people are giving up pets. I try to encourage that (re-homing) because there are a lot of parrots and reptiles that need homes, not just dogs and cats," said Kowalski.

"There's a big crisis now with parrots actually, because they live so long and people aren't prepared for that. People also buy them because they're beautiful, but then they realize that they bite and scream and make a mess. Some don't want to deal with that."

Kowalski said she has always loved and learned about animals and is an expert on her own animals.

"As a kid, I brought home all the strays and injured wildlife. I even had a pet sitting business. I've tried to learn as much as possible about different kinds of animals."

"People will often ask me about getting various pets and I will help and encourage them to really do their research before buying a pet and steer them in the right direction," said Kowalski.

"Not everyone can handle a 15 foot snake like a constrictor. Some people are good at it and have large collections, but it's definitely not for everyone."

Kowalski has been taking her show on the road for 10 years, visiting libraries, schools, camps, boy scouts, church groups and more.

For information on her business, visit To learn about upcoming library programs call the Shepherdstown library at 304-876-2783 or view their website,



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