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A state reptile — with bite?

Published: Thursday, Aug. 27 2015 1:23 p.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — Laura Graf's fourth-graders are big fans of the diamondback rattlesnake, and they're pretty sure the rest of Utah will love the slithery creature, too — if it becomes the new state reptile.
"I like snakes, just as long as they don't bite me. I have asked my mom if I can have a snake, but she said 'no,' " said Garrett Hale, who attends Diamond Valley Elementary School, home to Washington County's most dangerous mascot: the diamondback rattlesnake.
"It is very poisonous, but I will still say pretty, pretty, pretty please make the diamondback rattlesnake the state reptile," said another fourth-grade student, Anthony Wallace, who says he's seen at least four rattlesnakes before. "One tried to kill my dog once, but my dad cut his head off with a shovel."
Graf said the students have already presented their case to Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., with favorable results.
"Our students are so pumped; we gave a school T-shirt to both of them, and we've been invited to go up to the state Capitol to talk to the Legislature," she said. "At first the kids thought maybe the governor could just do it, but they know now that it's a legislative process."
"It's an interesting choice, and I'm not sure there's anything endearing about a reptile, but these students are so enthused, and that's catching," said Clark, who is sponsoring the resolution and hopes to review a draft of it next week.
"What intrigued me about this whole idea was the interest these students are showing in the political process," Clark said. "I'm planning to wear my T-shirt with the diamondback rattlesnake mascot on it when these kids come up to testify before committee. They're going to get to actively see how state government works, and that's really exciting."
Utahns already have a state bird (California sea gull), animal (Rocky Mountain elk), rock (coal), flower (sego lily), tree (blue spruce), insect (honeybee), fruit (cherry), fish (Bonneville cutthroat trout), folk dance (square dance), fossil (Allosaurus), gemstone (topaz), grass (Indian rice) and even a state cooking pot (Dutch oven), said Graf, so why not a state reptile?
"We've had a little bit of controversy over whether the diamondback rattlesnake is indigenous to Utah," she said. "But I have had some old-timers tell me Diamond Valley is named that because of the diamondback rattlesnake. Either way, if it's named the state reptile we sure don't think it ought to be a protected species."
Fourth-grader Shelbi Holt said while she hopes the Legislature votes in favor of elevating the school's mascot status in the state, she's also a realist.
"I saw one once in Blanding," she said. "My grandpa killed it with a shovel," which, the kids point out, might make a pretty darn worthy state tool.


E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com

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