CLARKSTOWN - When Kase Snyder gets home from kindergarten at Myers Elementary, he high-tails it to the red maple trees growing in his yard and climbs up the trunks to the branches above. At his young age, Kase has a keen curiosity about the outdoors and all of the creatures that walk, crawl, slither and fly in it.
"The hardest one to catch is a cricket. And the flying bugs," said Kase, wearing a bug-themed T-shirt as he sat on his couch and chatted about his fascination with creepy, crawly things.
He is the son of Laura and Kane Snyder.
"They call him the 'Bug Man' in his kindergarten class," said his mom, Laura.
After Kase started kindergarten, he'd come home with dirt caked under his fingernails, she said.
"I would scrub and soak him (and I asked him) how he was getting so dirty," Laura said. "He said, at recess he chooses to look for bugs around the school. He even recruited a few of his new friends to look for bugs with him, and they would dig all over and find grubs and worms. His friends started calling him 'the Bug Man' because he would know all the bugs they would find."
He even has got his little sister Clara, 2, into finding bugs and critters with him.
The 5-year-old is one of the youngest regular participants in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette's Outdoor section's weekly contest "Take a Wild Guess." Readers are encouraged to submit their guesses as to what creatures or plants are published each week.
With help from his mom, Kase began submitting guesses for the contest this summer.
"He was really into bugs and he was catching different kinds and taking pictures," Laura said.
When the Outdoor section arrives on Sunday from his grandmother, Phyllis Snyder, Laura said she shows "Take a Wild Guess" to Kase and asks him what he thinks the photo might depict.
Kase usually takes a quick guess, then goes to get his identification books and looks it up.
He boasts that he is a pretty good guesser.
"I can tell you what bugs I find a lot of - woolly bears," he said. "I have a whole bucket of them. I have some rocks and grass in there."
"Can you tell her what we found out about them?" his mom asked.
"They freeze in the winter," he said.
Kase then jumped up and ran to the kitchen to get one of his identification books.
He came back with a Petersen "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians."
"You want to see a mudpuppy," he asked, and turned directly to the right page in the field guide.
"He has never been an 'ewww, yuck' kid. He has always been a 'let's go dig this up or flip these rocks over,' " Laura said.
She encourages his curiosity. Laura has off in the summer and likes to be outdoors with Kase, helping him discover nature. She studied biology and ecology in college and is employed at the Montoursville Area High School, as a life skills aide through the local intermediate unit.
"I like to turn everything into a biology lesson," she said.
Muncy Creek runs behind their home, and Kase finds that another place to look for and document critters. He loves to go down with his dad, Kane, to the water.
In his kitchen, Kase showed all the "specimens" he has found while exploring, as well as more of his books. He has well-preserved cicadas, butterflies and moths and can point them out in his books and tell some facts about them.
"I can't tell the difference, sometimes, between the two," he said, flipping between the photographs of a damselfly and a dragonfly in his bug book.
When he is asked to try to find a difference between the species, Kase soon comes up with an answer.
"The eyes," Kase quickly responded, pointing to a dragonfly.
Laura helps Kase keep a book of the photos they take of things they find.
"A lot of it is caterpillars and butterflies," she said.
This year, he found a cocoon of a Polyphemus moth, put it in his butterfly keeper, and it later hatched. He also hatched some Monarch butterflies, from the egg on up.
When Kase takes some time off from his outdoor ramblings, he likes to watch TV shows such as "Hillbilly Handfishing" and "Call of the Wild Man."
Kase's interest has turned to a curiosity about reptiles and amphibians.
"Sometime, I really want to find a snake," he said. "I always wanted to catch a snake."
Laura said she is excited to take him to the Glacier Pools Preserve to check out the amphibians that live in the vernal pools, and anything else they might come across.
"He is not like most kids who want you to read little stories before bed. He wants to read his ID books," his mother said.