I used to work at a children’s nature center doing both animal care and introducing children to local common animals, as well as summer camps, after school programs, and natural science classes.
Gopher snakes, king snakes and mountain king snakes have scales with a glossy coating so they are really smooth when you stroke with the direction of the scales. The lower scutes (scales on the under side) are even nicer to feel. The scales feel surprisingly nice: smooth and slightly pliant — they are lovely. We had rattlesnakes, but obviously did not handle them - they were very old and had not shed much in their dotage, so they looked like they would be much rougher to the touch. We called one of the rattlesnakes “Sweetface” because the inside of its mouth was the prettiest shade of pink when it yawned.
Newts feel cool, only faintly damp (unless you pull them from the water) and slightly rough skinned. They are not at all slimey. They do not usually resist being held at all, so they don’t wriggle - really mellow animals.
Banana slugs - they are damp and slimey, generally not too wriggly. If you pick them up, be sure to protect ~them~ from the salts on your skin by using a sturdy leaf to hold them. If you do get the slime on your hands, washing with soap it just makes it harder to remove (use an abrasive).
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are hard and bumpy skinned. They are also mellow, but may initially protest handling by forcing air out of their sphericles, making a hissing noise (perhaps trying to imitate a more dangerous animal).
Crayfish are quite hard skinned with a slightly rough texture on the exoskeleton. Don’t try to pick them up by the claws, just with fingers on top of their back. The claw pinch would hurt, even cut.
Toads are cool and damp with slightly bumpy skin on their backs. They feel just slight squishy. Our frogs were usually wetter, coming from water, so they were more wet slippery without the bumps on their back. Again, firm but slightly squishy.
Chinchillas have the very softest fur you could ever imagine. They are light-boned and weigh almost nothing for their size. If they feel upset, they let a small cloud of fur go, which can be tickley if inhaled.
Alligator lizards are dry and (like snakes) somewhat smooth if you stroke in the direction of the scales. But, they are a bit more textured than snakes. Their claws can be slightly prickly.
Bearded dragons are the “Laboradors of the lizard world”. They are somewhat heavy for their size with very textured skin, but surprisingly sociable. Their poo is amazingly stinky, tho, and ours always seemed to use their big water containers as a toilet. One evening at a donor’s party my job was to walk around with one of the beardies for guests to stroke or pet. He soon fell asleep from the warmth of my arm. Dang, that was adorable!
Tarantulas (e.g., Mexican red-knee or Roses) were quite mellow. Their feet are a tiniest bit rough on your hand. But, after handling them over time, many of us developed a sensitivity from handling them that caused itchy red bumps on the hands due to their urticating hairs. You do not want rub one of those urticating hairs into your eyes. Once, I had one try to bite me after its 3rd class in a row. It’s fangs did not even break past the top layer of skin. Poor little one needed a break, so he was excused from the next class.
I never held a live shark, but the preserved shark skin we had was AMAZING! The denticles (skin teeth) were sweetly smooth if you stroked it in the direction away from the head, but truly like sandpaper if you stroked the other direction.
Box turtles and tortoises do feel a bit like a lump of rock when you pick them up, be ready to balance the load - they need a bit of balancing as you hold them. I guess they shift their center of gravity a bit. California desert tortoise have more ridged and textured scutes (scale-like coverings on their bony carapace) than box-turtles, which have smoother scutes. The scutes, on the undersides are smoother of course. Their skin (on the legs and head) tends to be well textured.
Opposums are heavy for their size, and generally not very wriggly. Their big teeth may look a bit scary, but they are mostly pretty mellow when you pick them up (I was trained to lift them by their exceptionally strong tails).
Our little brain-damaged screech owl mainly felt like a delight on the glove. “Scout”* weighted almost nothing, but would captivate you with his eyes (he would sometimes go to sleep spontaneously during a program due to his brain damage). I never got trained on the bigger birds we had (larger owls, Cooper’s hawk, red tail hawk), so I cannot speak to how they felt. We were discouraged from petting the birds or letting others pet them during classes or walk about.
- Scout weighed almost nothing… I think the glove and jess made of most of the weight I felt. Cutie pie, you are missed.