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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spiders, snakes, and a word of caution in the Black Hills

No trip to the Black Hills is complete without a visit to Reptile Gardens.  Well, that isn't exactly true, we have made a couple of trips here without stopping at Reptile Gardens, but it is fun, and since my cousin Mike (thank you, Mike) paid for admission, surprisingly reasonable, free in fact.  It is a fascinating place, and I am always glad to have gone.

Reptile Gardens is an odd oasis of exotic animals from around the world, displayed beautifully in a group of buildings just south of Rapid City.  There are giant tortoises, alligators, crocodiles, tarantulas, scorpions, and snakes, oh the snakes. There are hundreds of snakes.  Snakes from all over the world, each displayed in a carefully designed habitat, that mimics the natural environment of the snakes home country, I guess.  They could just throw some stuff in there and I would't know it didn't look like Southeast Asia, or the deep jungles of Africa.  This would be a good place to point out that according to the website Most of the animals at Reptile Gardens are from Zoo Trades, and not captured in the wild.

According to the brave, young man who performed the show with the snakes there is no sure way to tell if a snake is venomous without looking for a venom gland in the mouth of the snake or getting bit. Thank you, but no.  I will just assume that all of the snakes are deadly, venomous, and looking for me, with malice, and awful intent.  Wretched things, anyway.

After the snake show, it is a short, quick walk to the alligator/crocodile/caiman show. Where a strong, brave, slightly foolish young man will walk through an enclosure filled with alligators (I know there is a difference, and it has been explained to me, at the show several times, but for the sake of convenience and fewer keystrokes we will refer to them as gators).  Using humor, and what appears to be a suicidal pokes, and jabs with a stick he explains a little about the giant animals.  Ultimately, he "wrestles a gator."  He does this by leaping on it's back, and holding it in place, in what I am assuming is a practiced, and at least somewhat safe routine.

The chosen "gator" this time did not really want to be part of the show.  He kept trying to escape, and the poor man would have to pull him back.  While doing this the other "gators" would come stalking
up behind him. He would have to shoo them away, while holding onto the wrestling opponents tail.  It was easy to worry that the show was going to get a little too exciting.

But, the show came off without incident, and we were off to the main exhibit hall. This is where all of the snakes are displayed.  Their enclosures are marked with helpful signs, and interesting facts, "Venomous," or "Very Venomous."  I can't speak for anyone else, but when I walk up the an enclosure and the words "very venomous" are screaming at me, and there is nothing inside it makes me a little nervous.  Where is that damned thing? creeping up behind me? hanging on one of exposed beams overhead, getting ready to drop, bite me and ring down the curtain on the final act of my way too short, not nearly finished life?  Time to move on, quickly.