Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly


Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly

Logo for the exhibit Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly

Reptiles have enduring appeal, and this interactive zoological exhibition will bring you eye to eye with living species from around the world. Deadly snakes, colorful lizards, unusual turtles, and rugged crocodilians are exhibited in naturalistic habitats.

You can “milk” a viper, learn to speak croc in under five minutes, and test your knowledge with “Turtle Trivia” or “Lizard Wizard.” 

An experienced zoo professional remains with the exhibition to care for the living collection.

Exhibited species are subject to change, but may include the following:

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) Instead of swimming after fish, this bizarre turtle lures them into its mouth with its worm-like tongue. This sit-and-wait predator often grows a thick mat of algae over its shell. It is the largest species of fresh-water turtle in North America.
  • Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx sp.) These turtles have a flexible body rather than a rigid shell, making them look like animated pancakes in the water. They make up for their lack of protection with speed and an aggressive temperament.
  • Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) Snake-necked turtles have comically long necks which they fold to one side when threatened. These active swimmers seem to be looking back at you and often follow a child’s finger across the front of the exhibit glass.
  • Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) Indian star tortoises use their beautifully patterned shells as camouflage when hiding among tussocks of dry grass. They have been heavily exploited by the pet trade and over-collecting has endangered some populations in the wild.
  • African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) African dwarf crocodiles are the smallest living crocodile species in the world. Despite growing to an adult length of only 6 feet, they are adept predators of vertebrates, large invertebrates such as crustaceans, and carcasses of animals.
  • American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) Our country’s most abundant crocodilian was once thought close to extinction, but American alligators have made an impressive come back. This was the first species taken off the U.S. endangered species list – a conservation success story!
  • Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) Some like it hot! Australians often find these lizards sunbathing atop fence posts where their body temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees F. When threatened, these lizards inflate the skin of the throat creating a bristled beard.
  • Veiled Chameleon (Chameleo calyptratus) This tree-dwelling lizard looks like it’s from another planet! Eyes that move independently, skin that changes color with a mood, and a tongue longer than the body make chameleons unique.
  • Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) This and the beaded lizard are the only legged lizards that are venomous to humans. Their jaws are powerful and the bite is extremely painful, but it is rarely fatal to humans. The striking colors may warn predators that the Gila monster is venomous.
  • Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus sp.) These lizards give new meaning to the word camouflage. Textured skin, a flattened body, and a jagged outline make them disappear on tree bark. They offer a great interpretive opportunity – visitors love trying to find all of the residents in the gecko habitat.
  • Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) A giant of the lizard clan, this bulky animal grows to over seven feet in length – only the Komodo dragon is larger. Strong jaws and a powerful tail make it formidable to predators and prey.
  • Red-sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) These beautiful snakes overwinter in dens in western Canada with hundreds of their own species. They swarm out of hibernation in the spring and congregate in writhing “mating balls.” Garter snakes subdue prey animals with brute force, often swallowing them alive.
  • Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) High in the rainforest canopy, the green color and symmetrically looped bodies of these predators make them nearly invisible to predators and prey. They kill by constriction.
  • Mangrove Snake (Boiga dendrophila) This venomous snake has short grooved teeth in the rear of its upper jaw. The bite is rarely dangerous to humans but can paralyze small prey animals.
  • Asian Cobra (Naja sp.) The snake charmer’s snake. A cobra makes its hood by raising its head off the ground and stretching the ribs of its neck. The venom is highly toxic and causes paralysis.
  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) Size and pugnacious temper combined with highly toxic venom make this one of the most dangerous snakes in the United States. Organized snake hunts have decimated rattlesnake populations in many areas allowing rodent populations to expand rapidly.
  • Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica) What big teeth! This African viper has the longest fangs of any snake – up to two inches. Intricate geometric patterns and keeled scales make this beautiful snake look velvety.
  • Tri-color Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum ssp.) A variety of milk snakes display bright red, yellow and black bands that make them look similar to the venomous coral snakes. Harmless milk snakes gain protection from predators by looking dangerous.
  • Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatis) Among the true giants of the snake world. Adults can grow to over 16 feet and can weigh 200 pounds. This massive snake eats animals as large as newborn pigs and deer!

Peeling Productions created the exhibit at Clyde Peeling’s REPTILAND.

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Golden Helix logo.     Sibanye Stillwater logo.


Larry & Gail Larson     Gallatin Subaru logo.



January 25 – September 13, 2020


Front & Back Changing Exhibit Galleries


Included with admission

Exhibit Photos

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