North Carolina Herptravanganza

Imagine a blond, brunette, and a red-head visit a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. A horror story, adventure, or comedy?

A friend at a local zoo invited us down to his place in the woods for a few days of reptiles and fun on thousands of acres of protected forest.

So, we packed the car with tons of goodies and headed down early in the morning. Our directions were to: “drive down a road until you think no one could possibly live there, then drive a few more miles.”

We turned on a dirt road with his address on the mailbox, and quickly ended up on a dirt road with the word “SNAKES” spray painted on a board lying on the side of the road. I guess we got the right place. Boy, did we! A few minutes up the road we encountered another sign stating the land is protected preserve. Not far from that were some tin on the side of the road for reptiles to hide under.

No reptile fan would ever in their right mind pass up the opportunity to look under tin. We got out of the car fire drill style and ran to the tin. Notin’ Honey. Our real surprise was waiting for us at the end of the road. What a beaut!

nclogcabin

Notice this gorgeous log cabin is run by solar panels? That’s right kids, this baby is completely off the grid! It comes with all the amenities;

  • All hard wood
  • Huge fireplace
  • fridge
  • hot water
  • giant woodburning stove
  • comfy beds
  • dogs
  • tasteful interior decorations

Did I mention it was off the grid?

We did not hang around the house for long, it was time to look for reptiles! We walked outside laughing and talking, but that did not last for long. Serious herping was happening. The first thing you notice about being in the middle of nowhere is the absolute silence pierced only by the song of a bird, an insect, or a rustle in the grass next to the solar panel. Was that a flash of green I just saw? What the … ? Aren’t those guys supposed to occur in Florida?

carolinanole

I was dazzled, we were in the most northern range of the Carolina Anole! He was gorgeous. We hadn’t even left the front yard. I drooled in anticipation.

Things were gettting serious. Serious relaxation that is.

I have a very exciting job with rooms full of children in sugar induced frenzies and wild life. I love my job. I love the noise, the screaming children, zombied parents and teachers with glazed eyes and stumbling walk, the tortoise with the occasional gas…

my brain needed a bit less stimulus to munch on for a while.

Mark, our gracious host, and I wandered with snake hooks. There were timber rattlesnakes and copperheads around. Mark even mentioned how two rattlesnakes like to sit in the bushes near the bird feeder waiting for rabbits and chipmunks to come in for breakfast. We hoped there would be some use for the hooks today. (We use them to gently scooped up and guide venomous snakes away from us if we find one along the path.)

I was enjoying stories of otters and hawks along our flower scented walk when we found our first group of tin. All of us excitedly began to peak under them. We took turns lifting up a piece while the rest of us squinted in anticipation. Nothing in the first group. We walked up a small hill and soon found a prize.

jenrncking

A gorgeous representative of its species!

The snake is pretty too.

That is Jennifer holding an eastern kingsnake with our host, Mark looking on. This kingsnake is something I would call an intergrade. That is; a mix two subspecies. The snake has characteristics of both the Florida kingsnake and the eastern kingsnake. See the chains of yellow up his side?

Mark tells us that many of animals found in this part of North Carolina are a mix of the northern and southern versions of the species. They are the best of both worlds. How cool!

If you look closely, you may be able to see that this kingsnake is missing its entire tail! It is likely that a hawk or some other animal got a hold of it and bit it off. The snake got away, but not without missing a few parts. Poor guy!

In a little wetland area, we met a cute little critter of the slimy variety. Isn’t he a cutie

ncfrog

Flowers were blooming everywhere. We walked over footbridges, across streams, meadows, and through grass. After crossing the same stream several times, we all stopped. “What smells like strawberry banana smoothie?” A native plant with tiny flowers all over it? Boy, do we have some fascinating plants in the States.

“Quick Caroline!”

“I see it!”

“I think it just ran under that log.”

He found a much better hiding place.

“Is it okay to come out now?”

“Time for me to make my getaway while no one is looking.”

That was one cute skink.

We decided to walk to Mark’s closest neighbors place to check out a yurt they were building next to some very nice ponds. I have never heard of a yurt before. I found out that it was a round house with a domed ceiling and a hole in the top for a chimney, or in this case, a skylight.

I was amazed at the amount of space the building had.

This building was to be completely off the grid as well. Three cheers for green living!

Past the house in progress and up the hill was the one thing that all hikers in the south fear! Watch what happens when I lightly tap the sandy area with my snake hook

Stay away from that ant mound. They look small, but they are fast and fierce!

Next, it was time to check out an old barn in the middle of a field that fell down. Boards were everywhere. For the first time for all of us, we found the elusive cornsnake!

Why is this snake considered hard to find. Believe it or not, its people! One of the reasons for the snakes declining population is collection for the pet trade. There are many people who like snakes, but please Leave them in the Wild where they Belong! The main reason these snakes are disappearing is likely just the presence of people. We are building houses where animals used to live, and bulldozing over and killing thousands of animals. Cornsnakes do not occur in the Washington DC area because of this. Check your field guide however, and it will list the snake as occurring in the region. Sad. Hopefully little guys like this wild animal will make a comeback and continue doing its job eating mice!

We had a wonderful day herping. Now it was time to light a fire and cook some fajitas. I think Caroline was so excited about finding the corn snake she fell asleep on the couch first. Gradually we all staggered up the blue spiral staircase into our warm and cozy beds.

What an adventure!

Vader the Gopher Snake

We have recently added a new snake to our show cast! Here is a video of Vader while he was in quarantine soon after arriving at Reptiles Alive. He has calmed down quite a bit since we filmed this video.

Gopher snakes are one of my favorite types of snakes. We had a lot of them in New Mexico where I grew up. We would get calls all of the time at the Rattlesnake Museum ( www.rattlesnakes.com ) about a rattlesnake in someone’s yard. Nine times out of ten it would be a gopher snake. They are non-venomous and great to have around to eat those pesky rodents.

It’s Spring

I finally got a nice day out in the sun. The grass was delicious, although I got it all over my front legs. The clover and chickweed was especially tasty this morning.matt

My next few hours will be spent as follows:

Exactly two and three-quarters laps around the yard.

Have a staring contest with the dog until he gives up. (I think he is more interested in barking than in staring.)

Eat some grass found next to the garden.

Try and climb in to the garden to eat the savory cabbage and garlic.

Sit in the sunniest spot I can find for two hours or for however long I nap for. I really like to nap.

Then I am going to go for a nice soak in the pool.

Life sure is nice for a tortoise.

Uh oh, time to go. One of the woodpeckers is trying to get a grub out of a tree. I am going to ask him for a nice shell tapping. There is one itchy spot I just cannot reach!

North Carolina Box Turtle Conference

It may be a bit early in the year for some good snake herping, but not too early for a Conference! We were invited to be part of the education panel at the Box Turtle Conservation Workshop in Ashboro, North Carolina. It was hosted by the fantastic North Carolina Zoo. We met several wonderful scientists, naturalists, government workers, and zookeepers.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the zoo itself! We received an amazing behind the scenes tour with one of the river habitat zookeepers. Here is Mark and Caroline hanging out at the Sonoran desert exhibit.

cvmarkrailingint

Don’t they look like they are having fun?

I was impressed with how much the exhibit looked like the Sonora Desert. It reminded me of my southwest home.

cactusjunglencint

This hill is loaded with yucca, cholla (pronounced choy- yah), prickly pear, and barrel cactus.

How cool!

Just goes to show you the amazing things you can grow in a bubble.

The most impressive animal in the desert exhibit was the gorgeous and obviously very happy Gila Monster (pronounced Hee-lah.) Just look at the smile on this guys face. The Gila Monster is one of two venomous lizards in the world. They have venom glands in their jaw and grooved teeth for the venom to flow along. Gilas have been known to eat eggs, birds, rodents, and even snakes.

gilagorgeousncint

I just couldn’t get enough of all the amazing and healthy animals found in this exhibit.

I was most impressed by the native animals of North Carolina exhibit. The otters were definetly the cutest.otteradorableint

Here is an old girl lifting her head up to say hi. She recognized our zookeeper guide, Mark and came out of the water to see what was going on.

Behind the riverside exhibit was a brightly colored coral snake. Check out the lovely colors on this guy. The keepers told us this guy was actually from the zoo property! Good thing he is safe in here now, there are elephants out there little guy!

coralsnakencint

If you are in the North Carolina area, you must check out the zoo. i would visit just for the impressive stream side exhibit. The display is amazingly executed. It looks just like someone took a saw and sliced a cross section of a stream and its banks and encased it in glass. The exhibit had fish and turtles swimming in the water, water moccasins, kingsnakes, birds, frogs, toads, copperheads, ratsnakes, and more! To service this impressive exhibit, you have to climb up and down these scary stairs.

Yikes those things are steep!

I was amazed to find they had a hellbender in the back. Sorry folks, no picture as they all came out blurry. The outdoor Carolina exhibits were very nice too. Check out the awesome picture I got of the puma. Caroline and I must have spent a good amount of time watching these big cats chase

ncpumauptreeinteach other around and up trees! He was so close!drinkingpumaint

The best part of the tour came when Mark took us in the forested area to look for salamanders and frogs. It was doubtful this time of year to find many snakes. The zoo sits on several acres of untouched woodland and it is filled with may awesome native animals.

 

Say Hello to Mr. Amphibian! We found many egg masses of salamanders and frogs in the scattered vernal pools back there.

greentoadncint

It is a beautiful zoo. Thanks for the tour Mark!

Back at the hotel room, it wasn’t so beautiful. Check out what happened to one of our sodas in the fridge.

explodeasodaint

Uh OH!

Looks like the hotel staff gets an extra tip.

This is the nice thing about being on vacation I suppose. I felt a bit guilty for leaving the mess, but the cleaning crew is going to be better equipped to deal with it. We left a nice note on the fridge informing them it was just soda, really!

 

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18

Reptiles Alive! came to our elementary school for a 3rd grade assembly. Nothing ruffles this organization — they can handle kids of all ages, big groups or small, and bring a *ton* of animals. They are engaging, age-appropriate and bring their own mic system so hearing is not a problem. I highly recommend the meet and greet afterward.read more

Stacey Evers

Stacey Evers

19:25 22 Jun 18

The show was a success, we had around 20 kids between 5-12. Lizzard Liz was great, she was able to keep all of them really interested. The reptiles were amazing, she even brought a small alligator and a boa constrictor.read more

florencia behrensen

florencia behrensen

14:39 02 Jul 18

Caroline at Reptiles Alive! always gives us the best show! It is fun and informative with a variety of reptiles each time she comes. We LOVE Reptiles Alive at Happy Faces Daycare in Centreville, VA!read more

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

13:56 12 Jul 18

Amazing 5-year old birthday party- Everyone loved the party, especially the birthday boy, who got to be the star of the show (besides the critters). Liz was on time, prepared, AMAZING at answering kids’ and adults’ questions, incredible breadth of knowledge, so good with the kids and animals, made the party fun, arrived on time, totally professional and courteous and an amazing ambassador of animals and representative of Reptiles Alive. We got to meet a few great snakes, a small alligator, a boa constrictor(!), tree frog, bearded dragon, gecko, and turtle.read more

Stacey R

Stacey R

12:55 30 Jul 18

This organization is great! They have a wide varieties of different shows that appeal to all types of audiences. The educators are very gentle with the animals and engaging with the students. Our educator, Caroline, was awesome! She spoke to the children in different voices, was very interactive, creative, and fun. The kids laughed and loved it. I also really liked the additional education that they provided us, as they told us about the origin of the animals that they were showing. It was also really nice to hear that not only the animals have big, safe, appropriate homes, but also that a great deal of their animals are rescues. I would highly recommend this show and we will definitely be booking them again in the future!read more

Mandi Ellis

Mandi Ellis

13:05 08 Aug 18