With Reptiles Alive LLC celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, I wanted to share some of the amazing moments and memories of how it all started.

A question I get asked quite often is “Why do you like snakes so much?” My love of snakes began when I was very young.  My grand-mom read me the story Rikki Tikki Tavi. When I saw pictures of cobras in the book,  I thought these were the most amazing and wonderful creatures imaginable!  I asked mom for a pet cobra.  She said no.

Although I couldn’t have a pet cobra, both my parents and grandparents were amazing in fully supporting and encouraging my interest in snakes even though none of them had any interest in scaly or legless creatures.   My parents allowed me to collect a small menagerie of local snakes, turtles, and frogs to keep in my bedroom. Grand-mom would “snake-sit”  my pets when I was away on family vacations. During one snake-sitting occasion, my northern brown snake gave birth to 20 teeny-tiny baby brown snakes at grand-mom’s house.  (Baby brown snakes are about two inches long and thinner than an earthworm. Teeny-tiny!)

On a few occasions, some of my pets would escape.  True stories:  Dad found a bull frog in his shoe one morning; Mom found a large spotted salamander creeping across her bedroom floor one night; and my younger brother found a gray tree frog stuck to his bedroom mirror and thought a rock had somehow gotten stuck there.  And of course there was the occasional snake slithering down the hall.  For some reason, most of the escapees headed for my parents’ room.

I spent most of my childhood days in the swamp behind our house searching for snakes and other critters.  When I wasn’t out in the swamp, I read every reptile related book I could find at the local library. Writing in my “herpetology journal” was how I spent colder months when the reptiles in my neighborhood were hibernating.  Yep, I was a herp nerd.  No doubt.

CobraCaroline wearing her favorite snake shirt with Dad and painted turtle. Smoking is BAD, this was the 70's though...

CobraCaroline wearing her favorite iron-on snake shirt with Dad and a painted turtle.

I was lucky enough to live near Hidden Oaks Nature Center, a place that not only could I visit nearly every week to see captive snakes, but also had a kind staff naturalist who encouraged my interest in herpetology and let me begin volunteering at the center when I was only 9 years old. (Thank you Nancy Cooley!) One of the first live reptile shows I performed happened sometime in the 70’s at Hidden Oaks Nature Center.

One of CobraCaroline's very firs live reptile shows!

One of CobraCaroline’s very first live reptile shows!

The hair might have been big, but the plumed basilisk was awesome!

The 80’s hair might have been big, but the plumed basilisk was awesome!

During high school, I continued volunteering at the nature center and also became a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.  As a reptile rehabber, I began rescuing not only injured wild reptiles but also taking in unwanted pet reptiles and sometimes assisting animal control agencies with reptile “situations.”

cv and copperhead

Treating an ailing copperhead

Morletts Crocodile at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter

Morlett’s crocodile at Fairfax County Animal Shelter

While attending Northern Virginia Community College, my vertebrate zoology professor Walter Bulmer reaffirmed my passion for reptiles and natural history.  He led us on many awesome field herping expeditions to places including the Great Dismal Swamp where I learned how to catch amphiumas, bats, and songbirds. (Fun RA fact: Caroline’s zoology teacher Mr. Bulmer is RA wildlife educator Tony Bulmer’s dad!)

At George Mason University, I was finally able to take Dr. Carl Ernst’s graduate course in herpetology.  This was a dream I’d had since I was in 4th grade and my parents purchased his book Turtles of the United States as my birthday present.  I met Dr. Ernst then and asked if I could take his class.  He laughed and said “Maybe in 10 years or so.”  And I did take that class.  One of the best courses ever.

After graduation, a I worked at a variety of interesting jobs:  snake removal technician at a pest control company; wildlife educator at a local zoo; and park ranger and naturalist.

Park Ranger Caroline and Eastern box turtle.

Park Ranger Caroline and Eastern box turtle.

I had been presenting educational live reptile shows part-time since I was 9, but wondered, could I really make this work as a full-time business?  I took the chance and quit all my other jobs to focus on creating my dream:  an organization with a mission dedicated to showing people how awesome and important snakes, reptiles, and other misunderstood animals really are.

In 1996, I founded “The Reptile Lady,” soon to be renamed, “Reptiles Alive LLC.”

Taking calls at the new RA HQ!

The Reptile Lady taking calls in the new office

Next:  Looking Back at the first 20 Years of Reptiles Alive LLC

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UPCOMING EVENTS

  1. Dulles Town Center Reptiles Alive Show

    February 22 @ 10:00 am - 10:45 am
  2. Reptiles Alive Show at Doodlehopper 4 Kids

    February 25 @ 1:00 pm - 1:30 pm

TESTIMONIALS

"It was fantastic and the whole party was into it. Tony was truly a wonderful educational presenter."

Rachel Karnes, Mom, Potomac Falls VA

5.0
2016-11-16T17:25:35+00:00

Rachel Karnes, Mom, Potomac Falls VA

"It was fantastic and the whole party was into it. Tony was truly a wonderful educational presenter."

"Thank you! The information provided to the kids was so educational and fun. I am a homeschool mom and the way the material was presented...

Patty Coote, Mom, Herndon VA

5.0
2016-11-16T17:28:52+00:00

Patty Coote, Mom, Herndon VA

"Thank you! The information provided to the kids was so educational and fun. I am a homeschool mom and the way the material was presented felt like we were at a fun event! The parents even remarked that they learned something. My son has a lifetime memory because of your program."

"Thank you for an incredible birthday party! All of the children had a wonderful experience. Caroline was so easy to work with and Tony did...

Marcie Blackstone, Mom, Clarksburg MD

5.0
2017-01-02T09:08:56+00:00

Marcie Blackstone, Mom, Clarksburg MD

"Thank you for an incredible birthday party! All of the children had a wonderful experience. Caroline was so easy to work with and Tony did a great job presenting to the kids!"

"Liz was great. She was prompt, organized, knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Having her do the show in our home was effortless, entertaining, and overall a...

Tammy Berkon, Mom, Alexandria VA

5.0
2017-01-02T09:11:36+00:00

Tammy Berkon, Mom, Alexandria VA

"Liz was great. She was prompt, organized, knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Having her do the show in our home was effortless, entertaining, and overall a wonderful experience for everyone!"

"I loved it so much. They teach you about the animals and you get to touch them! Rachel did a really wonderful job" 

Birthday girl and Mom, Chantilly VA

5.0
2017-01-02T09:12:19+00:00

Birthday girl and Mom, Chantilly VA

"I loved it so much. They teach you about the animals and you get to touch them! Rachel did a really wonderful job" 

"I am so glad we hired Reptiles Alive for my son's birthday. CobraCaroline and all her reptiles were a huge hit! All the kids loved...

Elizabeth Poppi, Mom, Reston VA

5.0
2017-01-02T09:12:52+00:00

Elizabeth Poppi, Mom, Reston VA

"I am so glad we hired Reptiles Alive for my son's birthday. CobraCaroline and all her reptiles were a huge hit! All the kids loved it! Even those who seemed a little reluctant were reaching out to pe the animals at the end. Caroline's energy and enthusiasm was contagious and we couldn't have asked for more!"

"The program was outstanding. Caroline was so knowledgeable and was able to teach the children at their level. She handled the animals very professionally and...

Joan L. Mancuso, Director Potomac Nursery School

5.0
2017-01-02T09:13:30+00:00

Joan L. Mancuso, Director Potomac Nursery School

"The program was outstanding. Caroline was so knowledgeable and was able to teach the children at their level. She handled the animals very professionally and the hands on experience for the children was well received. I would highly recommend this program--both for our age group (3-4 yr olds) and for elementary school children."
5.0
7

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Phone: (703) 560-0257
Fax: (703) 560-7531