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. Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Park

    July 21 @ 10:00 am - 10:45 am
  2. Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Gardens Park

    July 22 @ 10:00 am - 10:45 am
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