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Scales and Tales

Birds Eye View from Reptile Gardens

Hello all animal and plant lovers/nerds!


All of the staff and animals here at Reptile Gardens are just now settling down for, what appears to be, a chilly winter season. Everything is starting to shift gears from our busy fall schedule to an all ready chock full winter list of chores and updates!



boa Soaking up some sun in the dome.

The most common questions I get from friends and Guests around this time of year are "what do you do now?" and "where do all the animals and plants go?" I always start with the simple answer of " we basically are maids (clean and feed)" or "they go inside... duh!" (if I'm feeling sassy). There are, of course, much longer and more in depth answers that most people don't always have time to listen to. What's that you say? You are very interested and have all the time in the world? Well then you are in for a treat!



Staying inside where it's warm. Staying inside where it's warm.

My name is Teresa and I am assistant curator of birds at Reptile Gardens; fancy words meaning I have cleaned bird poop for many years and now help my boss manage the birds and people in our department. I am one of the 22 staff members that work here all year round. We keep this place going until we open in the spring. Our summer staff of 100 drops to 22, due to smaller crowds plus many employees return to school as students or teachers. It is almost relaxing to have such small numbers in the off season and is quite nice to have more one on one time with the Guests who visit us in the fall.


Then the end of fall shows comes and everyone is looking forward to even more alone time to start on projects. Sometimes it feels like winter could not have come soon enough but believe me, soon we will be missing the crowds and new faces and longing for the projects to end!


Basically what we are doing is prepping and primping. Two small words to describe a



Prepping for winter. Prepping for winter.

whole lot of work! Every year all of the departments strive to improve our facility and bring new and exciting things to our shows and displays to mix it up for returning Guests. Each department starts planning changes for the summer and starts on plans that have been put on the back burner till we close. There are already new concrete sidewalks and the reptile and maintenance departments are finishing up the long process of putting up clear fencing around the gator arena. Pretty sure they can't wait for all that work to be over with!


The garden department is now starting the looooong process of finding plants and sketching out plans for the many flowerbeds around the grounds. It sounds pretty simple but they always challenge themselves to change things up every year and that takes a lot of work!



gator-arena Doing some maintenance before it gets cold.

The reptile and bug departments are constantly updating displays and always adding to the different collections of animals we have. While also constantly having to keep the temperatures high for their animals since South Dakota weather refuses to mimic nice warm jungles! And last but not least, the bird department works to keep the birds happy and healthy to the best of our ability while also welcoming a new member to bird department family. The curator of the bird department, Julia Kittelson, has brought a new bundle of joy to her family and we are so excited to include her in the large Reptile Gardens family!


Wishing you all happy and warm holidays (probably not quite as warm as our snake enclosures though). Drive safe and eat lots! Keep your eyes to the skies for another account from a bird's eye view.


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About Us

Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!