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Scales and Tales

Practical Jokes at Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens' founder Earl Brockelsby (1916-1993) was notorious for his elaborate & sometimes nasty practical jokes. Among them were:

*Propping open the mouth of a dead alligator with the Sunday newspaper inside & setting it outside a friend's home...a friend who also happened to be the publisher of the Rapid City Journal.

*Mixing mealworms in a spaghetti dinner or dropping tadpoles in his sister's fresh-squeezed lemonade. (She never forgave him for ruining her hard work.)

*Dropping frozen rattlesnakes in the snow in a Colorado park for the alarm it would cause when the snow melted.

*Draping a dead 20-foot python in a tree in a Tucson, Arizona park.

*Switching the keys on a friend's typewriter.

*Covering all the windows of his gift shop manager's house with tarpaper during the night so it stayed dark in the house, then chewing him out for being late to work the next morning.

...and many many more

Earl was, in turn, the victim at times as well. Four friends, who had been on the receiving end of many of Earl's jokes, were determined to get him back. Just before first light one morning in the early 1950's they trucked a three-ton limestone boulder to Earl's newly constructed home on Jackson Blvd.

The original plan had been to drop the rock square in the center of the driveway while the concrete was still wet so it would sink in and not only block entrance to the garage but also necessitate tearing out the entire driveway.

The men's wives absolutely would not allow a joke they considered too mean so the rock was dumped in the driveway after the concrete had cured. And it did prevent Earl from getting to work on time that morning. The rock stayed in the yard next to the driveway until the house, later a golf course clubhouse, was demolished in 2002. It was brought to Reptile Gardens at that time and can be seen on here on the grounds.

Gift Shop Manager, Joe Maierhauser Sr (left) and artist Lee Logan put in place the finishing touch - a commemorative sign.

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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 some of the most exotic 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!