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Scales and Tales

"Protecting Your Family, Pets and Livestock from Snakes"

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake


This is part 3 of our answer to a recent question involving increased snake activity in the Black Hills. If you missed them, read Part 1 and Part 2 . This time we'll give you some advice on how to protect yourself and your animals from snakes.

A Little Snake Education
Interestingly enough, South Dakota hasn't had a death from a rattlesnake bite in over 50 years. But, no one likes to get bitten at all, so if possible, it's always best to avoid an encounter altogether. Here are some tips:

  • Teach your family about snakes
    The best way to protect your family from snakes is to educate them. As parents, we teach our children not to talk to strangers, how to safely cross the road and to not play with guns. Living in western South Dakota, we should also teach our kids how to safely interact and behave around all of our native wildlife: bees, mountain lions, rattlesnakes etc.

    Local folks have a huge resource that should be used: Reptile Gardens. At Reptile Gardens, parents can learn what to say about snakes and can also give their children an opportunity to see, learn and explore the world of the Rattlesnake.



  • Be aware of your surroundings
    Always watch where you sit, stand, walk and place your hands. Teach older children to be aware of their surroundings and to leave all snakes alone. Information is key and the more they know about their surroundings the better. Never let young children play outside unsupervised. Young children have a more difficult time perceiving dangerous situations, so are at high risk.



  • Keep your pets safe
    Dogs, cats, and some other pets are generally pretty resistant to snake venom, at least in comparison to people. We have quite a few pets bitten each year by rattlesnakes with only a few deaths.Most times a dog can "ride out" the bite. The worst cases are when dogs are bitten in the face, causing massive swelling and cutting off the ability to breathe.

    There is a vaccination for dogs. However, I have researched these pretty extensively and some of the top venom and snakebite experts in the world have concluded it's very unlikely these boosters do any good for a bitten dog. However, they have proven to do no harm, so there is no reason other than the cost to not get them.

    Most frequently after a bite, a veterinarian will provide supportive care, take a blood panel, and determine if the bite warrants the use of antivenin.



  • Watch your livestock
    Livestock are frequently bitten, but due to their larger size, it is very rare for them to require any veterinary treatment at all. Though again, facial bites can cause enough swelling to lead to breathing difficulties. So any bite, whether to a person, pet or livestock, should be treated as a medical emergency.


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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!