Scales and Tales

Reptile Gardens kicks off spring season with national exposure

Terry Phillip, venomous snake expert at Reptile Gardens, provided information about the Egyptian cobra for a late March interview with CNN


RAPID CITY — Family attraction Reptile Gardens launched its spring season with a CNN spot featuring its resident venomous snake expert, Terry Phillip.

When a deadly Egyptian cobra went missing from New York's Bronx Zoo on March 27, the news station did a Google search and found Reptile Gardens' curator Phillip as the first reference for venomous snake expert. Phillip answered questions for the March 29 broadcast of "Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," which also featured animal expert Jack Hanna.

"This national exposure was a fun way to kick off our spring season," said Joe Maierhauser, Reptile Gardens' president and CEO. "CNN picked the right person to interview. With Terry's 15 years of experience at Reptile Gardens working with virtually all of the world's deadliest snake species, he certainly qualifies as an expert on venomous snakes." Reptile Gardens officially opened its doors April 1.

This isn't the first time Phillip has gained recognition as an expert on poisonous snakes. In the past, he has appeared on National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, PBS, and Animal Planet.

In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Phillip predicted the Egyptian cobra would not leave the zoo.

"It's not going to leave the facility, especially this time of year in New York," he said. "They have complex machines and electrical facilities in the zoo, so it'd be hard to find a small snake like that. Give it some time though, and it'll show itself."

Snake expert Phillip couldn't have been more correct. On April 1, the 24-inch snake was found coiled in a dark corner of the zoo's reptile house.

To catch a glimpse of Phillip in action, the public is invited to visit Reptile Gardens this spring from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. The Black Hills family attraction is located just six miles south of Rapid City on the road to Mt. Rushmore.

Spring admission is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for children 5-12 and free for children under age 4.

Area residents can revisit Reptile Gardens all summer long by asking for the season pass. A season pass is free with each paid admission purchased, allowing visitors to return any time until Nov. 30.

Vacation passes are available for those visiting the beautiful Black Hills. This pass is free with an admission purchase and can be used any time during a visitor's stay in the area.

For more information about Reptile Gardens, visit




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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 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!