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Scales and Tales

Who Let the Crocodiles Out at Reptile Gardens?

Rapid City, S.D. — The unofficial start of the tourist season has begun in the Black Hills! At Reptile Gardens, this is signified by the start of the daily Gator Shows.

They wait until late May to start these shows because crocodiles are cold blooded, or ectothermic, absorbing heat from their environment. The colder the environment, the slower and sleepier reptiles become. A gator show would not be very exciting in the cold South Dakota months! However, now that warmer temperatures are (hopefully) here to stay for the summer, the gators and their wranglers will be entertaining daily. In the warmer months the alligators and crocodiles can be quite characters, and dangerous too.

Reptiles Gardens CEO, Joe Maierhauser says that, "It is not uncommon for crocodiles to bask on the river banks, mouth wide open. That is not an aggressive posture, but a way to cool off. And in Africa, there are birds that climb into a croc's mouth and clean their teeth!"

Another interesting fact is that a particular group of Crocodiles in the wild regularly eat only once a year when the wildebeest migrate through their section of the river. Lucky for us, the gator wrestlers at Reptile Gardens feed our reptilian friends at every performance. You can see the feeding frenzy — and learn many more interesting facts on these creatures during a Gator Show.

So it seems that Reptile Gardens has indeed let the crocs out! A full schedule of shows can be found at /attractions/gator-arena.php. Try to catch all of these fun and educational shows on your next visit to the Black Hills reptile zoo, Reptile Gardens.

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About Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens maintains one of the world's finest collections of reptiles. To learn more about Reptile Gardens' employment opportunities, hours, admission costs and season pass specials, call (605) 342-5873 or visit their website: http://reptilegardens.com.


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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!