Shell shocked

Snakes, lizards, and alligators; oh my!

The Oak Harbor Library last week offered children a chance to see these and other reptiles and various creepy invertebrates up close.

Scott Petersen, “The Reptile Man” as his trademark is known, presented two one-hour education programs. Children, parents and other visitors to the library were able to hold and touch a desert tortoise from Africa, a Burmese python and a baby alligator. Other various snakes were on display. Petersen offered a detailed educational talk on where the animals came from, what advantages they provide the environment, and other issues that surround the importance of each animal.

“I want people to understand how important reptiles are to human. Snakes are the single most beneficial creature to humans that exist,” Petersen said. “They eat rodents and other small animals. This in-turn protects humans from disease outbreaks and saves our crops.”

To ensure the utmost safety of everyone who handles the snakes, Petersen removes the venom glands when he receives the snakes at the zoo.

Petersen has been bringing reptiles to the general public through educational classes for over 15 years. He was a biology teacher for three years before his Reptile Man persona surfaced. “It just hit me like lightning,” he said. “People know so little about reptiles, and they are afraid of them most of the time. This way I can help educate everyone on the importance of these animals to us.”

After doing shows for several years, Petersen was able to open up a reptile and invertebrate zoo in Monroe. The Washington Serpentarium, as he calls it, has been open for seven years. The zoo has a rare albino alligator. “Only six zoos in the world have albino alligators. They are one of the rarest and most sought out animals on the planet,” Petersen boasted.

The Oak Harbor children reacted cautiously at first, but soon made themselves at home with Petersen’s scaly pets.

“I will do these shows as long as I am able,” said Peterson, who obviously loves his job. “I love seeing the excitement in the children’s faces and I hear their laughter when the animals do something funny. I love nature. I hope to pass the love of nature on to the children in hopes they will teach others.”

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