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Photo by Peeling Productions.

Museum of Nature’s Reptiles exhibit entertains and educates with live animals

By Mer Weinhold on October 14, 2016

Mer Weinhold is an Ottawa-dwelling writer, editor, book reviewer, and costuming enthusiast. You can follow them on Twitter.

Hey reptile fans! We’re giving away a poster for this exhibit. Read on to find out how to enter.

This is not an unbiased review: I really, really like reptiles. As a child I picked up garter snakes, even though none of them wanted to be friends, and as an adult I find pictures of baby alligators to cheer myself up even better than pictures of puppies. So I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the Museum of Nature has a new reptile exhibit that features live animals.

Photo by Mer Weinhold.

Photo by Mer Weinhold.

The 4th floor at the Museum is currently home to Reptiles: Beautiful and Deadly. This travelling exhibition was created by Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland (of Allenwood, Pennsylvania), and has been touring North America since 1999.

Turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes, and an alligator showcase the variety within this family of the animal kingdom. Sometimes live animal exhibits can be sedate affairs, if the animals are sleepy or bored — this wasn’t my experience. When I visited at about 11:00 am, the tortoises were midway through eating breakfast, the turtles were swimming up and down their tanks, and the milk snakes were exploring their habitat. The gila lizard was also quite lively, though whether it wanted to make friends or chase people was difficult to tell.

Photo by Mer Weinhold.

Photo by Mer Weinhold.

Interspersed with the reptiles are quizzes, placards, and other educational displays. The intention is to teach visitors about common myths, the biology of reptiles, and their important contributions to the ecosystem, medicine, and science. For instance, the Museum notes that from a scientific point of view, birds are also part of the reptile family, but this particular exhibit focuses on cold-blooded reptiles.

As part of the exhibit, the Museum also has a number of their artefacts out on display, including scientific specimens, illegal goods which were seized at the border (e.g. snakeskins, taxidermied animals), and antiques. It’s fascinating to see the long history of biological research, and sobering to hear that many reptile species are endangered because of poachers. You can also learn about how to milk a viper, and why you’d want to.

When I visited, a zookeeper had one milk snake out of its cage to meet the public. There are regularly scheduled demonstrations with live animals at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Saturdays, as well as additional programming planned to coincide with school holidays. The upcoming edition of Nature Nocturne on October 28 is even joining in, with a theme of ‘Scales and Tails’. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to be a dragon for Halloween, this might be it.

A must-see exhibit for anyone who loves reptiles, and an informative experience for anyone who doesn’t, be sure to check out Reptiles while you have the chance.

Reptiles: Beautiful and Deadly will be at the Museum of Nature (240 MacLeod Street) from October 7 2016 to April 8 2017. Tickets are regular museum admission plus $6.

We have a poster for this exhibit to give away!  To enter, comment on this blog post with your favourite reptile.  A winner will be chosen at random at 5 pm on Wednesday, October 19th.