This is not your typical petting zoo with a couple goats and sheep.
The Reptile Zoo just east of Monroe is home to large alligators, tortoises and lizards — and snakes not normally seen in Western Washington.
That’s because there are no venomous snakes on that side of the Cascades.
This zoo has the world’s deadliest snake, the black mamba, de-venomized, plus more common varieties.
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Visitors can wear a corn snake or a small ball python like a necklace, touch a Cuban rock iguana and feel the shell of a desert tortoise. Please keep your hands away from the mouth.
The point is to educate, fascinate and remove fears many have of these creatures.
Isaac Petersen owns the zoo, founded by his father, Scott, two decades ago. He often goes into the community, bringing a traveling menagerie of surprises.
At the University Heights Center in Seattle, out comes Bubba the Burmese python or Squirt the African desert tortoise. That name might have been more appropriate for Lumpy the alligator, who exhibited a lack of bladder control — because crocodilians don’t have them.
At the zoo, visitors can climb under the tank where Rhiannon, a 15-foot, 200-pound green anaconda, lives.
You can see her large underside scales, called scutes. They’re used for locomotion.
Petersen says, “Fear of snakes is a learned behavior — definitely learned.”
“They eat rodents, rats and mice and help with protecting crops and food supply.”
Kailey Kimball, supervisor of the zoo, says, “Most snakes are very polite. They want to be left alone.”
About these encounters, Peterson says, “I want people to have a personal experience so they care more about them. They’re beautiful.”