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Charmed by Snakes at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science

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There’s a zoo at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

But it’s not lunchtime in the atrium or the parking lot on a free day. 60 creepy, slithery, and totally fascinating creatures have been collected into one fun-filled new exhibit called Lizards and Snakes. Recently, our family spent an evening getting to know the critters we often cringe about. We all left with a deeper appreciation for the complexity and beauty of lizards and snakes.

Lizards and Snakes opens with some fast, pertinent facts: There are 8,000 species of reptiles and snakes, which means we are vastly outnumbered. Rather than panic about this alarming news, the exhibit guides visitors through a series of glass displays with live animals and educational, hands-on stations. The goal is to dispel myths, raise awareness, and foster appreciation through interactive play and a bit of romping.

Native habitats are recreated in detail so the lizards and snakes feel at home. We watched a chameleon dangle from a branch and a milk snake burrow in loose gravel. There is plenty of room for strollers and small children to get close to these displays sprinkled throughout the exhibit. Our 3-year-old was a bit skittish around the animals until he understood they were safely housed behind glass and didn’t hiss or roar at him. He loved the hands-on elements of the exhibit and found plenty of buttons to push, knobs to turn, and joysticks to move.

Our tweens and teens had a blast using the Gecko-Cam, which can zoom in on several different types of unsuspecting geckos. Joysticks control cameras mounted in a case. The video is transmitted to a screen. Gecko eyes, skin, feet, tails can be studied up close without disturbing their laid-back existence of lounging on branches or clinging to smooth glass. Our 5-year-old daughter thought the gecko underbellies were terribly funny, especially since she may or may not have see a gecko bottom.

I can’t stop thinking about the enormous Burmese python. It’s housed in the biggest habitat in the exhibit because it’s huge, jumbo, ginormous, gargantuan, mighty. Really, it is a majestic animal that even the biggest snake-o-phobe must admit is pretty darn cool. (Even though you can’t see its bottom.) Our kids crowded around the glass and marveled at it for a very long time. It’s hard to comprehend how people poach these snakes for clothing and accessories. The exhibit shares several items confiscated by the government for being crafted from illegal snake and lizard skins, including python.

Other can’t-miss highlights of Lizards and Snakes include the chance to hoist a life-sized, 100-pound plastic anaconda. It helps kids get a sense of the power and size of animals they’ll most likely never encounter in the wild. Kids can shake a real rattlesnake tail, feel snake and lizard skins, and learn how the shape of a tongue tells us what the tongue does and how it’s used. There are puzzles, a children’s theater area where they can learn to move like snakes, and on your way out, a chance to have your photo taken with Bo the Boa Constrictor, who will eat you if you aren’t careful.

It’s not often the DMNS houses live animals under its storied roof. Lizards and Snakes runs now until July 8, 2012 at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It’s free with museum admission and located on the 3rd level. For more information about the DMNS, the exhibit, for hours, or to buy tickets online, visit their website.

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  • comment avatar Sonja February 7, 2012

    That looks like so much fun. I love the idea of cameras so you can get a closer look without disturbing the animals.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson February 7, 2012

    OHMYGOSH, what a fun picture of you all. I’m not a fan of snakes (at all) and I was very happy to see them tucked away in their cages. :) But I found the whole thing fascinating and fun.

    My son’s favorite part? The video-like game where he was a rattle snake and got to eat a rat, whole.

    Sick, I know. :J)

  • comment avatar JoAnn February 7, 2012

    We LOVED this exhibit! All three of us (including Claire!) like lizards and snakes, especially when they’re not jumping out at us while on a hiking trail. It was great to be so up-close to them and study them at our leisure.

    We’re members there, and I’m SO glad it’s included in the cost of admission. We’ll definitely be back!!

  • comment avatar Ratna February 7, 2012

    Oh my – love your picture- I am surprised you all fit in there – I can’t see all 10 of you… :-) Okay, har har. I loved it too. I did a review the very next day at – I tell you I love the museum as it is- they are an amazing organization and their treatment of military is unsurpassed but all the exhibits any day of the year, outstanding for kids. This exhibit is no different. We loved T-rex and didn’t know if they could top it… THEY DID!

    Great review Gretchen and thanks to Mile high Mamas for permitting us this awesome opportunity to get a sneak peak.

  • comment avatar Brent Worth February 7, 2012

    I can’t wait to go! I LOVE the DMNS such a great post… <3

  • comment avatar kia February 7, 2012

    I loved this exhibit. They were all so sweet.

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz February 7, 2012

    Great pic, Gretchen! Loved this review — makes me want to go again.

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