NEW BRAUNFELS — On the way to San Antonio, you might notice a big sign outside a small building advertising the Snake Farm Zoo. It is easy to miss and easy to write off as just a roadside attraction. The name conjures up images of a dark reptile house when, in reality, it is quite the opposite.
The zoo opened in 1967 as a novelty for travelers. Eric Trager is the third owner of the snake farm, which he purchased in December 2006. Since that time, he has taken the farm from roadside attraction to a fully accredited zoo. The facility has even been featured on the TV show “Dirty Jobs.”
Upon entering the building, expect to be amazed by the multiple rows of snake enclosures. There are many species of snakes including some of the deadliest in the world.
As you circle through the snake habitats, there is a mix of venomous and non-venomous serpents to keep you on your toes. Kids will no doubt be happy to have some of the reptiles on their level as the enclosures start at the floor.
Don’t be surprised if you look down and realize the only thing between your sandaled foot and the fourth-deadliest snake in the world is a sheet of safety glass.
All doors lead outside so when you have seen all of the slithering creatures indoors, find the nearest exit and prepare to meet the rest of the residents. Monkeys, wolves, exotic birds and a massive petting zoo are all located in the back of the main building.
There are 67 habitats currently in use at the zoo. Some are animals that are usually seen in a conventional zoo and some are quite unusual. Renovation of the older habitats is ongoing and new construction is underway. An additional 22 acres have been purchased for expansion. This area will be made into a nature trail, while new exhibits for lions, tigers and bears are readied for occupancy.
Trager said the favorite exhibit “depends on the person. People who like snakes love the king cobra and the giant reticulated pythons. Kids like the petting zoo; the barnyard animals are very popular.”
The zoo offers special activities on weekends, including informative talks about various animals and snake encounters.
One of the employees, Jarrod Forthman, handfeeds 35 crocodiles every week in front of onlookers.
The snake farm also offers interested parties the opportunity to “adopt” some of the animals to help offset the costs. Trager said, “70 percent of our animals are rescue animals.”
Animals are accepted from other zoos, habitats, and sanctuaries that have been damaged or have gone out of business leaving them no longer able to provide care. Without somewhere to go, they may have to be put down.
Trager said what sets the snake farm apart from other zoos is that “when people come we try to make it a personal experience. Every time they come, there should be something new and exciting.”