Scales and Tails
Reptiles have scales, “cold blood”, and eggs with leathery shells. The group is extremely varied, including snakes, lizards, turtles, and crocodilians. Reptiles have adapted to fill nearly every ecological niche and can be found all over the world, in tropical forests, arid deserts and even in the ocean depths! Reptiles eat a wide variety of different foods. Some reptiles are herbivores and munch on grasses, fruits and vegetables. Other reptiles prefer meat and bugs.
Over the years reptiles have developed many ways to avoid predators, Tortoises and turtles have hard shells for protection. Some lizards have developed strong legs and claws for climbing; others have the ability to run on top of water. Some reptiles are large predators and have adapted a wide variety of ways to capture their food. American Alligators have developed eyes on the top of their head so they can hide in the water and still see their prey. Reptiles also come in a wide variety of sizes. Some of the largest reptiles today can weigh over 1500 pounds or be up to thirty feet long. There are also reptiles so tiny they can fit on a quarter!
Reptiles in Georgia
Georgia is home to a wide variety of reptiles. At least eighty-four species are native to the state, with a few introduced species as well. The Georgia coastline is an important breeding ground for some species of threatened and endangered sea turtles and other species frequent our coastal waters. The state is also home to a mind-boggling variety of snakes and turtles, and contains key habitats for many threatened and endangered species including the Eastern Indigo snake and Gopher tortoise.
Gopher tortoises are the state reptile in Georgia and a federally threatened species. Some grow to weight up to fifteen pounds and can live up to a hundred years. They are amazing burrowers, with sturdy, shovel-like front legs and powerful muscles to plow through sand and soil. They will dig burrows that range from just six feet long to one recorded case of fifty feet long! Gopher Tortoises are especially important in their environment because they are an ecosystem engineer. Their burrows are not only a home to the tortoises, but also a variety of snakes, mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates. It’s estimated that around 250 species of animal use gopher tortoise burrows at some point!
Reptiles at the Center
The Georgia Southern Wildlife Center possess many amazing reptiles. Everything from tiny anoles, common on fences and in gardens, to threatened Eastern Indigo snakes and Gopher tortoises to fourteen foot long Burmese Pythons! Our main building is full to the brim of every manner of native reptile, including a gator tank, turtle petting pen and more snakes than you could shake a stick at.
Our Down to Earth Encounter is a great interactive display where you can discover our reptiles while learning about our native habitats. Search through the “underbrush” to find everything from sinks to venomous snakes (all safely behind glass). Outside our gift shop, take some time to enter the turtle yard, where a whole troupe of box turtles can be found, along with several Gopher Tortoises and an actual gopher tortoise burrow!
In our Herpetology show, prepare to get up close and personal with our collection of both native and exotic species of reptiles. This part of the show is definitely touchy-feely! Our guests will have the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of snakes, lizards, alligators and turtles and learn about their incredible adaptations and stories. Frequent stars of the show include a 14-foot long Burmese python, a fat-tailed gecko and two gator brothers. Our roster is constantly changing, so you never know what you’ll see at the Herpetology show!