• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Kentucky Reptile Zoo comes to Woodford libraries

Talking about lizards, snakes and other residents from the Kentucky Reptile Zoo allows Kat Dale Shoemaker to share her fascination for living creatures – large and small – with others.

The 2007 Woodford County High School graduate especially enjoys getting children excited about animals, which she did again last Friday when she brought residents of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo to the Midway Branch Library and Woodford County Library in Versailles.

“This gives children an opportunity to see animals that they may not have opportunity to see at a zoo because the zoo is kind of coming to them,” said the Midway library’s Suzanne Conrad. She said having the Kentucky Reptile Zoo program at both libraries makes it much more convenient for families, who regularly express an interest in nature-based programs.

Watching kids respond to the milk snake, Madagascar ground boa, South American lizard, American alligator and gopher tortoise reminded Shoemaker of why she volunteered at nearby zoos and became a zookeeper at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade.

“I’ve just always like animals,” said Shoemaker, who grew up here and attended St. Leo School.

She likes to “blame” her dad for encouraging this fascination for animals of all different shapes and sizes. Watching documentaries or other television programs with her dad nurtured an interest in animals, including reptiles.

“He seemed excited. The person on TV was excited. So … I guess it just was contagious,” said Shoemaker. She still gets excited whenever she learns a new fun fact about an animal, but also likes taking care of critters “because they’re fascinating.”

Besides offering programs for school-age children, the Kentucky Reptile Zoo collects venom from its snakes for medical research, which Shoemaker described as a way to improve the reputation of venomous snakes.

“Back at the zoo,” said Shoemaker, “my personal favorite is a rattlesnake named Monster – he’s not with me today … It’s endearing to watch something that I think looks so big and scary and intimidating, and it takes off and hides from me. It’s just terrified.

“So I think that it’s just ironic to call him Monster because he’s gigantic, but he’s a big baby to me.”

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