By Rachael Moore
---- — While New Hampshire may not be known for harboring exotic wildlife, that is not the case in Plaistow. Located off of 125 South, Zoo Creatures is a retail pet store with a twist.
“We sell everything from snakes to lizards to frogs to tortoises,” specialist Dan Bilodeau, store manager says. Zoo Creatures has an extensive selection of reptiles, birds, and aquaria, ranging from small lizards to massive pythons, and everything in between. Reptiles are of particular interest at Zoo Creatures, and they breed rare and exotic reptiles onsite.
The second-story of the Zoo Creatures building is actually how the pet store came to be. In 1998, Kevin McCurley started the New England Reptile Distributors (NERD). Dan explains, “Kevin started breeding snakes in his house, and when the time came to expand, he started NERD.”
NERD now serves as both a breeding facility and an educational tool geared towards the general public. They have tours every Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 p.m., where one of the specialists will take out the animals and talk about them in detail - participation and questions are always encouraged. NERD also hosts parties and events both onsite and off. They’ll travel to schools and campsites, bringing animals for a show-and-tell event. Or, for a party of a life time, you can book a party right at the facility.
“We have a room that’s modeled to look like a cave. We book functions in there and bring the animals right in. We even partner with a local pizza parlor down the road for catering,” Bilodeau explains.
What could be cooler than learning about your favorite reptiles in a place that looks and feels like their natural habitat?
Employees of Zoo Creatures and at NERD are trained and specialized to work with whatever species they focus on at work. Everyone Dan hires at the store has specific interests and knowledge in their section. This is a lot of experience in one place considering Zoo Creatures boasts dog boarding, grooming, and daycare, small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, as well as all of the supplies you could ever need for all of these animals.
Bilodeau has been working with animals for 17 years - but he’s not the only one who’s been at Zoo Creatures for that long.
“Our alligator, Wally, is 17 years old and we’ve raised him from a hatchling. He spends the winter in the building and the summers out in his cage.”
Tortoises, koi fish, and chickens are also year-round residents of the Zoo Creatures property.
Education is the most important mission of Zoo Creatures. They believe that the more people know, the less stigmas and stereotypes will be placed on these animals. Recently, in Canada, two young boys were found asphyxiated in their home, the main suspect being a pet ball python. However, it is very rare for this to occur, and the case is still under investigation.
“It’s very common for people to immediately blame these animals,” says Bilodeau. “But the truth is more people have died in a shower than by reptiles. More people are hit by cars than attacked by reptiles.”
This fear is largely one of adults. At events, adults are the ones who shrink back in fear and run in the other direction when Bilodeau brings out an animal.
“I take out a snake and 90% of the kids run towards me and the adults run in the opposite direction.”
This curiosity and fascination is one that they want to keep in the kids and get the adults to feel. Because it turns out that reptiles, like snakes, are a lot less maintenance than animals like dogs or cats. There are no allergens, snakes shed in one piece, and their mess is contained to their enclosure - that leaves only one area to clean as opposed to needing to vacuum up fur all over the house. The more people know about these animals, the more people will tell their friends and the less these stigmas get thrown around. Considering branching out into exotic pet territory?
“The biggest thing is to research whatever you want to get into,” says Bilodeau. “Come in and talk to us and we can find the right animal to suit you.”