American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque

Crotalus cerastes, sidewinder, image

Crotalus cerastes goes by the common names of sidewinder and horned rattlesnake. | courtesy of Tigerhawkvok/Wikipedia

Road Journals Blog—I stood inches away from the fangs and telltale cheeks of poisonous vipers from North, South, and Central America, and earned a Certificate of Bravery in Albuquerque’s Old Town.

The American International Rattlesnake Museum in Old Town Albuquerque claims to have the largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes in the world, beating out some top-notch zoos. It also has a variety of fun exhibits that include license plates with snake-themed lettering, jewelry, videos, and a trivia quiz. On the first day of a press trip, I made straight for the snakes.

I watched footage of a snake catching and devouring a ground squirrel and although the slow, excruciating death seemed tame enough on film, it wasn’t an appetizing prelude to my own lunch. The glass-fronted exhibits of the snakes are the biggest draw. I stared at them, noting the signs that ask you not to knock on the glass. I was a bit disappointed to see that many of the vipers, including the albino rattler, seemed to be asleep. That’s probably why I let my guard down.

Crotalus horridus, timber rattler, image

Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are found in the eastern United States. | courtesy Tad Arensmeier/Wikipedia

I became engrossed looking at a striking—visually, that is—red diamondback rattler in a top row of glass cases, and forgot about getting too close. It was only when I bent down to look at the black western diamondback below that I saw it was ready to strike. His head was up and drawn back, his tail straight up and shaking. I couldn’t hear the rattling, but the sight of the diamondback looking dangerous made me move in reverse politely and quickly.

I survived my encounter and went on to test my knowledge on the rattlesnake trivia quiz:

Q: True or False: Rattlesnakes are found in four different states in this country.
A: False: Rattlesnakes are actually found in all but four states. There are no rattlesnakes in Hawaii, Alaska, Maine, and Delaware. (I got this one wrong.)

If you’d like to check your snake smarts, go to Rattlesnake Trivia Quiz.

Even if you don’t score high on the test, though, be wise and enjoy our slithering neighbors the safest way, behind glass, and in the best place, Albuquerque’s Rattlesnake Museum, rattlesnakes.com.

What unusual museums have you been to?

This blog post was first published in August 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

Comments

The oddest museum in the state of Washington may be one of the smallest: the Museum of Unnatural History in Walla Walla. One man's kitschy, evocative, and absurdist view of the world is put on display for you to browse. There's no good way to describe the unusual contents--it's best to just go there!