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Central Homegrown 1

KP Exotic Pets and Reptile Education


Have you ever come across a place in your own neighborhood that you’ve somehow overlooked for years? Many of my articles aim to encourage Arkansans to explore the restaurants, museums, unique shops and beautiful sites in their own neighborhoods. On more than one occasion, I have said,” You never know what you’ll find in your own backyard.”

Recently, I surprised myself when I discovered snakes in my backyard. Lots of snakes. And rats. Lots of rats. But they aren’t on the loose; they are located just down the street, safely confined inside the barns of KP Exotics.

Not everyone loves snakes, but they hold an important place in our ecosystem. Arkansas Snakes often get a bad rap, but they serve a vital role in pest control and keeping all of nature’s systems in check. Yes, even the venomous snakes.

I came to appreciate snakes by accident. When my young son became old enough to venture outside with me into our backyard and the forest surrounding our home, I knew I needed to become more snake-savvy. I needed to be able to recognize that not every snake was a “Copperheaded Moccasin Rattler” just waiting in the shadows to attack us.

I joined an Arkansas Snake Identification group on Facebook and began to study the traits of snakes that can be found in my area of the state. Knowledge is power, and the more I learned, the less afraid I became—even to the point where I felt confident enough to relocate a rat snake that made its way to our front porch and pick up a rough green snake on our trail so we could take a closer look.

That’s where Barbara Parks, owner of  KP Exotics, excels. They breed several species of exotic pets, including Continental Giant and Rex rabbits and Ball Pythons, Blood Pythons, and Borneo Pythons. But their goal isn’t mass production; it’s quality, care and education. Their snake barn is lined with rows of tubs, each holding a small python that was bred for its genetics and temperament. The result is a variety of beautiful and unique morph options that make their snakes desirable amongst collectors all over the country.

To ensure that their careful breeding leads to healthy adult snakes, Parks carefully monitors the temperature and humidity of the snake building, mimicking their natural habitat to create the perfect environment for growth. They are fed the highest quality food – rats that are meticulously bred on-site and humanely euthanized before feeding – so their snakes receive the best possible source of nutrition.

To say I was shocked to learn that I drive by a barn full of snakes and a barn full of rats twice every day is an understatement. I’m not keen on having a “pet” snake in my home, but if I were, I would connect with Parks and KP Exotics, or I would meet up with them at one of the many reptile and exotic pet shows they attend, such as the Jacksonville Show Me Reptile Show which is held in the expo center four times each year.

Personal experience has taught me that snake education matters and enormously affects public perception. Parks completely agrees. She’s not only a member of the Central Arkansas Herpetological Society, but also makes outreach and education an integral part of KP Exotics and considers it the heart of their mission.

Together with her husband Tracy Klotz, a biology instructor at Arkansas State University, Parks visits area schools, STEM events, expos, scout-type groups and homeschool groups, and will even attend private events. Their program includes education about Arkansas snakes, how to identify various species and how to determine (from a distance) if a snake is venomous. They talk about the importance of snakes in the wild and the differences between those in captivity. Then comes the fun part! KP Exotics always brings a selection of rabbits, snakes and turtles so attendees can have the opportunity to see the animals up close and maybe even hold a snake.

If snakes scare the pants off of you, I totally understand. However, if they do, you probably didn’t make it to this part of the article. If you have some curiosity and want to learn more, Barbara Parks and Tracy Klotz will be happy to share their wealth of knowledge and bring their education program to a group in your area. If you are in the market for a pet snake, definitely make plans to connect with them at the Jacksonville Reptile Show on May 4 and 5.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

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One response to “KP Exotic Pets and Reptile Education”

  1. Becky says:

    Great article. Can we visit the snake barn?

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