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Rattlesnake Museum Slithers Into Oklahoma City

An albino western diamondback rattlesnake is one of about 35 reptiles on exhibit at the OKC Rattlesnake Museum.
Claire Donnelly
An albino western diamondback rattlesnake is one of about 35 reptiles on exhibit at the OKC Rattlesnake Museum.

A museum showcasing some of the nation’s deadliest snakes opened Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

The OKC Rattlesnake Museum features rows of glass tanks displaying about 35 venomous reptiles, from a 22-pound eastern diamondback rattlesnake to a Gila monster.

“The rattlesnake rattle is an eerie sound,” said Carl Sandefer, the museum’s founder and owner. “It’s something you don’t forget.”

Visitors to the small museum in Stockyards City have a chance to hear that rattle at close range--Sandefer’s collection includes two particularly noisy western diamondback rattlesnakes.

Oklahoma is home to 46 native snake species, including seven venomous varieties such as the copperhead, cottonmouth, prairie rattlesnake and western massasauga.

Sandefer said he wanted local residents to have a chance to see these reptiles up close and learn how to identify the different kinds.  

“You could have a rattlesnake coiled up on your back porch,” Sandefer said. “So it just helps [if] [you] can learn a little bit about it.”

Sandefer has a background in biology; in addition to studying the subject in college, he worked at the Oklahoma City Zoo herpetarium as well as Creepy Hollow, a youth education program.

He has been collecting snakes from a young age, and as a child he even ordered some species from places like New York and Florida. Sandefer said his mom would pick him up from school to collect the deliveries.

“The airport would get a snake in and call up and say ‘Hey, we’ve got this box out here for Carl,’” Sandefer said. “Before you know it, you’ve got a room full of snakes and your mom is yelling at you.”

The OKC Rattlesnake Museum is open daily from 11 am to 4 pm. Admission is free.

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Claire has previously worked at KGOU, where she helped create a podcast, How Curious, and hosted local news during Morning Edition. Previously, she was an intern on the city desk at WBEZ in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School. Claire has reported on street performers, temp workers, criminal court cases, police dogs, Christmas tree recycling and more.
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