When you enter Jim Nesci’s basement reptile museum, take care to look at more than just the animals in the glass-encased cages. A look above reveals a 6-foot-long boa constrictor wrapped around the limb of a low-hanging tree branch—no cage or glass separates you from this cold-blooded creature.
Getting people up close and personal with reptiles is Nesci’s passion. The owner and founder of Cold Blooded Creatures in Homer Glen, Nesci has filled his home with alligators, crocodiles, tortoises, snakes and lizards. He offers group tours of his museum or brings his animals to people’s homes and to local events. Visitors are encouraged to touch and feed the animals.
"This whole tour thing is for the adults as much as the kids," Nesci says. "If Grandma’s here, she’s going to hold a snake." During the tour, Nesci tells stories about the animals to teach people that there’s little to fear when visiting his menagerie.
"The whole program dispels myths and superstitions," Nesci says. "I want to show people what’s offered here because it’s offered nowhere else."
Nesci’s museum holds about 35 animals, including a large tank of three North American alligators that kids can feed using a long metal pole with the food attached to the end. Nesci opens the door to the tank so kids are standing face to face with the alligators. Although the average parents might fear for their child, Nesci says the children are in no danger.
"I try to show that these guys can learn," Nesci says. "I can feed them in total safety because the alligators are trained where the food ends."
Nesci’s tour takes about two hours and costs $450 for a group of up to 20, including children and adults. If the weather’s nice, the tour can start outdoors where kids can feed the fish and turtles in Nesci’s pond. They can also pet and ride on Al, a tortoise weighing several hundred pounds who is so strong he recently lifted up the back of Nesci’s mini-van when he got underneath it.
Nesci finds a way to make the tour appeal to all ages. "My toughest challenge was a group of 13- and 14-year-old boys. I figured if I can do this, I can do anything," Nesci says. "For two hours, nobody was texting or on their cell phones. If I can entertain them, I can entertain anyone."
For more information, check Nesci’s Web site at www.coldbloodedcreatures.com or call (815) 485-9370.
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