Rattlers & Reptiles - Atlas Obscura

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Rattlers & Reptiles

Fort Davis, Texas

A rattlesnake museum showcasing over 30 species, in a century-old building that used to be the general store in this tiny West Texas town. 

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Here you can see almost every species of rattlesnake in the United States, including a few from Mexico. Along with a few local insects, arachnids, skinks, and even Gila monsters.

Jeffery Ross, known as “Buzz,” had a lifelong love of reptiles and big dreams to match. As the former supervisor of the reptile house at the Fort Worth Zoo, Buzz had a yearning to move out to West Texas in the Davis mountains. He moved to Fort Davis and went into taxidermy with a partner. After he bought his partner out, the business, shop, and a parcel of land were his.

The property has a long history. His shop had been a market and general store. Behind it is an adobe-and-rock motel, used during the days of horse-drawn wagons, that closed in 1953. In between the two, there was even a 1,400-square-foot house, which became handy for keeping a few extra snakes.

Ross had long dreamed of opening a rattlesnake museum. He already had the snakes, most of which he caught himself, so one mad day in April 2000, Ross rashly cashed in his investments and began renovating the taxidermy shop and started working on snake displays, with the help of a friend named Scott Tepes. He started with four snakes—today there are over 30. The Houston Chronicle once described it as “the funkiest roadside attraction west of the Pecos.”

Sadly, Ross passed away in May 2018. He passed the museum on to his longtime friend Scott Tepes, a snake expert in his own right. Given Ross’s eclectic nature, Tepes had a lot of work to do cleaning things up. Over 50 vehicles have been removed from the property and the old motel in the back is even getting cleaned up.

Although Tepes would prefer to call it the Fort Davis Rattlesnake Museum, however, that might take a new sign since the mural on the building has become quite beloved.

Know Before You Go

Before you go: know that the owner is not a 365 day resident to Fort Davis and splits his time between two places, although he prefers the desert the best and makes sure to be there for holidays and other popular tourist times. It's also cash only admission. Fort Davis is still the Wild West!

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