Safari Jeff McKay explains how Russell

Reptiles roll into town

Red Deer is the first stop on Safari Jeff’s annual cross-country safari.

Red Deer is the first stop on Safari Jeff’s annual cross-country safari.

Jeff McKay has crisscrossed Canada for 25 years, sharing his love of reptiles in stage shows at fairs, shopping centres and other venues.

“I try to make it more fascinating every year and keep it interesting for me as well,” says the 40-year-old.

“The same question, but from a different person, makes it unique. I’ve had a lucky life.”

About 60 people came to his first Animology show in a theatre created from Parkland Mall’s vacant northeast store. The 30-minute presentation is jammed with facts about reptilian life, his non-stop narrative covering the habits, habitat, physiology and biology of the many reptiles he owns.

Video presentations he and wife Shannon shoot themselves in Canada, South America and Africa describe the lives of primates, birds and other animals outside the reptile realm.

“The audio-visual aspect brings in other types of animals. It broadens the experience.”

McKay’s season runs from February to April in Western Canada and July through September in the east. Wife Shannon now stays home with their children Charlie, 5, and Ruby, 2, in Kamloops — a desert geography well suited to caring for reptiles.

That leaves Safari Jeff to travel alone in his big tour bus to keep his precious cargo of cold-blooded critters warm.

“I know them all by smell and you have to keep them clean.”

His entourage includes lizards, turtles, snakes of all sizes, an African spur tortoise named Father Time and even a small crocodile.

A trailer contains the backdrops and other props he needs.

“The show’s the easiest part. I’m a truck driver, a mover, an entertainer, I do it all.”

Safari Jeff enjoyed his first trip to the Red Deer for last year’s Westerner Days and will return for a second year this summer.

The Parkland Mall shows run today and tomorrow at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Though admission is free, donations to the Red Deer Food Bank are encouraged.

rfiedler@bprda.wpengine.com

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