Mike Hopcraft is coming to Mission and he’s bringing snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, tarantulas, scorpions and plenty of other creatures with him.
Known as the Reptile Guy, Hopcraft is shutting down his Abbotsford-based rescue and education centre and moving to First Avenue in Mission’s downtown core.
He plans to relocate the reptiles on July 1 and hopes to be open to the public two weeks after that.
Hopcraft said the move is needed because he’s outgrown his 1,250-square-foot facility. Finding a larger space that allows reptiles,has been a challenge.
“We started to get a really good reception from Mission. There were a lot of people interested in having us out here,” he said.
His new facility has 4,300 sq.ft. of space, more than three times the area he had in Abbotsford, providing enough room to house the more than 300 creatures he often cares for.
The centre focuses on rescuing animals. Pets that have been abandoned, seized, lost or sick are taken in and rehabilitated. If possible, they are adopted out and those that can’t be relocated, remain on site as part of the education side of the centre.
“The education program is what funds the rescue. We don’t get donations – we deal with animals that scare people.”
The facility acts like a zoo, where the public can come in and learn about reptiles.
“They get a hands-on tour, see some animals, learn about conservation and endangered species and the money they spend goes right into the rescue program.”
Those who are brave enough can even hold and pet the reptiles.
Hopcraft said his facility is a huge hit with kids, many of whom have a fascination with reptiles. One of the biggest fundraisers for his centre is birthday parties and the new Mission building allows them to create an on-site birthday party room.
“Birthday parties are one of the main reasons we are able to stay open,” he said.
Jamie Hayes, executive director of the Mission Downtown Business Association, called the new facility a “wonderfully unique addition” to the area.
“We are very encouraged that Mike has worked so well with the District of Mission in preparation of his opening. We look forward to the many families the facility will draw into downtown Mission.”
Mayor Randy Hawes agrees.
“I think his is the kind of business that is going to draw people. And what’s wrong with having something that will draw people downtown?” he asked.
Hawes believes local students will be intrigued.
“I am pretty darn sure there will be a heck of a lot of school kids that would love to go and look at them.”
According to Hawes, no special zoning was needed to allow the centre to move in and the district has no safety concerns about the reptiles.
“I don’t see any danger at all,” said Hawes. “He’s been doing this for years. He doesn’t sell them. This isn’t a pet store. It’s a recovery place.”
He added that Hopcraft respects B.C. legislation and won’t have any dangerous animals without the proper permits and precautions.
Hopcraft confirmed that all the animals he has right now are “perfectly legal” to own in B.C.
However, he does plan to construct a quarantine room and acquire a rescue permit from the Ministry of Environment.
“That permit will allow us to take in what we call ‘controlled alien species. ” ’
Larger snakes or other reptiles which the government has deemed as a dangerous animal, can be housed there if he has a permit and a secured enclosure from which the creatures cannot escape.
“There is no safety threat.”
While he is used to getting some public concern about the reptiles, Hopcraft said the feedback so far has been mostly upbeat.
“We are getting more positive reaction from Mission than we ever got from Abbotsford.
Before he can open, Hopcraft has to finish renovating his new space, which is an expensive endeavour.
“We assume we will run out of money during the building process,” he said.
He has already sold his personal vehicle in order to finance the move and is looking for donations and sponsorships for the facility.
Sponsors can receive a plaque on one of the reptile enclosures, with their business name on it.