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Three tortoises slowly mill about their 3,000-square-foot enclosure along side of a home where they munch on edible orchid, hibiscus and cactus plants at Adam’s Animal Encounters. 

Almost 4 acres on Pine Island is a refuge for 80 reptiles representing 39 species who are cared for by a man who has a passion for animals and educating others to grow an appreciation for them. 

The property, on a lake, is where Adam Pottruck and his wife Lauren live, surrounded by tortoise enclosures, man-made ponds, edible plants and land to expand their rescue.

Some of the 80 animals include tortoises, turtles, snakes, geckos, bearded dragons, alligators, a tegu and even a black widow spider he found on his boat.

Adam Pottruck feeds two of his tortoises some romaine as a treat on Wednesday, September 10, 2020, at his home on Pine Island. (Photo: Amanda Inscore/The News-Press USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)

Adam’s Animal Encounters began two and a half years ago. Pottruck takes in mostly surrendered pets, cares for them and uses them to educate others in hopes that they will love them just as much as he does. 

Now that means educating visitors at his home.

Some of the animals arrive with injuries and need rehabilitation.

This isn’t just a hobby for Pottruck, it is a full-time job, 10- to 12-hour days, six days a week. The long hours are worth it, he said, because he loves reptiles and loves spending time with the animals. 

His day starts by checking on all of the animals, usually while a snake or lizard is around his neck, to make sure they are alright and to check they didn’t flip over water or food dishes, heat lamps aren’t burnt out and pumps are still running.

Last thing he does at night is make sure the tortoises are inside their homes outside and take in some critters who only stay outside during the day. 

While working with the reptiles, Pottruck is caring and treats them almost like children. Speaking to them softly, handling them gently and calling them pet names, like “sweetie.”

A female ball python named Bozo wraps around his arm as he tells visitors facts like how Bozo can eat something one and a half to two times the thickest part of her body. She has extra skin under her head so she can open her jaw larger.

At the start of Adam’s Animal Encounters he was putting on three to four school programs a week steadily, taking his animals into schools and teaching children about them. 

In the first three quarters of last year’s school schedule, Pottruck saw about 3,000 kids in the Lee County school system. Groups of 50 kids at a time would experience rotating stations, smell stations and touch stations – all sorts of things that made his program unique