Photo Series: Badger Exotics and the owner’s desire “to shock and awe”


Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

“An exotic animal is something that is not local to where you are staying. An exotic animal here can be a camel while in Saudi Arabia it can be a deer,” said owner of Badger Exotics Charles Lewis.  

Badger Exotics is located on 719 State Street in La Crosse. The store, according to Lewis, “specializes in the selling of reptiles and exotic animals.” As owner of Badger Exotics, Lewis “takes care of the day-to-day husbandry of exotic animals as well as works retail in the pet trade.”  

Lewis is native to the Chicago area. It was in Chicago where Lewis got his love of pets. “Ever since I could remember, I have been into pets and animals,” he said. “When I was growing up, there was a local pet store where I would go and ask the owner a million questions about everything. I wanted to be a zoologist, but since I am not a zoologist, [being a pet store owner] is the next best thing.”

Along with taking care of exotic animals, Lewis said he is fond of dogs. “I always say that exotic animals are my minor and dogs are my major. I was a professional dog trainer for 22 years doing personal and drug protection and things of that nature,” he said.

When asked why he came to La Crosse, Lewis said, “I like La Crosse. I am a big-time fishermen and hunter. I came here in 2003 to drop off a friend and when we arrived in La Crosse, I saw some eagles on the north side. I couldn’t believe that there were just eagles flying around here. After that, I just fell in love with the place.”

After living in La Crosse for close to 19 years and working with different pet stores around the area, Lewis opened Badger Exotics a year and a half ago.  According to Lewis, Badger Exotic instills the same excitement in the store’s patrons that he had at seeing eagles in La Crosse for the first time. “I have found that people often like to go to the extremes. When I feed a whole, live rabbit to one of the pythons that I have here, people are blown away and always want to see more. I want to shock and awe all of those that walk into Badger Exotics,” he said.

Lewis said customers should be advised when interested in purchasing an exotic pet. “Do your research, of course, and when you look at the animal that you think you want, make sure that it is something that you are going to wake up every day and take care of,” said Lewis. “If you can’t see that in your future, then your husbandry and care may take a backslide.” 

Badger Exotics is located on 719 State Street and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday each week. Along with exotic animals, enclosures and pet food for sale, French bulldog puppies are available for purchasing. Head to the Badger Exotics website or Instagram (@badgerexoticslacrossewisconsin) for more information.