ELBERTA — A 13-year-old Baldwin County boy has "wild" ambitions that he is making a reality.

Jay Lightsey has always been interested in reptiles and amphibians, but when he was only nine years old, he turned his passion into a career that will likely last a lifetime. With over 80 snakes, lizards, tortoises and other animals, he has taken his mission to the next level.

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Jay Lightsey holds "Scar," a green iguana. Photo: Erica Thomas.

“I’ve pretty much been into it forever – ever since I was little, I don’t know how, but I was always into it,” Lightsey told 1819 News. “I would watch it on TV, Gator Boys and Steve Irwin.”

Known as “Outdoors with Jay” on social media, Lightsey has showcased his critters and shared educational information on them for nearly five years. He even found investors to purchase a bus so he could take his show on the road.

“I came up with the idea during COVID,” Lightsey said. “I wrote up a proposal and got the money. I worked on it for years and this will be my third year running it.”

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The Reptile Bus. Photo: Erica Thomas.

Lightsey said he wants to educate people that reptiles aren’t bad. Even those in the wild, he said, will typically leave people alone if they are left alone.

“They help more than you think,” he said. “Lots of people think snakes are out to get them. This way, they sort of have a little bit of understanding about them when they see them.”

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With the help of books, television shows, YouTube and his own experiences, Lightsey has become a real expert. He said neighbors call him to remove some reptiles. He has also had some of his animals donated by people who are no longer able to care for their scaley pets.

With so many pets, Lightsey said he can’t pick a favorite.

“I feel that’s like saying who your favorite child is,” Lightsey explained.

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Outdoors with Jay shows rare turtle, mixed with common snapping turtle and an alligator snapping turtle. Photo: Erica Thomas.

But there is one glaring difference between the reptiles and children. Reptiles can’t tell you when they don’t feel good or when they’re not in the mood to play. However, Lightsey said he has a special gift.

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Scar, the green iguana is so relaxed that Outdoors with Jay can touch his tongue. Photo: Erica Thomas.

“I don't know how, but I just can look in the reptile's eye and look straight in them, and I can tell if he's going to bite me or if he is not,” he said. “Sometimes they’re in a calm mood, and sometimes they’re in an explore mood.”

Exploration is important for the pets and sometimes they even get to go outside on a halter and leash. Lightsey, with the help of his parents, is constantly working to improve the habitats.

“They just always support me with whatever,” he added. “They always help me. They support me. They're just the greatest parents in the world.”

Along with that support, Lightsey hopes to operate the Outdoors with Jay reptile bus for years to come. He says he hopes to still love reptiles and have even more in 20 years. In fact, he said he would like to work in a zoo someday.

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Shelley was Jay Lightsey's first reptile. Photo: Erica Thomas.

The bus will be at The Wharf in Orange Beach every Tuesday night through the end of July. It costs $5 to get on the bus and another $5 to hold an animal. Lightsey also offers services for organizations and birthday parties. Anyone interested can message him on Facebook or Instagram.

In the meantime, Outdoors with Jay has a message to all:

"Be safe, my friends!"

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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