Our animal care department wears a lot of hats. Under the umbrella of animal care are all our resident animals, from Bullfrogs to Corn Snakes, Barred Owls to Red Tailed Hawks. We have more than two dozen animals that live with us because they cannot be released into the wild. Some are part of our education programs, and some simply make their home with us.

shawn bittman

Additionally, animal care is the department that takes in the injured or sick mammals and birds that come to us from the community. Nearly every day, the Nature Center fields at least one call (and sometimes a visit) regarding an injured or ill animal. Our animal care workers evaluate the situation, and determine if the animal can be released, can be cared for by us, or needs medical attention. Sometimes an animal is with us for an hour; sometimes it is with us for four years.

The department relies on a stable of well trained and amazingly dedicated volunteers. For several years, Laura Craver-Rogers oversaw animal care. Laura has moved into an administrative/education position and our new Animal Curator is Shawn Bittman. We caught up with Shawn recently and he answered a few questions for us.

Name: Shawn Bittman
Age: 23
Hometown: Ledyard

Education/degrees: I am graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in Spring 2016, with a concentration in organismal biology.

How long have you worked at DPNC: Eight months

What is your current position? Animal care manager/educator

What’s the best part about your job? I love the one-on-one opportunities to connect with animals. I have a huge passion for the animal world and thoroughly enjoy inspiring others to love nature and wildlife too.

What’s the best part about the DPNC? The best part about DPNC is the feeling of community. Whether I run into visitors or fellow educators, everyone is always looking to learn or share their knowledge. Every day at the nature center always brings something new.

What do people ask you most often when they find out you work at a Nature Center? People often ask “What types of animals do you have at the Nature Center?”

What surprises you about your job? It always surprises me the vast variety of questions people come up with during programs. By the end of each program I always end up teaching and talking about a lot more than I had originally planned to.

Favorite animal, plant, or … (and why): I have always thought of salamanders as my favorite animal. They are so diverse and have so many unique characteristics that allow them survive in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Did you know that “amphibian” directly translates to “double life” in Greek? It is also fascinating how well salamanders can regenerate body tissue, having the ability to regenerate and repair their tail, limbs, eyes, jaw, brain, spinal cord, and even their heart!