Humans of ‘Berg: Benjamin Delin

**This is the start of a Profile series by Sophia Johnson-Grimes titled "Humans of 'Berg"**

What inspired your love of animals?

I've always been drawn to nature. Growing up, I spent as much time in it as possible. In the summer going into my junior year if high school, I spent three weeks living on a seventy-foot catamaran gaining my scuba and international sailing licenses. On this trip, I also got to do a lot of coral conservation work, which is what spurred me towards my love for ocean animals. In the summer going into my senior year, I spent four weeks living out of a kayak circumnavigating Vancouver Island off the coast of Canada. I tracked all of the marine mammals in the area, and that just made my love for nature and animals grow even deeper. I also grew up around animals. I have two dogs and seven horses, and I have been riding since I was six.

What experience do you have working with animals?

My experience working with animals mostly spurs from my two trips, but also from the job I have right now. I work at a local wildlife and nature Conservation Center, where I am their youngest naturalist and specialize in animal education. This means I work with all of their former rehab animals, especially the birds of prey. I work with owls, hawks, skunks, falcons, possums, snakes, you name it!

Which animals are your favorite to work with?  

My personal favorite animals to work with are the owls. I'm one of the only people that constantly uses them, and I've actually formed a really close bond with two of the owls. I like them a lot, and I like to think that they know who I am on account of the fact they’re super calm when I use them, even to the point that they lean up against me and let me pet and touch them freely. They're also usually super affectionate with me. My second favorite animal would probably be our one skunk named Cabbage. He just looks like a wrinkly old man: he is super, super cute, cuddly, and he surprisingly smells really good. He had his stink gland removed so he cannot spray me, and he loves to cuddle up and be pet.

Where do you see yourself in the future? What is your dream job?  

Ideally, in the future, I would like to be doing Coral conservation work as I am a marine environmental science major. I am also in the works of trying to get an internship at the National Smithsonian Zoo. Ideally, I guess I am looking for anything in conservation or animal husbandry. However, I do have plans of living on a boat after college and doing a lot of marine fieldwork.

Tell me the craziest experience you’ve had working with animals.  

There's not really one specific experience that's pretty crazy, there’s two. One time one of the hawks was on the glove, which is what we use to hold them or for them to perch on us, and he did something called baiting (which is when they try to fly). When he did this, his talon grabbed hold of me and managed to cut me from my wrist to my thumb on the back of my hand. I have a scar there now, but if he had gotten me any harder or deeper he would have ripped my hand wide open. Another time, I was using the other hawk to teach a group of students about birds. When I took him out of the box, his back was facing the teacher and he pooped all over the front of her shirt. The students were laughing, and I tried really, really hard to be serious but I could not stop laughing. It was possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of working there.

What do you want people to know about animals/nature in general?  

Whenever someone sees an animal in nature, they often feel like they should try and get close, give them food, or to try and take a picture. I want people to know not to do that. Human engagement with wild animals is the main reason that most of the animals at my work live with us now. It’s because a human has engaged with them in some manner and ultimately hurt or injured them. Because of that, these animals can't live in the wild now. If you see an animal in the wild, it's fine to admire it from a distance, but that's it. Leave it alone, let it live its life, and move on. Also, snakes might seem a little scary, but they're essential for the ecosystem, as they eat rodents that might ruin your house, such as mice, squirrels, etc. Also, clean up your trash. I know this is something you've heard since grade school with the 3 R's: reduce, reuse recycle. But seriously, keep your area and the environment clean. It does a lot more damage than you think.