Sills said she overcame her fears because Beerbower was always so gentle and kind with his approach to animals.
Beerbower’s love of animals stretches to childhood. His dad was a biology teacher and a young Beerbower caught animals and discussed them with his father.
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“Bruce said, ‘I bet I can make you more comfortable with snakes,’ and I said, ‘I bet not,’” Sills said. “He would bring them around constantly and eventually got me to touch one. After a couple of months, he just handed me a snake and walked away to go do something else. When he came back he said, ‘I knew you were ready. You just needed a little push.’”
Catawba County Science Center Lead Naturalist Bruce Beerbower shows family of four the tiny star fish living in a tank in the center’s aquarium.
In 2009, he had to wrangle an alligator more than 7 feet long for an exhibit titled “Swamp Things.” Beerbower was tasked with picking up the big gator at Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach, and he said the employees were surprised by his willingness to grab the big reptile. “Two or three days after we got him up here, their guy called me and asked, ‘How is it doing and where did you learn to wrestle alligators?’” Beerbower said. “I said, ‘Well, the first time I ever petted an alligator, I was about 8 or 9.’ The biggest one I have helped capture and move was 13-and-a-half-feet long.”
As the full-time gig at the Catawba Science Center nears its end, Beerbower said he is thankful for all the people and friends he has met throughout the years. Beerbower worked as the center’s naturalist, but he has also been known to help out where needed, including cleaning up.