By, Carol Borchert
Evan Antin had very supportive parents growing up – even when he was bringing snakes home from the nearby woods, building terrariums for temporary turtle visitors, and constructing insect enclosures to get a close up view of cicadas and fireflies before letting them go. His fascination with all things wild, and particularly reptilian, set him off on a career path that is marked today by his impending graduation from veterinary school, as well as moonlighting stints as a conservationist, wildlife handler, and amateur videographer.
On YouTube, his Beast Charmer videos have a small but dedicated following, who watch the carefully orchestrated maneuvers of Antin as he puts an alligator into a trance-like state, “milks” a jumping pit viper chomping on a snake hook, and compares (side-by-side) a rattlesnake and a bull snake. For Antin, it’s all in the name of education and building respect, admiration and awe for some of the Earth’s most ancient, wondrous, and underappreciated (as well as feared) creatures.
Antin with red-eyed tree frog
“I grew up watching Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) and Jeff Corwin (The Jeff Corwin Experience on Animal Planet), and I saw them and it made me realize I can have a career in something I feel passionate about, too,” said Antin, who has completely tailored his life, from his undergraduate degree in biology, working as a veterinary technician, graduating from veterinary school, and even becoming certified and working as a personal trainer, to realizing his dreams. “It really started when I was living in Australia. I would go out at night, catch a snake or lizard, hold it in one hand with the camera in the other, and shoot some pretty basic video in front of my headlights.”
Antin’s travels take him around the globe, from the near in Colorado and Arizona (home to 18 different types of venomous snakes) to the far (New Zealand, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Panama, Tanzania, Brazil, Southeast Asia, and this fall to Indonesia), and many points in between. Gear for his trips always includes the basics – camcorder, crocodile snare, snake hook, pillowcases. His fiancée, Nathalie Basha, a television reporter with CBS News 8 in San Diego, sometimes accompanies Antin on his trips and produces his videos.
“Every time I travel, I look up pictures of bite injuries from snakes I might encounter,” said Antin. “It grounds me. You have to be confident when handling these animals, but you can’t get too cocky. When you are deep in the jungle and you get bit by a neurotoxic venomous snake – well, things usually don’t work out too well.”
Antin often travels with a guide, which makes his parents feel better; or sometimes on his own, which doesn’t. He tries to communicate with his family as much as possible to let them know he is OK. He’s also continuing to work on his “jungle vision” to help stay safe when he’s not relying on the reliable eyes of local guides.
Antin, who received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Colorado, will graduate on May 16 with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He’ll be moving to California to work at the Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital, where “they see quite a few exotic animals and wildlife.” He eventually hopes to specialize in reptilian and amphibian veterinary medicine, as well as continue as a voice for wildlife education and conservation – maybe even one day hosting his own show.
Interested in seeing a few of Antin’s videos? Check these out: