Cole Shirk wants to teach you everything he knows about animals via his YouTube channel, where he’s posted more than 120 videos during the past two years.
“I hope to educate more people about animals. There are a lot of people who don’t know a whole lot,” Cole said. “I want to teach people more, especially about endangered animals.”
His dad, Ken Shirk, is the man behind the camera while Cole, a sophomore at Belleville West High School, is the animal enthusiast asking questions of experts at local animal rescue organizations such as the World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis and the Treehouse Wildlife Center in Dow.
“He kind of does everything, and I’m the talent in front of the camera,” Cole said of his dad.
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His father said a passion for animals runs in the family. “He comes by it naturally,” Ken said of his son Cole. “He’s very knowledgeable. … he puts the time in and the people respond to it. As long as he continues to put the effort forward, I’ll continue to support him.”
The 15-year-old likes animals so much he has 16 pets, including his family’s two dogs.
“I just really love a variety of animals,” Cole said.
His pets include four different types of geckos — a Tokay gecko, a giant day gecko, a leopard gecko, and a crested gecko.
Cole also has an American toad, two Eastern box turtles, a milk snake, a green tree frog, a gray tree frog, two Northern green frogs, two White’s tree frogs and two rescue dogs.
“They are really cool, and their personalities are amazing, especially the turtles,” Cole said. “They probably have the biggest personalities of any animals that we own.
“Most of my animals are characters, despite what people think about reptiles and amphibians,” he said. “They are pretty crazy. They are very enthusiastic, especially when they memorize feeding times. They are very intelligent.”
Currently, Cole, who was born in Belleville and recently moved back to the area, has 134 subscribers to his YouTube channel. A new video is uploaded to Cole’s channel every Wednesday.
The News-Democrat recently sat down with Cole to talk about his passion for animals and the purpose behind his videos.
Q: How long have you been interested in animals?
A: “I’ve been interested in animals as far back as I can remember. In first and second grade, I was reading books from my school’s library to educate myself about animals. He (my dad) bought me multiple animal encyclopedias.”
Q: How long have you been doing your YouTube channel?
A: “I’ve been doing it for about two years, almost two and a half years. We don’t have an official name for it; we just call it ‘Animal Education with Cole Shirk.’”
Q: What have you shot recently?
A: “We recently went to World Bird Sanctuary. We’ve been to Treehouse Wildlife Center (in Dow). There we did coyotes at Treehouse, and we also did a woodpecker … At World Bird, we did a golden eagle and a Bateleur eagle, a barn owl and a great horned owl there. Both places have been really supportive of what I’ve done.”
Q: How long are your videos?
A: “We try to do the best we can. Usually they are about 5 to 10-ish minutes, somewhere in there. Not too long, to keep people’s attention. We do cover everything within that time.”
Q: How long does a video usually take you to shoot?
A: “It takes us a couple hours while we’re there. Animal people like to talk a lot … we talk more about the animals off-camera than we have time for on-camera. Probably about half or twice the information is off-camera. Each video takes about 15-ish minutes.”
Q: Have you thought about what you want to do after high school?
A: “As a sophomore, I’m definitely thinking about it, but I haven’t pinpointed an exact area I want to go into. I definitely want to work out in the field with animals.”
Q: What are you doing this summer?
A: “I definitely plan to work on my YouTube channel and go to different places to do different interviews and stuff. It’s constant work.”
Cole Shirk’s favorites
- Animal: Eastern box turtles
- Movie: “Jurassic World”
- TV show: “Big Bang Theory”
- Music: Rock ’n’ roll
- Book: “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King
- School subject: Life science
- Food: Steak
- Restaurant: Chevy’s and Outback Steakhouse
- Phone App: Facebook
- Color: B5 blue