This inspiring individual is someone who stops traffic for bears, takes his dog fly fishing, photographs foxes in the Arctic (-50 degree winds and all), advocates for misunderstood reptiles, mammals, fish, and birds, and travels the world in search of wild places and work with wildlife.
Wes Larson is a wildlife biologist and a TV presenter who has managed to bring viewers around the world to the most magnificent of places, spreading the word about conservation and the importance of looking after our planet for future generations.
We most admire his effort in educating us all on human-wildlife conflict, which is a global issue from Africa to Asia and America to Australia. We can’t wait to see more from Wes!
We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did.
Please, tell us about yourself
I'm a bear biologist/TV presenter that has been working with wildlife for the past 9 years.
I grew up in Montana, a state in the United States that gave me a lot of access to wilderness and that upbringing really helped to jumpstart my obsession with wildlife and the wild places they call home.
During my career I have worked with polar bears, black bears, grizzly bears, sloth bears, african wild dogs, sea turtles, alligators, eagle rays, golden eagles and a number of other species, and I've been very lucky to see how wildlife biology is conducted around the world.
Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background
I got my masters from brigham young university where I studied both polar and black bears, specifically human-bear conflict.
Since graduating I have continued to work on bear projects while also hosting Mission Wild, a series for Great Big Story where we look at different wildlife conservation projects around the world and the biologists that are working to protect some of our most threatened species.
What or who in your life influenced you to pursue this route
The main thing that influenced me was simply the feeling that I get when I see wildlife in their natural habitat.
Nothing thrills me and brings me the kind of joy that those experiences do, and losing that opportunity to see animals in the wild makes the world seem like a much less inspiring and complete place.
So conservation is of utmost importance to me, and I'm glad that I've found a career that lets me make a mark in that space.
Currently, what is the inspiration that keeps you motivated and passionate about your work
Currently my inspiration is thinking about my nephew and niece and my future children and the kind of world that I want them to have.
I think with a lot of the current politics we are at a real breaking point where things are either going to get much worse for wildlife or slowly get better, and I want to make sure we make the right choices to protect those animals for future generations.
What is the most impactful aspect of your work
I think communication and outreach is the most impactful part of my work.
While research and studies can have a big impact on the conservation of a species, helping to change public opinion or simply inspiring people about wildlife conservation can have a huge effect that is impossible to measure, and I hope that I have contributed to that in some way.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled and why
That's a hard one. I tend to love whatever country I last visited the best.
I recently went to India and was astounded by the vibrant culture of the country, as well as the amazing opportunities to see charismatic megafauna like tigers, leopards and elephants.
The whole experience of traveling to India was intoxicating in the best possible way and I hope to return soon.
Tell us about your strangest experience while traveling
While in South Africa I was assisting on a project to create a new pack of African wild dogs and part of that process was making the dogs (who previously had not met each other) smell like one another while they were sedated.
That involved me sticking my fingers up the back end of a whole pack of wild dogs and smearing their poop on their new pack member's muzzles.
That was a strange one!
Why do you feel that wildlife conservation is important
The world is rapidly changing and wildlife conservation is simply not a priority for most people that are essentially just concerned with (and probably rightfully so) feeding their own families.
So I believe that wildlife conservationists and biologists need to be especially vocal to fight for the existence of species that are directly threatened by our destructive way of life.
Those animals bring me and billions of other people an immense amount of joy and losing them represents a tragedy that is not only abhorrent, but avoidable.
What is your favorite Wild in Africa bracelet style and why
I like the Zambian Carnivore Programme bracelet because I've always had a soft spot for Africa's carnivores!
Are there any animals you feel especially passionate about
I'm especially passionate about bears because they always carried a certain mythology in my brain as I was growing up.
The woods of my home felt more alive because they were home to grizzly bears and I knew that I had to be more alert, aware and present whenever I was in their realm.
That kind of experience makes your senses operate at a higher level and makes the forest and the wilderness much more invigorating and personal.
Bears need the wilderness to survive, so when you protect bears you protect that wilderness and I am passionate about both of those causes.
Can you share your future plans and hopes for yourself
I hope to continue highlighting the efforts around the world to save out threatened species as well as continue to produce research papers that will direct political management decisions for wildlife.
Mostly I'm hoping that Shannon and Russ let me come tag along on one of their adventures as soon as I possibly can!