Filming for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild is in full swing. Hosts Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant and Peter Gros traveled across the United States in search of inspiring wildlife stories. We can’t wait for you to see these stories — starting Oct. 7 on NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block — but in the meantime, get a feel of what’s to come.
Latest Wild Kingdom filming locations
When you think of Texas, you might picture wide open spaces and country roads. But did you know Texas is the bat capital of the U.S.?
As migratory species, bats need places to stopover on their journey. Many of these migratory species use caves or bridges in Texas. During the summer months, more than 20 million bats leave Texas caves each night. What do these bats do when they leave? They feast on insects, helping agricultural crops.
“Estimates suggest the emergence of bats each night across Texas results in many tons of crop-eating insects consumed, protecting both farms and the foods we eat,” Dr. Rae said.
The Wild Kingdom team visited several spots across Texas to learn about these bats and threats to their population, including habitat destruction, pesticide use and white-nose syndrome (tune into the episode to learn about this disease).
“All of us, as community members, can play a role in helping keep healthy, thriving bat populations wherever we are,” Dr. Rae said. “Peter and I were thrilled to learn some of the ways we can all work together on this.”
Next on the agenda was a species unique to Missouri’s Ozark region.
“When we think of the Ozarks we often think of lakes, waterfalls and beautiful rivers. Never in my life had I imagined I would get to meet a strange oddity of an animal that has been on the planet for more than 100 million years,” Peter said.
What is this prehistoric creature? The Ozark hellbender, an aquatic salamander that lives in the cold, spring-fed Missouri rivers.
“An indicator species, the hellbender is highly sensitive to changes in its freshwater environments, meaning their presence and survival suggests a healthy aquatic ecosystem, but even tiny changes in water quality will cause them to die out quickly,” Dr. Rae said.
Because of this, organizations in the area are working to successfully breed and reintroduce more than 10,000 Ozark hellbenders back into the wild.
Coastal California and Washington
The Wild Kingdom crew then traveled to both northern California and Washington state to see the natural habitat of the sunflower sea star. This endangered species once flourished off the coast, but warming ocean temperatures greatly impacted this important predator species.
Why are sunflower sea stars important? They’re part of the greater kelp forest ecosystem, so when one species is suffering the effects trickle down the food chain.
“It’s extremely important to save these kelp forest since they not only provide protection for marine life but they clean carbon from our environment through photosynthesis, as our mainland forests do,” Peter said.
Peter traveled to an area of northern California where he’s gone on diving expeditions. He once saw sea stars, abalone, sea urchins and other sea life, these species have dwindled in population the last 10 years.
“I hope to return someday to a recovered kelp forest and sit on the ocean floors as I had in the past, gazing up at the brilliant shafts of sunlight piercing the sea and backlighting the many of species of marine life that call the kelp forests home,” Peter said.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Dr. Rae met with marine laboratory scientists who are breeding sea stars from infancy to reintroduce them to the Pacific Ocean.
“The laboratory was an incredibly technical and innovative, yet small and communal, facility full of people who were willing to try, try and try again to bring this species back from the brink of extinction and rebalance the aquatic ecosystem,” Dr. Rae said.
We’re hopeful for the sea star’s future!
Elsewhere in Washington, Dr. Rae and Peter traveled to rivers to see nature’s engineers — the beaver — in action. These animals are busy at work building dams, but their engineering plans aren’t always welcomed by their human neighbors.
“Beavers are mighty ecosystem engineers and often find themselves at the center of human-wildlife conflict when they build their dams on human properties,” Dr. Rae said.
Thankfully, organizations are working to re-release beavers into more suitable habitats, so both beavers and humans can happily call the Pacific Northwest home. Dr. Rae spent time with conservation scientists in the heart of the beaver’s habitat to learn about this amazing work.
Meanwhile, Peter traveled to different areas of Washington to see how sites are thriving after previous projects helped beavers reclaim habitats. Though he didn’t always see beavers at these sites, he knew they had been there by seeing their bite markings on logs.
It’s been a busy filming season for Wild Kingdom, and we’re staying on the road for a bit longer. Follow us for more filming updates in areas, such as Nevada, Wyoming and Texas.
And be sure to tune in to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild, airing Saturday mornings during NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block, to get the full story on these amazing species. Check your local NBC listings for air times.