We hope you’re caught up with the latest episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild and are eagerly awaiting new episodes. (Check out the newest episodes if you missed any!)
While you’ve watched Co-Hosts Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant encounter fascinating species each Saturday morning, our team continues to film across the U.S. This next set of episodes full of familiar and likely new-to-you species of animals that fly, crawl and swim. Learn what’s next on Protecting the Wild.
Upcoming animals on Protecting the Wild
Bald eagles and raptors
Though you can find bald eagles across many parts of North America today, they were once close to extinction in places, such as Washington state. Dr. Rae and Peter traveled to Washington to meet up with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) team who rehabilitates North American species, including the bald eagle and other raptors. PAWS may sound familiar … Dr. Rae and Peter worked with them to release two black bear cubs in 2022.
At PAWS, our co-hosts learned how the organization is working with the local community to rehabilitate orphaned and injured animals, including a bald eagle. This young bald eagle had been shot and was brought to PAWS for treatment and rehabilitation. Now, it was time for its release.
“We followed the biologist to a heavily wooded park less than 100 yards from a large bay full of salmon. What more could a young eagle want?” Peter said. “She flew out close to the ground gradually gaining altitude up and into the forest trees where she perched and looked back to us all grinning with joy.”
Dr. Rae also enjoyed the eagle’s release saying, “The trip was a success, our eagle is back circling over Seattle, and our episode is guaranteed to warm your heart.”
The black-footed ferret, once believed to be extinct, was rediscovered in the 1980s by an unlikely source — a family dog! In 1981, a Wyoming ranch dog came back with a gift for its owners — a ferret, unlike any they had ever seen. The owners looped in wildlife authorities who found a small population of black-footed ferrets in the area. (Wondering how black-footed ferrets differ from domestic ferrets you may have as a pet? Learn the differences.)
Peter traveled to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Fort Collins, to hear the story of how wildlife organizations banded together to save this endangered species.
The trip continued with a black-footed ferret overnight survey from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. where USFWS captures, tags, chips and vaccinates as many ferrets as possible in an evening. The next morning, Peter witnessed a successful release in Meeteetse, Wyoming, where the ferret was rediscovered years ago.
Meanwhile, in California, Dr. Rae visited the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo. There she learned how cloning is used to save endangered species, such as the black-footed ferret. The Frozen Zoo’s staff told Dr. Rae about Elizabeth Ann, the first cloned black-footed ferret who gave the species new life and hope for a successful future.
Devils Hole pupfish
Where does the world’s most endangered fish live? It’s a place you’d never suspect — Death Valley, California! That’s right, the hottest and driest place in the U.S. is home to the Devils Hole pupfish.
Devils Hole pupfish are found deep in a cave in Death Valley National Park where they’ve adapted to water temperatures of 90 degrees. Water comes from underground aquifers that are over 400 feet deep.
“Peter and I were lucky enough to get an up close and personal view of the pond, the fish themselves and the extreme conditions in which they live and thrive,” Dr. Rae said.
This included a replica of the pond that’s maintained by USFWS and the National Park Service. Fish eggs hatched and raised here are doing well. Peter even got the chance to snorkel in the pond to help count the pup fish.
“As I floated motionless above them and reached out slowly with my hand, I was glad to see some of them were curious and swam over to my outstretched hand with no fear. But then when you live in a situation where you have no predators, that’s how you adapt,” Peter said.
For the sea otters episode, it was one co-host by land and another by sea. Dr. Rae visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, where she saw biologists and caretakers heal orphaned and injured otters. The aquarium also works to learn about this animal’s behavior and ecology to educate the public and recreate ideal habitats in the wild.
“It was amazing to be behind the scenes at the aquarium, and I was invited to prepare the otter food in the kitchen, feed them by hand and get a personal tour of their enclosure,” Dr. Rae said.
Sea otters are a keystone species; they’re critical to saving the kelp forest ecosystem, something Peter saw when visiting Monterey Bay, California. He kayaked in the Elkhorn Slough, a tidal estuary where wild sea otters live.
“We saw how the sea otters wrap themselves in kelp, cozying up for a nap,” Peter said. “We also learned how important it is to keep a distance from these animals as too close of an encounter can stress out the sea otter.”
Let’s get the record straight — there’s no such thing as a big, bad wolf. Wolves are commonly misunderstood, and we hope after watching the wolf episode, you’ll come to know why these canids are critical to our environment.
Dr. Rae visited the Wildlife Science Center in Stacy, Minnesota, to learn about gray wolves. Wolves are ecosystem engineers and their role as predators impacts every trophic level and even how waterways flow through the landscape.
Because many of the wolves at the center are hand-raised, Dr. Rae was able to enter the wolf pens to learn about the differences between dogs and wolves. She also observed how timid wolves are around humans.
“As a carnivore ecologist who has worked in wolf country for years, this visit was especially thrilling, and I encourage everyone to support the Wildlife Science Center,” Dr. Rae said.
Attwater’s prairie chickens
Do you know the chicken dance? No, not the group dance you’ve done at weddings and baseball games — the Attwater’s prairie chicken dance! This mating ritual starts with male chickens inflating their necks and sending out a loud booming sound. Then they strut their stuff to court females.
Less than 100 years ago, more than 1 million Attwater’s prairie chickens roamed Texas’ coastal prairie, but now their population is dwindling due to decreased habitat, increased predators and severe storms.
To learn more, Peter ventured to Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, west of Houston. He observed captive-raised prairie chickens during their feeding time and learned about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) work to release these birds back into the wild.
“Each year, more prairie chickens are being introduced, and their numbers are improving slowly, so I’m hopeful we’ll be hearing their booming for many years to come,” Peter said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rae traveled to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas, a conservation, research and education center. This center also breeds the birds and captivity and works with USFWS to place these birds back into the wild. Plus, she saw evidence of the chicken’s surprising ancestors – dinosaurs!
“That’s right, Glen Rose is home to some pretty iconic dinosaur footprints. And since science has helped us learn that birds evolved from dinosaurs, this turned out to be a very full circle moment!” Dr. Rae said.
Stay tuned for what animals are next up on Protecting the Wild. Who knows? The crew may soon be coming to film near you!
Watch all these episodes by tuning into Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild, Saturday mornings during NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block. Discover how to watch Protecting the Wild in your area.