Episode 42: There’s a bear in my backyard

National Geographic Explorer Rae Wynn-Grant works toward a world where humans and bears can live in harmony.

Janney and Janice Husebo of Asheville, North Carolina, live on the outskirts of town, high on a hill surrounded by wilderness. Multiple times a day, bears show up on their back porch, which stands some 10-15 feet above the ground, to eat bird seed.
Photograph by Corey Arnold

Sure, we love bears when they show up in books or cartoons. But what if one is outside our window? Human-bear encounters are becoming far more frequent as development continues to spread and people and bears seek similar resources of food, water, and shelter. National Geographic Explorer and large-carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant dispels a few myths about bear behavior, describes what it’s like to cuddle a bear cub, and offers tips on what to do if you find a bear in your backyard—or bump into one in the wild.

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AMY BRIGGS (HOST): It seemed to be happening everywhere this past summer. North of Boston…

NEWS HOST: This is a very popular bear in Wilmington, popping up out of hedges and onto lawns…

BRIGGS: Near St. Paul, Minnesota…

NEWS HOST: In the video you can see kids jumping off the playground equipment here to get a better view of the bear, just a few dozen feet away from them…

BRIGGS: And much to my surprise, just a couple of miles from my house.

NEWS REPORTER: Just last week, two bear sightings in Arlington, maybe the same cub…

BRIGGS: Whether bear sightings are actually happening more often, or we’ve just become more keen observers, human-bear encounters are becoming far more frequent. We’re spotting the furry black carnivores everywhere, from school playgrounds to shopping malls to lounging in backyard swimming pools. But how dangerous are bears who wander into our habitat, both for us and for the bear? And what should we do?

RAE WYNN-GRANT (ECOLOGIST): Every state has its own rules and laws about bears, so I can’t speak to Virginia necessarily, but they’re very similar for the most part. And so what we say is, like, a fed bear is a dead bear. Basically, any bear that appears to be habituated to human presence, they often have to euthanize it. It’s really sad. It's, like, pretty tragic. And it’s because if a bear doesn’t have this natural fear of humans as it should, that means it could potentially hurt somebody.

BRIGGS: National Geographic Explorer Rae Wynn-Grant clearly has a soft spot for bears. But as someone who grew up in the city and didn’t spend much time camping or hiking, it wasn’t the most natural connection.

WYNN-GRANT: I was, I don’t know, 26, 27, had never seen a bear ever before in my life and then started studying them. When I did finally see my first bear, it wasn’t from a distance. It was because we had set a trap and I tranquilized it and attached a collar and, like, held its hand and, you know, listened to its heartbeat and looked in its eyes and brushed its little teeth. You know, I really, my first experience with a bear was very, very intimate. And so it changed me. I became absolutely hooked.

BRIGGS: OK, most of us aren’t looking for an encounter with a bear quite that close. But what should we do if we come face-to-face with one? Why are these encounters happening more frequently, and how do we keep humans and bears safe?

I’m Amy Briggs, executive editor of National Geographic History magazine, and you’re listening to Overheard, a show where we eavesdrop on the wild conversations we have at Nat Geo and follow them to the edges of our big, weird, beautiful world.

This week we sit down with large-carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant. If the world was divided into bear people, nonbear people, and bear agnostics, Rae would firmly be planted in the bear camp. She LOVES these animals. She’s been studying bears with a focus on conservation, as well as minimizing negative interactions between bears and humans. Because if she’s doing her job well, there might be even more bears hanging around. So what does that mean for those of us who don’t want bears at the picnic?

More after the break.

But first, fuel your curiosity with a free one-month trial subscription to Nat Geo Digital. You’ll have unlimited access on any device, anywhere, ad-free with our app that lets you download stories to read offline. Explore every page ever published with a century of digital archives at your fingertips. Check it all out for free at natgeo.com/exploremore.

BRIGGS: So I live in Arlington, Virginia, which is right over the river from D.C.

WYNN-GRANT: I know the story.

BRIGGS: I know you do.

WYNN-GRANT: Yeah. I was going to say, do not think—Listen, I get Google Alerts every day for bear news. I am, like, the queen of it, OK? There’s a bear in Arlington yesterday. Yep, yep.

BRIGGS: Yep. There was a bear in Arlington, and I have to ask about this. It’s two miles from my house, right near one of the high schools. And the local, our animal welfare league got an actual video of it, like, on the brick wall, just sort of like, doot do doo, I’m a bear.

WYNN-GRANT: Yeah, yeah.

BRIGGS: And then we had had, I think it was during 2020, there was a bear and kind of in that same area of town. And people had all these theories about, oh, well, the cars aren’t on the road and that wildlife is spreading out. And I’m like, this year the cars are back on the road. And, you know, there seem to be two sorts of flavors of reactions. There was, Ahhhh! It’s a bear, oh my God! And then there were like, Oh, we’re such bad humans. We’re ruining their habitats, and they have nowhere to go, poor bear. And my reaction was, Oh, cool, it’s a bear. The bears are among us, isn’t that awesome? Which makes me, I think, a bit of a weirdo. But, I mean, it seems like these kinds of encounters are happening more often. Why are they happening more often?

WYNN-GRANT: I have a lot of responses to that. One reason, like probably the most obvious reason these encounters are happening more often, is that we have more bears than we have in a long time. Not more bears than we’ve ever had in this country, but more than we’ve had in, like, a lifetime, for sure. So there are changes, and that’s because conservation is working. So, like, all that effort we put into conserving wild animals doesn’t work for all wild animals, right? Like, you know, we don’t have more elephants, you know, than we did before. More blue whales, for example. But we have more brown and black bears. And so we have—We’re running into more encounters with bears because there are a few more bears every year, and that’s what we wanted.

There’s also more people every year, there’s more development, and there’s less habitat for bears every year. So if we have an increase in bears and an increase of people and a decrease in bear habitat, there’s going to be a little bit more interaction.

The other thing I think, and maybe this is like me being a, you know, conspiracy theorist a little bit, but, you know, with the changes that the pandemic brought, we’re also home more. Like most people are home, you know, for most of the day. And so there’s been more observations of wildlife than ever before. So a lot of people think, like, there’s more animals. It’s like we’re paying attention more than we used to. You know, there could have been bears walking through your backyard a lot more before we had, like, you know, Nest Cams and, you know, before we were staying at home for work. And so that’s another reason why we’re, like, our observations have increased in frequency and quality.

Last thing I’ll say is that I wrote a whole chapter of my dissertation on this, and it was literally about how people report sightings of bears as if it’s a problem with a bear. And I think that’s very interesting, because bears have to walk on their four paws from point A to point B and they’re looking for habitat. And trust me, they do not want their home to be, you know, in the center of Arlington, Virginia. But they have to get places. And especially, like, this bear looked like a juvenile male. And so it was, like, emerge from the den, probably with its mama. This is the time of year that mama says, “Bye bye. Never see you again. Good luck in life.” And he was off to find his new territory. He made a mistake of coming through town instead of around town. But my assertion is that, like, seeing a bear is very different than having a conflict with a bear or a problem with a bear. And yet people report it the same way, like they call the wildlife authorities and say, I saw a bear. And of course, like, you know, of course there’s a risk there because bears can potentially be dangerous. But usually they’re not. Usually they’re pretty freaked out themselves. And so I just think it’s interesting, because it’s hard sometimes for scientists to untangle when is a bear actually being problematic with when was a bear just seen existing?

And if I were to just take this to a whole different level, and nobody asked me to, but it’s just like a parallel that I often find when I discuss, like, social justice issues. That some people are just seen in spaces, and, you know, speaking from, like, the Black perspective, like, often, like, Black folks are seen in spaces, and it’s reported as a problem when a problem isn’t actually occurring, right, and it prevents them from continuing to move through the space. And with bears, like, calling in a sighting of a bear can actually prevent the bear from continuing to move through the space. And it just, like, causes some complications with how we can best manage them and treat them and inform the public.

BRIGGS: So let’s talk about the difference then between a bear existing, you know, being a bear, and a problematic bear. What are the differences?

WYNN-GRANT: Oh, totally. OK. So I just spent all this time defending bears, but they can be, like, really difficult to live with because they are hungry. They’re so hungry, they’re driven by hunger, their whole biology is based around, like, eating, so that then they can spend a lot of time sleeping. And so bears can eat a large variety of things. They’re carnivores but they are also omnivorous. But like, you know, they’re carnivores, so they could eat all meat all day if they wanted to, but they can, they have a wide dietary breadth—kind of like people. And so they want stuff that smells good, that’s easy to access. So often that’s like what’s in the garbage, right? Like all the food we throw away or, you know, the dish of dog food that you left outside of the garage or, like, little scraps on your grill in the backyard. And so a problematic bear is a bear that is, like, coming straight to someone’s house or some type of, you know, human area to eat.

I started studying bears in the Sierras, God, I don’t know, 10 years ago. And in some of those areas, bears would break into houses, right? Or break into cars, like, damage property in order to get food. And I’m always in defense of the bear, right? It's not the bear’s fault. The bear is hungry, it literally needs to eat to survive those icy cold winters. So it’s doing whatever it can to save itself. But that’s a big problem. And especially because they’re habituated to it. Like they’re used to it. They’re fearless. You know, it’s a bad situation for everyone, for the bear and for people. So, like, you know, a non-problematic bear is just, like, existing—hiding up a tree, creeping around at night, just trying to get somewhere. A problematic bear is probably, like, accessing some type of human resource that it shouldn’t be. Again, that can be cleared up by people just managing their resources better, you know, like putting your garbage, you know, in a bear-proof garbage can or, you know, bringing your dog’s food bowl inside or something like that can actually just make the big difference.

BRIGGS: So if I spotted a bear in my backyard and I wanted—you know, let’s say it’s a bear existing. What should I do?

WYNN-GRANT: You should call. (Laughs.) Like, I’m trying to bring up, like, the complexities of what it means to call. But honestly, like, if you are, you know, an untrained person, if you’re not a, you know, wildlife ecologist like I am, you should definitely call your local wildlife agency, right? Like every state has a department of wildlife that has, like, people who will respond to incidents with wildlife. And you should call them. And they will tell you, like, OK, call us back if the bear does anything wrong or, you know, or they’ll say like, Oh yeah, we heard another report of this. Like, We’re coming out, we’re going to take a look, you know, maybe we’ll sedate the bear and take it back to the forest. So there are groups of people, trained people, who have answers to the problem. And essentially, we want everyone to be safe. You know, a lot of bears get hit by cars, for example. So it can also be good to call wildlife authorities, because they will just safely get it to where it was trying to go without it risking a vehicle collision.

BRIGGS: So where I live there are foxes, there are deer, there are coyotes. Whenever I see one of those things, I’m not like, Oh, I need to call, you know, the Wildlife Service or whatever. I’m just like, Oh, it’s just in the yard, whatever. Do you think we’ll ever get to a point like that with bears? Really, it’s a bear in the yard, meh.

WYNN-GRANT: You know, it depends on what you mean by “we,” because there definitely are groups of people in this country who live very harmoniously with wildlife and are very comfortable with it. You know, there are, like, the Indigenous people of this country who still exist, who used to live primarily in harmony with a lot of these wild animals. And there are also groups of people that I’ve worked with, especially in the West, who are, you know, not Indigenous, but certainly are like, Yeah, we live with wild animals. I would never call an authority.

And again, I wrote a dissertation chapter on this, and it was really broken down by, like, race, class, gender, you know, education level, you know, political leaning. Like there is big differences between, like, who sees a bear and says, “Let me call,” versus who sees a bear and says, “Let me call so I can get it out of here,” versus who sees a bear and says, like, “Oh, cool, a bear, I'm going to take a picture and, like, not make any kind of announcement.”

BRIGGS: I would definitely take a picture. There’s no doubt I would—I’d be very far away. But I’d take a picture.

WYNN-GRANT: In my opinion, public safety is the most important thing, right? We don’t want anyone to get hurt and we don’t want the bear to get hurt. And so often that means, like, let’s remove the bear from the space, this isn’t where it’s meant to be, and figure out a better place for this bear to be. Keep people, the bear safe. We’re all good.

BRIGGS: So, as a carnivore ecologist, how often in the scope of your regular work do you come into contact, like one-on-one contact, with carnivores? Or is the object to, you know, monitor the carnivores but not necessarily interact with them?

WYNN-GRANT: Right, no, that is a good question because there are so many different ways you can be a carnivore ecologist. You could, like, kind of study these animals in theory, or you could just set up, you know, protected areas for them and hope that they come and thrive. I get my hands on these animals, and I do that in an effort to then keep my hands off of them for a long time. So I usually say that I do, like, kind of invasive work in order to be very noninvasive for a long time.

So a lot of my work is data collection, and I will go out into the field. Let’s use bears as an example. I’ll set a trap for a bear. Bait the trap, you know, have the bear crawl in. It’s like a big cage. Door closes, bear’s trapped, and then I will sedate the bear. I give it a little tranquilizer. I walk around with a tranquilizer gun, a little dart gun, and shoot a little tranquilizer into its shoulder. Bear falls asleep. I go and give it a full checkup, almost like a veterinarian would. And then I attach a GPS collar, and it’s like a big dog collar, has a GPS device like we might find in our cell phones or something. And the GPS sends a signal to a satellite in outer space, which sends a signal back to my computer and tells me where the bear is in space and time constantly. And that is my source of data. And so then I can be—I let the bear go and it runs around its environment with a collar on for years. And I’m able to track the bear, understand its movements, understand its behaviors, where it spends a lot of time, which areas it avoids. And that helps me gather data, do some math and sci—I should say do some math and statistics, and figure out, like, which areas the bear needs, where we can protect those areas, how this can inform conservation. So it’s cool because I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer doing, like, high-level stats and math, but it’s after I have, like, been hiking and camping for weeks on end, looking for these animals in order to attach a collar to them.

BRIGGS: Oh, and you know that bear.

WYNN-GRANT: And I know that bear. Yeah, I name them. Like, I know them. I love them. Sometimes bad things happen to them, and I get sad, you know? But it’s all in the effort to, like, make their environments healthier and better.

BRIGGS: What does a bear feel like?

WYNN-GRANT: Oh, it depends on the age of the bear. It depends on what season it is actually, because, for example, a bear that is, like, hibernating is, like, dirty, you know, it's, it's, you know, dusty and dirty because it’s been, like, sleeping in a den, you know, which is dusty and dirty, but a bear that’s, you know, out and about in the summer, it may have just, like, taken a bath in a little lake or river or something. And so they’re pretty clean animals. They don’t smell bad. Their fur is very coarse. So usually people want me to say, like, Oh, they're so soft and fluffy, but, like, their hair is pretty coarse, honestly. They’re sweet. They have these really sharp claws. Even the little tiny cubs have, like, razor-sharp claws. I actually have, like, permanent bear damage on my body from just, like, claw slipups. But they feel strong, you know, and they have coarse hair, but it’s still a bit soft, and they’re very clean, and they don’t smell like much. And, you know, in my mind, they’re perfect.

BRIGGS: So I want to ask you about—there’s a video of you checking on a mama bear and cubs that became really popular on Instagram. So talk to me about what you were doing there and why it was important, other than just being insanely cute and cool.

WYNN-GRANT: OK, OK, so often I will, in my work, will attach a GPS collar to a bear in order to track their movements. And one of the benefits of having a GPS collar on a bear is that in the wintertime when it’s hibernating, the bear’s not moving. And so the GPS will say, like, this bear is in the same spot every day. And so we know it’s made a den there. And so if we know that it’s a female bear and she’s of reproductive age, then there is reason to believe that maybe she has had cubs. OK, this is important because cubs tell us a lot about the health of the bear population. So what we’ll do is, we’ll get all of our gear, and it’ll be the dead of winter, and we’ll hike for miles and miles to wherever the GPS is telling us the bear has made her den. And we’ll get there and we’ll get real quiet and we’ll make a long stick. It’s called a jab stick, and we’ll put the little syringe of sedative on the end of it. And then we army crawl up to the den and we have our jab stick and we prick the mama bear in the shoulder with the jab stick, right? So she’s already kind of sleeping because she’s hibernating, but because she has given birth to cubs, they’re kind of, like, crawling all over her head and stuff. So she’s, like, not really asleep, like any mother can understand.

BRIGGS: Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.

WYNN-GRANT: Yeah, exactly. It’s like chaos in the den. And so we give her a little jab with the jab stick, and then she falls completely asleep. Then I will go into the den. Pull out mama. Pull out the cubs. And we do, like, a really quick check with these cubs. OK, so we will weigh them and measure them and understand, you know, what sex they are, male or female. And we will give them a little ear tag and we will snuggle them in our jackets. And that is, one, just for the cute factor. But most importantly, because these cubs are too little to thermoregulate. OK, so they cannot create their own body heat at that young of age. And so they need to be either next to their mama or stuffed in our shirts in order to absorb our body heat. So it’s snuggling bear cubs for science, which is really important. That’s the best part of my job. And then we literally just put the cubs back with the mama bear. It’s a very, very quick process. But the point is, we want to count how many cubs she gave birth to. Let’s say it’s three. That number three becomes very, very important because six months later well go back out into the field, and now it’s summertime. We’ll try to find the same mama bear. And we want to see how many cubs she has. If it’s three, we know the survivorship rate is 100 percent. If it’s less than three, we know the survivorship rate is low and declining. If it’s, you know, zero, we know that we have a serious problem. Somehow, something is off in the ecosystem that is creating a loss in cubs.

For the most part, because bears are doing so well in the United States, we’re seeing, like, 100 percent survivorship rate. So we know that the number of cubs born are the number of cubs we’re going to see six months later and then like a year later. But it'’s this really good indicator, like healthy cubs that survive the winter equate to a healthy forest and a healthy ecosystem. When we don’t see that, we know we have to get other scientists involved, botanists and landscape ecologists, to figure out what is out of balance in the landscape.

So believe it or not, like, this big effort to, like, go into the field, go into the den, sedate the mom, cuddle the cubs, count them, put them back, get out of there before she wakes up, it’s actually to make sure that, you know, the bear population in general is doing OK. And it really, really works. And we’ve a lot of good news.

BRIGGS: So personal question: What led you to develop such a passion for conversation? Er, conservation. (Laughs). I can tell you like conversation. What about conservation?

WYNN-GRANT: You know, I definitely have a nontraditional path into this career. A lot of my colleagues grew up, you know, hiking and camping and, you know, hunting and fishing and that kind of thing. They grew up in the outdoors, and thats why they loved it. I didn’t. I grew up in urban spaces and loved that. You know, felt really comfortable, didn’t think I was missing anything. But my favorite shows to watch as a kid were nature shows. And I just loved them. I just, like, they would take me to the jungle and I was like, Wow, I want to go there, I want to be there. And the only people I knew that went to the jungle were the people I saw in nature shows. And so as a kid, I said, I want to be a nature show host.

And that lasted literally until I entered college. I remember my first meeting with my adviser. He said, What do you want to be when you grow up? And I said, I want to be a nature show host. And he asked me why. And I said, Because I’m really interested in all those wild animals in the jungle. And he was, like, You know there are scientists that, like, study those animals and help protect them. And I was like, There are? At that point, I thought scientists, you know, like, wore lab coats and pipetted chemicals. And so once I learned that there was a science to, you know, studying these animals in the “jungle” and protecting them, I was like, great, I’ll do that. That seems way more accessible than being a TV star. And so I really, like, took that linear path. It was a very, very clear path for me. It was very, very hard. But I knew I want to be a conservation scientist, I want to work in wildlife protection as a scientist, and that was my path. And I’ve been on it literally ever since that first day of college.

BRIGGS: You said it wasn’t easy. So what advice would you have for young explorers? Especially young women, especially Black young women and young Black men who aspire to make a difference and work in these STEM-related fields?

WYNN-GRANT: Yeah. Oh, gosh. I do have a lot of advice. My advice is also to, like, parents and educators as well as these young people. I really believe what I like to say is, like, believe in passion more than performance. And I say that because, like, you know, a lot of us are really inspired to do what we love while we’re still school age, right? Like middle school or high school. And grades are really important, right? Like taking tests, getting good grades. That becomes very important at that age. But for me personally, my worst grades were in science and math, right? Like, it was not obvious that I would become a scientist who used high-level math, you know? Like, my parents were, like, guiding me in the other direction because they’re like, Girl, you’re getting C’s and D’s. But I was so passionate about it. I loved science. I wanted to love math. I wanted to be this type of person who, like, worked with wild animals and did all these adventurous things.

And so I really feel that sometimes that kind of, like, school-based performance gets in the way of people feeling like they can belong in a space, you know? Like, I don’t think your SAT score necessarily suggests, like, what kind of ecologist you’re going to be or, like, what kind of inventions you’re going to make to make the environment healthier.

And so I’m not saying, like, don’t study or, like, don’t do your homework or don’t try. But I’m saying if you are interested, if you feel like you have a passion, try not to be discouraged by, you know, a lower performance or not so good grades, because at some point you’re going to be in a place where your ideas matter and your energy matters and your teamwork matters, and your quick thinking matters way more than, you know, your test scores. And, you know, I also say, like, for parents, for educators, like, make sure we’re not sending messages to our young people that their self-worth or their career is tied up in performance now, because everyone has potential to do better, to be something great, and it’s not—doesn’t always show up on the page.

You know, for wildlife conservation, there are so many ways to be impactful in wildlife conservation. You could be like me and be a field biologist, right? Or you could be a writer or you could be a photographer or you could be an educator. Or you could be a, you know, a journalist or you could be a politician. I mean, there’s so many different jobs that can make huge impacts on wildlife conservation. So I never want people to think, like, the only way to do it is, like, put on your hiking boots and go, you know, stuff bears in your shirt like I do. You know, there are so many different skills—

BRIGGS: That is a very attractive way.

WYNN-GRANT: I mean, you know, I have to say I am very biased. I do think more people should do this. But, you know, like, something I’m really proud of right now is that National Geographic has really helped me, like, step into my storytelling, you know, because I have traveled all over the world. I’ve been to, you know, six of the seven continents, studying wild animals. I have really dedicated my life to it, and I’m still doing it. And so I’m now fancying myself a storyteller. And so I also have a podcast, which is true stories from the field. So a lot of my crazy stories and even many of my misadventures of, you know, like cultural misunderstandings when I am in the middle of, you know, East African villages trying to save wild animals and, you know, getting a lot of things wrong. Anyway, so my podcast is called Going Wild with Rae Wynn-Grant, and you can find it wherever podcasts are, and you can hear some of my crazier stories. But that is definitely something that has become a new passion of mine.

BRIGGS: Excellent. I can’t wait to hear it. Did you know bears were going to be your thing or large carnivores or, like, where were you, like, did your eyes light up and you’re like, this is what I want to have my—when I host my show, this is what I’m going to talk about?

WYNN-GRANT: I was always drawn to carnivores because, you know, because, like, lions and tigers, you know, were the, you know, awesome, compelling animals in my consciousness. I still study many other wildlife species, but I think there’s just a special place that bears have.

BRIGGS: Are bears number one?

WYNN-GRANTOK, so they’re number two. They’re number two. My favorite animal in the whole world is one that I’ve never studied before. But my favorite animal is the bald eagle. I love bald eagles. You know, it sounds very patriotic. I’m not like a particularly patriotic person, but these animals fascinate me and they make me emotional. So I didn’t see my first bald eagle, you know, also until 2017. And again, it’s not some tremendous story, but I was driving on the highway, I was leaving New York City, and I was driving to upstate New York, to the Adirondacks. And I’ve been on the highway for a couple of hours. And I remember I just looked up and I saw two bald eagles circling and I almost drove off the road. I could not believe it. I started crying. It was like this very moving experience because I had always idolized these animals. And I remember, you know, when I was a kid in the early ’90s, they were endangered, you know, and it didn’t look like we were going to have bald eagles anymore. And it was this big deal. And I was worried about, you know, their eggs were so thin because of the chemicals in the environment. And I had never seen one, and I had heard, you know, so many of my colleagues worked in places where there were bald eagles. And I finally saw my first one in 2017. And it’s just, it was such a moving experience for me, and they’re my favorite animal. And I actually think I don’t want to study them. I think actually I want to keep them separate from work because they’re just so dear to me.

BRIGGS: If you like what you hear and you want to support more content like this, please rate and review us in your podcast app, and please consider a National Geographic subscription.

That’s the best way to support Overheard. Go to natgeo.com/exploremore to subscribe.

You can keep up with Rae Wynn-Grant’s adventures on her website, raewynngrant.com. 

That’s R-A-E W-Y-N-N Grant dot com. Beyond bears, you can find projects on ring-tailed lemurs and African lions.

And check out Rae’s podcast, Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. In the second season she interviewed fellow conservationists about their work doing everything from studying hyenas in Kenya to coyotes in California.


This week’s Overheard episode is produced by manager of audio Carla Wills.

Our producers include Ilana Strauss and Khari Douglas.

Our senior producers are Brian Gutierrez and Jacob Pinter.

Our senior editor is Eli Chen.

Our executive producer of audio is Davar Ardalan.

Our photo editor is Julie Hau.

Hansdale Hsu sound-designed this episode and composed our theme music.

This podcast is a production of National Geographic Partners.

The National Geographic Society, committed to illuminating and protecting the wonder of our world, funds the work of National Geographic Explorer Rae Wynn-Grant.

Michael Tribble is the vice president of integrated storytelling.

Nathan Lump is National Geographic’s editor in chief.

And I’m your host, Amy Briggs. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.


Want more? 

If you haven’t seen the viral Instagram video of Rae Wynn-Grant cuddling with bear cubs for science, you can watch that here.

And you can keep up with her adventures with more species, like ring-tailed lemurs and African lions, on her website, raewynngrant.com.

Or you can also listen to her podcast, Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, where you can hear her interview fellow conservationists about their work, from studying hyenas in Kenya to coyotes in California.

Also explore:

Read Christine Dell’Amore’s piece about how bears and other wild animals have adapted to urban areas across the U.S.