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August 29, 2018

From Aardvark to Zebra Shark

With its wide-ranging digital content, Brave Wilderness lets viewers experience the thrills and chills of the natural world.

Ann Farmer
  • Coyote Peterson meets a wolverine.

Coyote Peterson appears to have an uncommonly high tolerance for pain.

As host of Brave Wilderness, a YouTube channel that streams his real-life encounters with wild animals like hippos and bears, he also gets up close and personal with ferocious insects. So close, in fact, that he leaves the little critters with no choice but to bite or sting him.

“It feels like someone has stabbed me with a hot poker,” he yowls in one episode. He’s just incited a bullet ant — which he and his team tracked down in a Costa Rican rainforest — to puncture his forearm with venom. He wanted  to test its sting pain index. “Oh my gosh, it is really bad,” he says, dropping to the ground in a spiral of agony, sweats, arm-swelling and light-headedness.

He’s done the same with tarantulas and snakes. He’s made a porcupine quill him and even coaxed an alligator to bite him. Then he releases them back into the wild.

Peterson says he’s “teaching people about these creatures that they know very little about.” By creating wildlife content that educates and thrills, Peterson and director-cofounder Mark Vins walk in the footsteps of animal enthusiasts such as the late Steve Irwin.

So far, the channel’s many series have attracted more than 10 million subscribers. Dragon Tails, for instance, explores the world of snapping turtles. Breaking Trail highlights more remote animals, like rhinos, sloths and wolverines. On an episode that won a 2015 Youth/Teen Emmy, Peterson got swatted by a 750-pound grizzly.

Beyond the Tide focuses on tide pools. “One of the more bizarre finds,” Vins says, was a two-foot-long, extraordinarily slimy, black sea snail in a tide pool.

Vins and Peterson met while studying filmmaking at Ohio State University, and they  bonded over their love of nature. “People don’t know how much fun we have,”  Vins says, describing one nighttime jungle expedition. Looking for an eyelash viper snake, they instead discovered a juvenile ocelot that frolicked with them for hours.

“The odds of coming across an animal like that, let alone having an interaction with him, are slim to none,” says Peterson, who discovered his zeal for adventure as a youth. On a family vacation, he jumped into a ravine to avoid being trampled by a large prairie buffalo. “It scared the bejeevers out of me. But it certainly put this adrenaline rush through my body,” he says.

One episode of Blue Wilderness, a forthcoming series, features a 14-foot tiger shark that lunges at Peterson. They also recently returned from an outing in which Peterson was stung by the dreaded executioner wasp, something for which the bloodthirstier fans have been clamoring. “I can definitely say it will be worth the wait,” Vins says. “It’s a pretty intense video.”


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2018

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