My Perfect Adventure: Casey Anderson

National Geographic’s bear whisperer professes his love for adrenaline, shares how he recovers from an animal attack, advises that locals are always the best experts no matter where you are, and encourages parents to always nurture their children’s wild spirit

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Casey Anderson has raised and taken care of Brutus since he was five months old.     Photo: Rick Smith/Grizzly Creek Films

You’ve probably never been to a wedding at which the best man was a bear. That’s because you didn’t score an invite to Casey Anderson’s shebang (he married actress Missi Pyle).

The bear is Brutus (pictured), who isn’t just Anderson’s best friend but also his business partner. After Anderson rescued Brutus from being euthanized as a cub (the bear is now eight years old), he founded the Montana Grizzly Encounter, a bear sanctuary where he and Brutus work together to educate visitors about the species and the challenges they face.

Anderson is better known, though, for his onscreen work. He’s the host and executive producer of two shows, America the Wild and Expedition Wild, on the Nat Geo Wild channel. He also produces and appears in many other nature documentaries, and is the author of The Story of Brutus: My Life With Brutus the Bear and the Grizzlies of North America. As a motivational speaker, his presentations are about how immersing himself in the wild has enhanced his human experience and driven his urge to protect wild places.

The fifth-generation Montanan was called “the animal magnet” as a child. Today, it’s his mission to bring wildlife into the homes and lives of all those who might not otherwise have access to it.

We contacted the naturalist to find out what else motivates him. Here, Anderson professes his love for adrenaline, shares how he recovers from an animal attack, advises that locals are always the best experts no matter where you are, and encourages parents to always nurture their children’s wild spirit.

Describe your perfect day. What would you do, who would you meet, and what would you do?
There is one planet, more than seven billion people, but so many things yet to be discovered. My perfect day would include having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, encountering something for the first time, and then being able to document and share it with those seven billion people.

If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
There is a wilderness of wonder, a place that provokes childlike curiosity and simultaneously scares me. Though that single place is a perpetual void in my heart, there are many places on this planet that could fill it. I always want to go to that scary strange place, wherever it may be.

Where is the best place you have ever visited? What made it so special?
Yellowstone National Park, one of the wildest places on earth, which also happens to be in my backyard. It is full of such diversity, and is so special because everyone has the opportunity to experience it. It truly could be three natural parks in one—from the geothermal aspect, to the wildlife, to the landscape and scenery. I've spent my entire life there and am constantly encountering something new.

If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
I'd love to share a chunk of bison with Crazy Horse, America's all-time ultimate explorer, adventurer, and athlete in one. When it comes to being the real American badass, Crazy Horse leaves Kid Rock in the dust.

What's something you cannot travel without? And why do you need it?
Truly, my iPhone. It amazes me that I have the capability to be in the most remote areas on the planet and to be able to share those experiences with the rest of the world instantaneously. It’s sad and wonderful at the same time. I can be on a glacier in Alaska, take a photo of a wolverine, upload it to my Facebook page, and a kid in a high rise in Singapore can share that moment with me.

When you arrive at a new destination, what's usually the first thing on your agenda?
Find a local with local knowledge, and then tap into that knowledge. There’s nothing better than having a good source to let you know what's great in the area—whether it’s a wildlife activity or a good place to get a beer.

What motivates you to keep producing television that's focused on wildlife?
It is my job to be the bridge between the wild and the rest of the world. How can people care to respect something that they don't know exists? It is my job to inform, inspire, and ignite passion in people for wild things and places.

As a child, what was your dream job? If you gave up that dream, when and why did your plans change, and do you have any regrets?
All of my childhood dreams are coming true, and I have far exceeded those dreams. I have no regrets. I would encourage all parents of wildlife-loving children to nurture those seemingly childish dreams—you never know where your children might end up.

When and how did you first venture into being a naturalist?
Growing up in Montana, one step out my front door and I was into the wild. From my early childhood days I was turning over logs, tracking animals, and observing their behavior. I can't remember a time when I wasn't a naturalist in the making.

What's one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring wilderness expert?
Dust off your books and get your boots muddy. Acquire solid knowledge of the wild and then immerse yourself in it. Read, explore, and record your adventures.

Have you had any role models or mentors? Describe the most influential one and what he or she taught you.
My parents. They were the perfect hybrid of inspiration. My dad was a true outdoorsman, while my mother ran a homeless shelter. Now I take my mother's charitable spirit and do all that I can to protect and preserve the natural world.

Do you have a life philosophy?
Keep your wild spirit—know it, use it. Follow your instincts and chase your passion. Never stop exploring or learning; the world is your classroom. Do what your heart tells you to do and you will always be happy.

Have you ever made a mistake or experienced a near accident in your travels that made you think twice about getting out there again?
My body is riddled with scars from various encounters with animals. Every event causes you to think twice—not in doubt, but in lessons learned. You lick your wounds, you grow stronger, more aware. Then you get back on the horse and get ready for the next wild ride.

If you had to choose a different career, what would it be and why?
Fighter-jet pilot, smoke jumper, or Navy Seal. They all have one thing in common: Adrenaline!

Name three things that you still want to cross off your life bucket list.
Do a ride-along with the Blue Angels.

Climb one of the seven summits.

Discover a new species.

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