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A Wild Tale

Local creator, producer, television host and wildlife biologist Tanner Saul shares his moments of rarity

A thirty-five-foot fall would change most anyone’s career path.

Tanner Saul was working on a research job capturing and tagging bighorn sheep when he fell—nearly dying. The experience caused him to make a change from wildlife biology in the field to sharing his love for research through video, eventually starting his own wildlife segment: A Wilder View.

“After that near-death experience in South Dakota, I knew I wanted to share my love for wildlife research in a more absorbable medium than research publications,” Tanner explained. “A Wilder View gives viewers a glimpse of what’s new in wildlife biology that is not common to most people.”

The show, which airs on KPAX on Wednesday mornings and Saturday evenings, covers physiological, ecological, and environmental perspectives on topics ranging from how bees tell time to why humans don’t have tails.

Tanner’s love for animals began at a young age.

“Throughout my whole life, I was always intrigued by animals. I followed Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin; a lot of young kids were inspired by them,” Tanner said. “I thought, maybe I’ll be a veterinarian.”

Then, Tanner saw videos from a game camera monitored by a researcher in Washington state.

“Those videos were a peek into a world I wanted to see,” he said. “For some reason, my parents spent a hundred and fifty bucks on a game camera for me.”

Tanner captured footage of all kinds of wildlife near his California home and within six months, he captured footage of a collared and ear-tagged mountain lion. When he posted the video on YouTube, the biologist who had tagged the mountain lion reached out to Tanner—a connection that led Tanner to an opportunity to study mountain lions and bobcats at a very young age.

“I was lucky, persistent, and very fortunate to start off my career studying large carnivores,” Tanner said. “Most biologists spend a lifetime working toward that.”

Tanner came to the University of Montana for his formal education and to spend time working with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks capturing and collaring wolves.

Then he got his dream job as a mugger: Tanner worked with a helicopter wildlife capture company that helps researchers collar wildlife at high volumes. Tanner worked mostly with ungulates—deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. From the helicopter, animals were captured with a net.

“My job was to jump out, tackle the animal, tie its legs together, collar them, and take samples,” Tanner explained. “It was basically a one-man show out in the field.”

Mugging, though, was dangerous and sometimes deadly. One of Tanner’s colleagues lost a finger on the job and another team’s helicopter crashed. Tanner doesn’t have full mobility in one leg due to cartilage damage in his hip.

“Every day was like Planet Earth, jumping out of a helicopter,” Tanner said.

But the risk and the injuries made him think twice about the longevity of his career.

“Transitioning to film was a hard choice,” he explained. “I left at the top of my field in research and went to the bottom of the barrel because I had no film industry experience.”

But Tanner realized an opportunity: as a biologist working on wildlife research, the majority of his findings were published in academic research journals, only read by other biologists—a total lack of communication between research and average citizens. That “ah-ha” moment led him to create A Wilder View.

“It’s a lot different. You have to understand your audience and how they can absorb information,” Tanner said. “It’s nice to have an educational purpose to spread a message of wildlife awareness.”

Native Montanans, for instance, understand the intricacies of living with wildlife. People moving from urban areas, though, don’t often understand the importance of locking up their trash cans in bear territory. He hopes his show will help people learn respect for the wild world around them.

“My main priority is to use this show as an educational tool,” Tanner explained. “I want people to have more of an awareness of the importance of their impact on our natural realm and not have to dig through pages and pages of research to get that info.”

A Wilder View can be seen on KPAX on television and online. The show is also available digitally at Newsy.com Thursday evenings and on-demand. Follow him via Instagram @Tanner_S and visit TannerSaulMedia.com for updates. 

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