Un­nat­u­ral in­ter­est in the bear es­sen­tials

Rogue Na­ture with Dave Sal­moni 9.30pm, Dis­cov­ery

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

DAVE Sal­moni is the sort of bloke who likes to poke at things with a stick as he wan­ders through the bush, all whistling in­no­cence, just to see what hap­pens. Think Harry But­ler in the wild and you are al­most there, only shifted to North Amer­ica.

But where Harry used to deal with furry lit­tle an­i­mals, this bloke likes to get up close and per­sonal with mother bears guard­ing cubs and dur­ing the mat­ing sea­son. Sur­prise, sur­prise, they get grumpy and dan­ger­ous. It’s fool­ish to in­vade their ter­ri­tory and one feels for the an­i­mals get­ting a jab of hu­man in­tru­sion.

But gee, it brings out the voyeur in us. ‘‘ Yes, go griz­zly, give him a whack,’’ I felt like shout­ing at the bear as I watched this episode of Rogue Na­ture , a six- part se­ries on an­i­mal be­hav­iour.

But­ler dealt with lit­tle crit­ters that were no threat what­so­ever and that would hap­pily bolt off once freed. When you’re deal­ing with a grumpy griz­zly bear, how­ever, it’s you who should do a run­ner, only there’s no point in do­ing so as a griz­zly is faster.

Nei­ther is it any good to climb a tree, as that’s a happy hunt­ing ground, too. Black bears es­pe­cially can whip up a tree faster than you can say ‘‘ no honey pot up here’’. Ap­par­ently, be­tween them, black bears and griz­zly bears have killed about 100 hu­mans through the years. Quite a few got eaten.

Sal­moni sets out to see whether an­i­mal species have rogue mem­bers in­her­ently or if they re­ally like us un­til threat­ened. We get sev­eral case stud­ies and re­con­struc­tions, com­plete with pic­tures when the hu­man sur­vived. One case study in­cludes com­ments to cam­era from a field zo­ol­o­gist be­fore he be­came din­ner.

Sal­moni once trained li­ons and tigers, but in this se­ries he talks to hip­pos, croc­o­diles, ele­phants and gi­ant squid, all far more in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially on their home turf.

Sur­vivors’ tales can be graphic and not for small chil­dren. ‘‘ I felt ( a griz­zly bear) rip­ping meat off the back of my head,’’ says one. And some ob­ser­va­tions are bleed­ing ob­vi­ous: ‘‘ A species might hap­pily co­ex­ist with hu­mans, but it’s al­ways pos­si­ble to en­counter one who will in­ex­pli­ca­bly cross the line and at­tack.’’ Oh, re­ally.

If you are out walk­ing in the woods, there’s a nice line of de­signer gad­gets to take along, rang­ing from pep­per spray to a lit­tle rocket that whizzes over to go bang right above a griz­zly. Ap­par­ently it works. At least, very few have come back to say it didn’t.

That said, Rogue Na­ture has an ad­dic­tive qual­ity that thrill- seek­ing view­ers may en­joy.

Tim Blue

Not so close: Dave Sal­moni with trained griz­zly bear Adam in Mon­tana

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