Smallscreen Reviews

Nat Geo’s 'Expedition Grizzly' featuring Casey Anderson, the interview

By April MacIntyre May 1, 2009, 5:39 GMT

Nat Geo’s 'Expedition Grizzly' featuring Casey Anderson, the interview

“From my very first encounter, I’ve been fascinated by this amazing animal. 
The more I learned, the more I wanted to share their story.”
   - Casey Anderson

“Expedition Grizzly” featuring Casey Anderson premieres Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 9 PM ET/PT

Imagine that your best friend has a head the size of a beach ball, and dinner-sized paws with six-inch daggers on the end of each finger that could kill you in one swipe?

Buddies- Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Buddies- Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Not to mention, a propensity to roll around in smelly dead stuff and excrement (like a dog) when the mood strikes.

Prepare to be fascinated at the very sight of two unlikely pals this coming Sunday, in a no-miss premiere on National Geographic channel, as they present “Expedition Grizzly” at 9 PM.

Meet Brutus, the little cub who grew, and grew and grew.  He towers six inches taller than Shaquille O’Neal.  He has a bite force strong enough to crush a bowling ball.  He could kill a human with a single paw.  Weighing in at 800-pounds, this curious and at times comical grizzly bear was raised with affection and lots of tactile reassurance and love by renowned naturalist Casey Anderson, who has raised him since birth. 

Best Bear man - Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Best Bear "man" - Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Brutus even stood in as Best Man at Casey's wedding! 

Anderson’s hopes for this series are to accurately chronicle the lives of Yellowstone’s vulnerable grizzly bears — mysterious beasts that have elicited fear and respect among humans through the ages. 

Despite “The Colbert Report’s” Stephen Colbert’s expressed opinion that bears are a national threat - the North American Grizzly is about to get a real PR makeover by Anderson in this wonderful documentary.

In fact, Monsters and Critics would LOVE to see Brutus and Casey be booked on the faux political chat show. Colbert would love the giant, natural comedian.

National Geographic Channel’s “Expedition Grizzly” featuring Casey Anderson presents the unique story of one man who has dedicated himself to wildlife preservation and a daring approach to understanding grizzlies’ every move — living among them in extreme conditions, observing their behaviors and even tasting some of their favorite foods. 

Casey and Brutus take a yearlong odyssey to shed light on Yellowstone’s “island” population of about 600 grizzlies, hemmed in on all sides by roads and human settlement. 

Concerned about the health of this grizzly population and whether climate change could be threatening their food supply, Casey observes survival strategies of these grizzlies from a distance, while Brutus demonstrates up-close grizzly anatomy, strength and behavior.  

Told in the first person, “Expedition Grizzly” gives viewers an awe-inspiring glimpse deep inside the grizzlies’ wilderness with stunning HD footage filmed in some of Yellowstone’s most treacherous, remote terrain.  There, Casey hopes to help protect and preserve the grizzlies’ precious environment and provide the human world and the natural world a rare chance to see eye to eye.

As Casey says, “From my very first encounter, I’ve been fascinated by this amazing animal.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to share their story.  And the story of these particular bears — the Yellowstone grizzlies — is a little-known chapter in U.S. history.”

Monsters and Critics interviewed Casey Anderson about his Bruin friend and this amazing documentary, which is perfect for the whole family.

Baby Brutus with Casey- Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Baby Brutus with Casey- Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Casey, first question is how did this bear come to you as a cub?

Casey Anderson:  Brutus was born in an overpopulated wildlife park, and had no option for release.  I rescued him from being euthanized when he was just two weeks old – he was so small, he looked like a fuzzy Twinkie!  I hand raised him and bottle fed him, and later I built a sanctuary so he could live like a regular grizzly.  A natural performer, Brutus was comfortable around people, making him a perfect assistant to teach park visitors about grizzly anatomy and conservation.

Our younger viewers will want to know, how did you talk your mom into keeping Brutus?

Casey Anderson:  Growing up in the Montana wilderness, I have been fascinated with animals from the day I could walk.  My father is a mountain man, so we spent as much time in the mountains as possible.  This led to many interactions with wild animals.  I just wanted to know more and was driven to explore and learn. 

All of my life, from the time I was 5 years old, I was always bringing home wild animals.  I even made a wolf cub into my pet.  So by the time Brutus came along, my mother wasn’t surprised.

Are you completely sure Brutus will never have a "bad day" and swipe you or bite you?

Casey Anderson: Yes, because I treat him with respect and I understand him completely.  By this point, I can predict his every move – from his body language to his vocalizations.  But I treat him like grizzly bear, not like a pet. 

I do not fear attack; most attacks stem from an animal feeling uncomfortable.  I never push Brutus; I never make him do something he doesn't want to.  When people "push" a grizzly or make them feel uncomfortable, it's usually the human that loses.  I have no interest in compromising either my or Brutus's safety by being disrespectful to him.

The wedding pictures are brilliant.  I was told bears and lions react differently to women, because of their sense of smell.  Is it true, or is he just affectionate with you?

Casey Anderson: He doesn’t have any physical contact with anyone but me.  I just don’t risk it.  But he does enjoy the attention of women.  If there’s a group of girls at the Grizzly Encounter, he’ll “flirt” with them.  Really, he just likes attention from anyone!

What is Brutus' favorite thing for you to do to him - like scratching, massaging, brushing his coat, does he let you inspect his teeth?  Clean his ears?

Casey Anderson: All of the above.  He enjoys being brushed and petted.  He loves his bath.  I brush his teeth because he likes to eat things with sugar, so we need to avoid cavities.  He goes to the veterinarian for his shots, and he even gets a lollypop.  He especially loves marshmallows and Twinkies.

Where does Brutus sleep at night?   Does he come and look for you when he wakes?

Casey Anderson: He sleeps in his own “den,” which is a really nice kennel that’s heated and air-conditioned.  He’s not a morning bear.  He really likes to stay up late and sleep in.  When he wakes up, he usually goes for his morning swim in the pond and plays with the four other grizzlies at the sanctuary.

Will grizzlies make it and survive living in North America? Are you hopeful for this?

Casey Anderson: In the Yellowstone ecosystem there are a few issues.  Development, global warming, and genetic isolation are the main culprits.  More and more each year, the island that this population lives on shrinks. 

Along with this shrinking habitat, global warming is eliminating some of the grizzly bears’ important food sources at a drastic rate.  White bark pine, cut worm moths, and other populations that grizzly bears depend on are greatly affected. 
Without a stop to these events, it could lead to extinction; but most certainly to hardship, that in time will only lead to more bear/human conflict.  I feel that education and awareness toward these issues is a major front on combating these issues. 

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Most people don't even realize it is happening, so we need to spread the word, develop an understanding, and ultimately generate a passion to do something to help the grizzly bear.

What diseases are Grizzlies prone too?

Casey Anderson: None, really.  They’re extremely resilient creatures.  I don’t worry about Brutus getting sick, but he does get the same precautionary vaccines as dogs – like rabies.

What is Brutus' favorite meal?

Casey Anderson: What I call 'salmon and avocado salad.'  It’s about 10 pounds of lettuce, carrots, grapes and oranges, 10 pounds of salmon, and 10 pounds of avocado.   He goes nuts for it!

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

What is the funniest thing he has ever done to you, or around you?

Casey Anderson: Grizzlies are incredibly intelligent – and total clowns.  Brutus definitely keeps me laughing!  At the sanctuary, there’s a man-made waterfall connected to pond. 

Brutus has developed a little game, where he covers the pipe with his massive paw to make the water stop pouring out.  He’ll wait for another bear to notice that the water has stopped, wait until they come over to check it out, and then startle them by releasing the water on their head.  It never gets old!

Are bears more dog-like in their behavior?  How do dogs react to him?

Casey Anderson: They’re dog-like in that they like companionship and love to be petted.  Dogs are afraid of him, but he’s very curious about them.  He was raised around a black lab, but he got too big to play with the lab safely.

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Photos courtesy of Casey Anderson and National Geographic

Does Brutus have a girlfriend yet, and if so, how do you manage a big horny bear and keep him from causing a scene?
 
Casey Anderson: Yes, he has a girlfriend named Sheena.  He lives with four other grizzlies at the sanctuary that we rescued, but Sheena is his favorite.  Brutus has had vasectomy. 

He may try to mate with her but she usually shuts him down.  Essentially, he struggles in that department like most every married man!
 



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