The Wild One
Coyote Peterson is Columbusâ€™ next animal-adventure star
PHOTO BY JODI MILLER
You might pay more attention to his large machete or his worn leather hat, if Coyote Peterson wasn’t holding a 35-pound snapping turtle that was determined to take his finger. This is common practice for the city’s next great animal educator, a 30-year-old adventurer headquartered in Westerville. Ohio snappers have been Peterson’s calling card, but he’s caught, studied and safely released some of the world’s most thrilling creatures. He and his team are now in contract negotiations with a major TV network to get their “Brave Wilderness” nature show distributed nationwide.
I caught my first big snapping turtle when I was 8. My dad had this big lake behind his house, and there was an enormous snapping turtle. I tried all summer to catch this turtle. Every time I would go in after it, I’d get a hand on it, and it was just too strong. One day, I finally caught it and hoisted it up on land.
Nobody pays attention to snapping turtles, which is beyond me. This is about as prehistoric as it gets. And, pound for pound, the common snapping turtle is one of the most powerful reptiles on the planet.
One of the hairiest situations I’ve ever been in was catching two snapping turtles at once for a photo shoot. I lost control of the bigger turtle, and it literally came up in between my legs and bit. It had my underwear and my shorts in its beak.
Our goal is to mix “Man vs. Wild” with an animal education show. “Brave Wilderness” is an action-adventure animal show where my crew and I get deployed into remote locations. The mission is to encounter the apex predator and the biological land mines of a specific environment.
No matter what happens, unless I’m not breathing, that camera does not stop rolling. If I got bit by a rattlesnake, that becomes the episode. What happens now? Am I going to survive?
It’s the stories that you get to tell after the fact that make it all worth it. Sometimes when we have 18-hour days—you’ve been bitten by an alligator and you’re exhausted and your stomach just aches from the amount of adrenaline that pumps through you—you’re like, “It would be so nice to have a nine-to-five and air conditioning.”
Listen to the audio
The following are recordings of our interview with Coyote Peterson