Film Premiere: Attendees Get a Glimpse into Canadian Naturalist’s Career

By Dana Kobilinsky

World Premiere Wildlife Film Showcase at our 22nd Annual Conference.

It was as if you were right by the polar bears wrestling in the wild and could feel the great gray owls fly overhead at the premier of the film, “Private Lives of Wild Creatures.”

The film provided a glimpse of Canadian naturalist-photographer Robert Taylor’s career, drawing from hundreds of thousands of his images. Taylor, who passed away a few years ago, pioneered ecotourism in Canada, where he studied wildlife and nature through photography. Visiting Churchill, Manitoba often, Taylor decided other people should also be able to surround themselves with the region’s diverse wildlife including polar bears, stunning birds and more. As a result, he helped create the tundra buggy, a vehicle for tourists to ride on to get up close with polar bears.

The film was centered on how Taylor’s success showed that you don’t have to be a trained biologist to contribute to the field. His colleagues said he was even able to identify a bird just from the way it swooped over him.

When studying great gray owls, Taylor was depicted in the film performing a number of antics in order to get the best photos of the owls. In one instance, he created fake mice and placed them in front of the owls, and took the shot before a colleague quickly pulled the fake mouse away. Aside from taking amazing photos of polar bears, great gray owls and many other species, Taylor was also a talented painter.

“I chose to pursue a career of making others aware of their surroundings and helping them to stop and enjoy the beauties of nature,” Taylor said. “I hoped that if people came to appreciate their environment more, we would become better stewards and want to find ways to live harmoniously with our various ecosystems.”

The Great Gray Owl Experience

Attendees had the chance to get even closer to wildlife with the Great Gray Owl Experience, an educational virtual video game. The game was modeled after Taylor’s book “The Great Gray Owl: On Silent Wings.”

Players first learn how to identify prime habitat for the owls and how to distinguish their call in order to find the owls’ location in the forest. Once players find the owls, they can put a black goggle-like device on their eyes, then take a ride on the great gray owl flight simulator. On this flight, players find a vole, the owls’ prey, under the snow, and then set a path to swoop down and collect it before shooting back up into the forest.

While players can feel like they are right there in the field, Taylor mentioned in the film the importance of actually going out into nature. Most people enjoy the outdoors through mediums such as television, he said. But by taking his lead, everyone else can be actively involved in understanding wildlife — even if they’re not trained wildlife biologists.

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is an associate science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

Read more of Dana's articles here.