Updated on April 08, 2024

We may not be bears, but we all seem to come out of hibernation in the warmer months. Make the most of your time outside with these tips on how to enjoy nature from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild Co-Host Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant.


Respecting wildlife in nature

Ready to get outdoors but don’t know where to start? Dr. Rae suggests keeping it simple. Taking a walk on a nearby trail can allow you to reap the benefits of spending time in nature even if you don’t see many animals. In fact, Dr. Rae says your best hike won’t include large animals.

“Wild animals, especially in these natural spaces like hiking trails, are mostly avoiding humans and that’s what we want to happen,” Dr. Rae said. “We actually want to recreate in nature and not see these animals because it means they are picking up on our scent or our sounds.”

For Dr. Rae, a good wildlife day on the trail is seeing squirrels, insects, chipmunks or hawks.

“I like to go hiking because it gives me a chance to look up. It helps me connect with the bird community,” Dr. Rae said.


Three women walking on a nature path, one pointing at something in the distance.


Looking up not only allows us to view wildlife at a safe distance, but it can also provide an opportunity to see some of the wonders of conservation.

“For years, bald eagles were on the endangered species list, hawks and condors weren’t in great shape, and now we can see that they’re thriving,” Dr. Rae said. “They’re rebounding. Pretty much anywhere in this country if you go for a hike, you might be able to see a bird of prey.”

When you find yourself looking closer to the ground, pay attention to an animal’s behavior, no matter how small.

“If you take the time to notice the behaviors of an ant, you’ll see it’s up to something very deliberate,” Dr. Rae said.


Woman looking through a scope in a field, standing next to a man who is also looking in the direction of the scope.


Observing behaviors can help us better understand ecology as well.

“We might see a lizard or a snake, and it might be basking in the sun,” Dr. Rae said. “It’s doing that to increase its body temperature, which can allow it to be more mobile for the day.”

Taking in every aspect of nature is the best way to enjoy your time outdoors, whether it’s in your neighborhood or on a visit to one of our co-host’s favorite spots.


Dr. Rae’s favorite outdoor spots

As wildlife television co-host, Dr. Rae has seen so much of what nature has to offer. Here are some of her favorite spots to get outdoors.

National parks

Any national park Dr. Rae has been to is “tremendous” and she hopes to visit more soon. Can’t make it to a national park? Check out the Protecting the Wild episode, “The Lost Fox of the Channel Islands,” to see an endangered species who calls a national park home. Plus, check out Co-Host Peter Gros’ favorite national parks.


Picture of shallow calm waters of Lake Tahoe near San Harbor State Park. There are some clouds in the sky and rocks seeing through shallow transparent water. There are pine trees on the left side near horizon line and snowy mountain peaks of Sierra Nevada.


Lake Tahoe and other bodies of water

Dr. Rae enjoys Lake Tahoe’s alpine mountain area to view wildlife at a distance. But she says you don’t have to go across the country to view wildlife.

“Wherever your nearest body of water is, there are some really cool wild animal species!” Dr. Rae said. So, head to your local lake, river or ocean.


A North American Bison stands in the wild, looking into the distance.


Eastern Montana

“Eastern Montana doesn’t get enough love! That’s where the bison are and a lot of amazing wild species live. It’s just magical to be there,” Dr. Rae said.


A lot of bats flying in front of some grey buildings in downtown Austin.



Before Wild Kingdom, Dr. Rae had really only visited urban areas of Texas. But the show opened her eyes to the conservation areas and the great state parks. Get a glimpse of Texas wildlife on the episode, “The Bats of Texas.”


Happy mother and son watching and feeding giraffe in zoo. Happy family having fun with animals safari park on warm summer day.



The one place you’re guaranteed to see wildlife? Zoos! Visit your nearest Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facility to see wildlife in habitats similar to their natural environments. Summer is a great time to visit zoos because animals will likely be out and ready for you to view.


Gear you need for your next adventure

Whether you’re headed on a day trip or weekend away, make the most out of your outdoor adventure with the right gear. To start, invest in a good backpack and hiking boots.

“It may be an up-front investment, but it should be a one-time purchase,” Dr. Rae said. Look for stores with great return policies such as REI, which allows you to return used items (within a certain timeframe) if you’re not satisfied. But know hiking boots don’t have to be purchased at an outdoor store — Dr. Rae has found some of her best gear at Costco!

Next, be sure to grab a water bottle. If you’re headed out for an excursion, look for a water bottle with built-in filtration so you can safely filter out bacteria from stream water or snow. Dr. Rae recommends LARQ or LifeStraw brands.

You’ll also want to bring a map as well as a satellite device so you can send out an emergency message should you get lost. Don’t rely on your cell phone – you may not have service where you’re headed.


A woman and a man standing in a field with mountains and a blue sky behind them. There is some grass directly in front of the camera.


Your most important gear is what you’re wearing. Layer up, Dr. Rae says. “I always like to be a little warmer than I need to be because you’re probably going to encounter different climate zones during different times of the day.” If you want to look like a Wild Kingdom co-host, grab clothing from Columbia — Dr. Rae’s go-to for the show.

If you’re going to an area with bears, plan ahead. Though you can’t fly with bear spray, you’ll want to get some when you arrive to your destination.

Bear spray is used to temporarily irritate the bear so you can both keep a safe distance. “It’s harmless and it’s short term, but it can make a huge difference in terms of keeping people safe,” Dr. Rae said.


For more wildlife gear, check out Peter’s packing list.

Experiencing nature doesn’t have to be complicated. Take time to notice the natural beauty around you. Even if your summer plans include visiting an urban area, there are still opportunities to connect with nature anywhere.



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