As the moderator of the popular YouTube series Brave Wilderness Coyote Peterson is no stranger to facing creatures that many think are terrible – think great white sharks and pit vipers – but he just says "misunderstood ".
Animals have always been a big part of Peterson's life even before he started his career because he was stung and bitten by wild creatures. Born in Ohio, studied video production and directing at Ohio State University, and then decided to combine his two passions – film and everything wild – to teach viewers about wildlife and the importance of conservation. His YouTube channel currently has over 1
Now Peterson is starting a new adventure with Animal Planet on the show Brave the Wild . He will travel around the world with the wild biologist Mario Aldecoa and his crew and exchange creatures that are not often in the spotlight and that may frighten the viewers a little. He recently talked to Mental Floss about the importance of conservation, his thing for cracking turtles, and his close encounter with a jaguar and her three cubs.
You said your love for animals started with the cracking of turtles. Can you talk about the first time you saw one and what fascinated you?
The first snapping turtle I caught was when I was only 8 years old. Turtles have always fascinated me because at first glance they look prehistoric, almost like dinosaurs. I grew up in Ohio and have never seen "exotic" animals. My favorite thing on TV was Steve Irwin. Watching him wrestle crocodiles inspired me to catch my first snapping turtle, the most dangerous animal Ohio has to offer.
In Brave the Wild you introduce animals that are often feared or misunderstood. What is the importance of exposing viewers to these creatures?
One of my goals in this series was to inspire people to overcome their fears of these apparently dangerous animals and to admire them from a safe distance. The more you understand these creatures, the less you are afraid of them. One of the messages I try to convey in each episode is the importance of preservation.
What is the most "misunderstood" creature you came across?
The most misunderstood creature that comes to my mind is the carpet shark that we shot in season one. As I always say, people's biggest fears are those of the three (sharks, snakes and spiders). The carpet shark is found off the coast of Australia. They only bite people if they have the wrong identity. For some of these sharks, a person's foot might look like a fish. Every time you enter a new environment, do you need to be aware of what to look for, not only to protect yourself but also the animal and the animals come out alive?
With every new expedition you have to know exactly what to expect. When I meet a new animal, I try to stay as calm as possible and not to hesitate. If I stay calm, the animal stays calm. [and] I create a safer interaction for myself. I use different tactics when I see different animals. It also depends on whether the environment is on land or in water.
How do you keep the camera in good shape in a potentially dangerous situation?
In every situation I find myself in, I consider it my job. For example, I would be afraid to operate a crane because I don't. If it's part of your job, it's something you have to get used to. When I do my job, I make sure that I am focused and never hesitate. Before I encounter an animal, I know what I'm going to say to the camera. I say for the best show we always have to have the camera on so that the audience can see what is happening.
You filmed Brave the Wild in Australia during the bushfire season . How was it?
A visit to Australia was one of the best experiences I had while filming. Australia is a fascinating country with so many unique environments. We have spent over 50 days in Australia and have encountered more than 35 different species. We were there just before all of these devastating fires started and we could see the severity of the drought and the various animals that were affected.
What was your favorite animal encounter in the upcoming series?  Every encounter I have in the wild is special. I have to say that the most exciting moment for me was when we were filming in Brazil and I saw a Jaguar and three of their cubs up close. I not only saw this in real life, but my great team was able to capture this special moment on tape. It is simply incredible to see how these animals survive and thrive in the wild while not only dealing with the dangers of the wild but also with human intervention. Without a doubt, this was my favorite episode that we were allowed to shoot.
New episodes of Brave the Wild on Animal Planet, on Sundays at 9pm. ET / PT.