The Truth About Lemmings

When I was little I used to love watching Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. I mean, dude had a bear friend and traipsed around Alaska creeping on fuzzies. Granted, I always rooted for the snowshoe hare in its dramatically-scored race away from the hungry lynx, but overall, I’d say the show helped solidify my love for animals and desire to work in wildlife research.

After working for the Yellowstone Wolf Project for several years, observing those dynamic social creatures day after day, then watching the National Geographic documentaries about these same individuals, I realized 1) how much nature shows anthropomorphize their wild subjects, and 2) how nearly impossible it is to not project human emotions and relationships onto them. Somewhere there is a balance between making animals out to be humans in furs versus unfeeling, unemotional beasts.

So anyway, plaid-clad, bearded Marty may have helped form the person I am today, but he was also kind of a liar. Okay, maybe not a super liar, but he did stage many of his “wild” scenes. But of course he wasn’t alone. There was a pretty good precedent for scripting nature shows back in the day, ranging from releasing rabbits under the noses of captive coyotes, to umm, throwing kidnapped lemmings off of cliffs to perpetuate slanderous lies about the rotund rodents. I’m talking about Walt Disney’s murderous, dirty lies.

I love my job writing for the SciShow. Especially when it gives me the chance to clear the good lemming name. Check it:


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