Hello Reddit!

My name is Kristina Lynn, and I'm a wildlife biologist that specializes in large carnivores. I also run a Youtube channel where I publish career advice and vlogs for people interested in ecology/environmental science/wildlife biology and comment on current events from a scientific perspective.

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeoKpQJJGHSYDkSn_bBiKBw

WEBSITE: https://www.wildbiologist.com

INSTAGRAM: @veganbelowzero or https://www.instagram.com/veganbelowzero

PROOF: On my recent stories on my Instagram @veganbelowzero I advertise this AMA!

Feel free to ask me any questions about my career, lifestyle, animals or anything else!

EDIT 10/1/2019 - thank you for all your questions - sorry for the ones I didn't have time to answer! Feel free to reach out on my website/social media if there's anything else you're curious about :) Thanks Reddit.

Comments: 120 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

Ghana_Mafia14 karma

What do wolves smell like?

Do they smell like dogs or do they have a specific wolfy smell?

wildbiologist_13 karma

They don't get as stinky as dogs! They kinda just smell like dirt and sticks and the outside haha. Though both love rolling in stinky stuff but the wolves just stay cleaner. Petting a wolf though is like nothing else...their winter coats are insanely thick.

dodecahedodo11 karma

Do you have any pets?

wildbiologist_12 karma

Yes! I have a cat :) Luckily my partner doesn't travel much so he watches kitty when I'm away.

dodecahedodo4 karma

What's your cat's name?

wildbiologist_6 karma

Tiger ;)

bigfootlives8238 karma

Do you support well regulated hunting seasons for either or both of these animals where population targets are met?

As a vegan, how comfortable are you in a sort of coalition with backcountry hunters as advocates for public lands where a lot of these animals range?

What was your experience with the wilderness and outdoors before entering your current field?

Edit: I notice you spell rumor as rumour, I apologize if my first 2 questions are rather US centric. If you don't have thoughts on those matters, I underatand.

wildbiologist_18 karma

I am fine working with hunters to support wildlife conservation when we all have shared goals. I work a TON with northern indigenous communities where hunting/fishing is literally how they survive so I have no moral grounds to tell them to go vegan lol. But personally I don't hunt and I don't take jobs where I work that closely with hunters because I feel like my personal morals intersect too much with professional responsibilities, and there are other wildlife biologists more suited to that realm.

To your second question, I had quite a bit of wilderness/outdoor experience. I grew up in a very rural area on a large property and was always backpacking and camping for extended periods of time as a kid. I think that without that exposure to nature as a kid I wouldn't do what I do now.

EndBoss458 karma

Is the alpha wolf false information? I read one time that the person who came up with the idea tried to convince people that it wasn’t true. Is it still used in research of wolves today?

wildbiologist_23 karma

The idea of an "alpha wolf" is not totally false, but most of this information comes out of studying captive wolves, which do exhibit behaviours where one or two wolves (alpha male/alpha female) do show dominant behaviours over other members of their group. Most researchers that study wild wolves have dismissed the traditional alpha wolf idea, but wolves do have really interesting social dynamics.

Here is more if you're interested in reading about it:

https://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf

baulrog758 karma

Ever been attacked by one of those animals?

wildbiologist_22 karma

Yes, both lol. They were when I was working with captive/rescued animals in a sanctuary setting. I was bit by a cougar when I turned my back on her and she was pissed off at me for some reason - was bit on the arm and scratched down the neck and back because she jumped me...still have the scars from that one. Wolf was similar, I turned my back and he was in a bad mood and nipped me on the buttcheek haha.

Dork_Rage6 karma

Okay, serious question. I live in NW Washington and we have many cougar and bobcat sightings in populated areas. Just a few weeks ago I saw a bobcat run across a yard. Is that dangerous situation and should it and/or could it be addressed by local wildlife agencies?

wildbiologist_16 karma

Bobcats are nothing to worry about as they don't pose a risk to humans, except in extremely rare situations. Cougars are more of a problem. When you see them near human areas, they could just have been lost or maybe are wandering through a new housing development that used to be a part of their territory - that's less worrisome. Or they could be "problem cougars" - meaning they are losing their fear of humans and are preying on pets in backyards or even humans themselves. While this is rare, it's something wildlife agencies are on the lookout for. If a problem cougar hurts a human or biologists believe is likely too, it will probably be captured and euthanized. Keep in mind though that MANY cougar sightings are incorrectly identified house cats or bobcats. Ive even heard a figure of up to 90% of cougar sightings are false.

The-Shawarma-Emperor4 karma

Would you recommend this as a career path? Is it fun? Is the pay decent?

wildbiologist_12 karma

Yes I would if you're passionate about animals and conservation. Pay is usually enough to survive on ok, more if you're willing to go to oil & gas or remote communities. It is a ton of fun and I couldn't imagine going down any other path, but if you don't love being outside and immersed in nature it wouldn't be worth all the downsides.

JWWBurger4 karma

What percentage of the year are you traveling for work? When you travel, how long do your trips generally last? Are you generally far enough away from civilization, enough so that you have to bring food?

wildbiologist_13 karma

Like 75% of the time during "field season" which is March-September for me, and rarely during winter - more like 10% of the time. My trips are usually anywhere from 3 days - 3 weeks depending on the amount of work we have to do or area we have to cover. We usually are housed in remote field camps where there is food available or at a town with a grocery store so we can cook for ourselves.

tucker194 karma

1) Where has been your favorite location to visit? 2) what’s the closest you ever got to either animal? 3) what is your favorite sub species of wolf and cougar?

wildbiologist_12 karma

  1. I would have to say the Amazon! I worked with a sanctuary down there and it was incredibly beautiful.
  2. For wild animals, I would say a wolf pack that followed me when I was walking down the beach. I have worked with both animals in captivity though but I think that's cheating!
  3. Arctic wolf I would say, they're incredibly striking. And super resourceful.

tucker197 karma

Very nice. When the wolf pack followed you was that concerning to you?

wildbiologist_10 karma

Nope! They were known to be in the area so I expected them. Wolf attacks are incredibly rare and they had no reason to mess with me. I think they were less "following" me and more so walking down the beach behind me as it was the easiest route to travel down.

Deplete14 karma

You’re a biologist for predators, but vegan. What gives?

wildbiologist_15 karma

I'm an animal lover! And since I'm not a carnivore, I feel better on a vegan diet than a wolf would. ;)

Jetztinberlin3 karma

Oh my goodness, you have my dream job! But I'm in my 40s in another career. Are there any volunteer or part-time opportunities or skills you can recommend for someone who'd love to get involved who's a bit older? I know there are expensive things like "volunteer vacations" etc but I'm wondering if there's anything more sustainable / useful.

FWIW, I'm located in Germany and did earn an undergrad degree in Biology aeons ago, if that matters. Thank you for being here and thank you for your work!

wildbiologist_3 karma

Lots of times wildlife sanctuaries take volunteers! Even some wildlife rescue organizations need people to drive to the site to pick up the injured wildlife and transport it to their facility. Maybe have a google for things like that :)

JustaDoorMatt3 karma

What is the most interesting characteristic of these animals you didn’t expect when you started?

wildbiologist_6 karma

That's a good question! I think how incredibly elusive they are. I rarely ever actually see wild carnivores, more their tracks and poop. It's a great day when I'm able to actually see the animal.

unp0ss1bl33 karma

I would bet that a cougar would beat a wolf in the wild, if it had the chance to lay an ambush or take advantage of its tree climbing ability. However, I would expect that on a level field, let’s say in the Colosseum, the wolf would win due to its bulk.

In your professional opinion, which one would win?

wildbiologist_9 karma

Hmm, I would agree with you I think. I think cougar if it was single individual vs single individual and the cougar was able to stalk/hide/pounce. A lot of the power of a wolf is the power of its pack, and without that it leaves the single wolf a bit more vulnerable. Hard to say!

Waterblits123 karma

How do you get into this career? like what is a guide of what to do to become a wildlife biologist, how is the pay? thank you for doing this AMA :)

wildbiologist_9 karma

So that's a really long answer but I do have a "Career Series" playlist on my channel where I go through majors, what to do in high school, how to get internships and how I got my job:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRwyF8ST_9c&list=PLSUQE1Qc6at_vrQLY26YOAZ2_9WkSsYZ3

But the short answer is basically I have a bachelors degree in ecology/animal behaviour and years and years of internship, volunteer, and work experience slowly building up to the types of jobs I have now. Masters and PhDs are also standard for most jobs. This field relies a TON on who you know and putting yourself out there to grab opportunities when they come up. You have to be really flexible and competitive to succeed in this field.

I have made as little as nothing (volunteer for free in exchange for food/housing) and as much as $250,000 (oil & gas work). Now I make around $60,000 which is probably a bit more than standard.

Matt123123564352 karma

How long did you have to do crappy jobs until you reached the point your at now and is getting a bachelors in biology and then a masters in zoology or marine biology be a good route to take? (Currently in high school)

wildbiologist_8 karma

Well, I was able to do some really cool internships right away in university. But when I graduated I moved to Canada so I was set back a bit because I was on a temporary work permit and had no connections, so I spent 1 year working a crappy environmental consulting job, 1 year laid off when my work permit expired, and 1 year making a ton of money in oil and gas but the job itself sucked. Then I finally got a full-time, permanent wildlife biologist job. I would definitely suggest doing a bachelors in something like ecology or environmental science, then your masters in marine/wildlife. It's best to stay broad-ish for your bachelors and specialize more at a masters or PhD level.

kaythor852 karma

What would you rather be killed by... a wolf or a cougar?

wildbiologist_25 karma

Cougar! They typically go for the neck and kill you before you even knew what was coming. Wolves would likely latch onto your bum and take you down that way. Wolves seem to mess around with you a bit more before you actually end up dying - but you would think the opposite if you ever watch a domestic house cat play with their food...

PeRRuFO2 karma

I bet you spend a lot of time in the Yellowstone ecosystem (I lived in jackson hole for 14 years), have you been to Romania where the largest concentration of European wolf is?

wildbiologist_1 karma

No I haven't but I'd love to one day!

GlytchMeister1 karma

I was kinda pushed by my dad into engineering, and I do have a very good aptitude for it, but every engineer I went and talked to worked mostly in an office.

I really want to avoid the kind of job Joe had before he was picked for the sacrifice in Joe Versus the Volcano (aka “wasting away at a desk under fluorescent lights that suck out your soul”), and I have always had a passion for nature and wildlife and whatnot - I grew up watching Steve Irwin... so I’d love a job along those lines, and yours sounds exactly like what I’m looking for at first glance.

What would help me have the best shot at landing a career like what yours seems to be - “out there” instead of in an office?

wildbiologist_4 karma

Definitely need to start with a minimum of a bachelors degree - but it sounds like the environmental field in general might be a good place for you. Even outside of the competitive wildlife world, there's so many field jobs where you can spend your days outside observing nature. Since you're already in engineering, take a look at environmental engineering too. During your bachelors degree, you want to get as many internships as you can possibly juggle as experience and connections is key in this field. Then, stay flexible and grab whatever job opportunities come up once you graduate! If you want to learn more, I go into way more detail in my Youtube channel. Good luck :)

Moonrider2578121 karma

How did you get into this line of work? Also do you sometime confuse the definition of the word "cougar", like the animal and the older women who date younger men?

wildbiologist_8 karma

I studied ecology in school and got an internship in studying urban wildlife, and went from there! I did seasonal jobs for awhile all around the world, then worked up in northern Canada for awhile. And yes - it's the "if it doesn't scan, is it free?" version of being a wildlife biologist - I have heard just about every cougar joke!

Skylight43211 karma

Hello Mrs. Lynn, Can I inquire why do wolves and cougars fascinate you?

wildbiologist_3 karma

Our large carnivores are mostly struggling to adjust in a changing world and losing a lot of their land they used to roam. The concept of wild lands where cougars, wolves, bears used to rule being wiped out is really sad to me.

Check out this video about the concept of "how wolves change rivers". Pretty incredible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

Maratio1 karma

Why do my father and I always see cougars when we go hunting?

Every year that we head to the mountains we end up seeing at least one cougar. No one else that we hunt with ever sees one.

wildbiologist_3 karma

Some people have all the luck! ;)

For real though, while you could look at where you're hunting, the cougar being attracted to kill sites, etc the reality is some people just see WAY more wild animals than others. I only ever see like 4-5 bears a season while some people seem them every single day on the same stretch of trail.

Shaandaelier1 karma

Is this the dream job everyone dreams of ?

wildbiologist_11 karma

It's a great job for me, but it's highly competitive and I did a lot of really crappy jobs before I got to this point. It also is tough because it can be days and days on end of trudging through a swamp getting attacked by mosquitos - those are the days I question my career field.

Shaandaelier2 karma

I can imagine .... If a job pays for you to travel around the world, it is bound to hire only the best of the best.

Has your job ever taken you to any politically unstable regions of the world?

wildbiologist_9 karma

I think the most unstable place I worked was Bolivia, which wasn't that bad. There were known poachers around our field site and we would see the bodies of wildlife that were killed by poachers since they would leave the less ideal parts they couldn't sell. We also got a lot of protests near us that would shut down the road to camp so sometimes we had no supplies for a few days.

ricrackdo1 karma

Have you ever been to Ecuador??

wildbiologist_7 karma

Yep! Not for work but I backpacked through Ecuador for a few weeks.

Glitch_in_the_pink1 karma

What a great job you have! I love wolves!

I have a question about the reintroduction of wolves back to the UK. We used to have them 500 years ago but they were hunted to extinction. I do think we could benefit from them from an ecological point of view (the reintroduction to Yellowstone and what they have done for the flora & fauna there is incredible!)

Whilst I’d love to see them back here, I would worry for them as we’re more urban and industrialised now than we were in medieval times. From a wildlife biologist point of view, do you think it would be a good idea for us?

wildbiologist_4 karma

I'm pretty in support of the reintroduction of predators into what was their natural home ranges. Though I think in that situation, they need to make sure everyone has the right training. The public needs to know not to leave trash out, how to react if they see a wolf, no feeding wolves. First responders need to learn what to do if a wolf wanders into a community street and if they're going to relocate or kill the wolf. In Canada, we have bear training in commercials, at campgrounds etc but I'm always amazed how little tourists know about it so everyone needs to have a bit of common sense!

StarchildVibes1 karma

As a Vegan myself, I'm curious whether you led the lifestyle before beginning your current vocation or whether it's something you transitioned to since. Have you noticed any differences between how you and your omnivore colleagues go about the work at hand? Also out of the countries you've visited, were there any where you found it particularly easy/difficult to find the foodstuffs you choose to consume?

wildbiologist_6 karma

I was vegetarian since I was around 10 years old, but didn't go vegan until a few years ago. I think that I have a different outlook on animals than some of my coworkers for sure but not really in a work environment, things stay pretty scientific and based on the evidence and there's not a ton of room for personal beliefs. I'm always surprised though that I've never worked with another vegan wildlife biologist when we all love animals and care about the environment. I found that Bolivia was surprisingly easy - as my field site was all vegetarian to begin with since meat was so expensive and more of a luxury there. Lots of beans, yucca, potatoes, rice. The hardest was probably northern Canada, because I am normally housed in oil and gas work camps with cooks and some of them have never even met a vegetarian and don't understand what vegan was. I had cooks insist that cream was vegan....but usually I bring lots of backup rice and a small burner to cook in my room.

cume_pant1 karma

What was your job in oil and gas and what sucked about it??

wildbiologist_5 karma

I worked mainly on construction sites or nearby active construction sites to monitor wildlife and mitigate for environmental concerns. I really disliked it because it was months and months away, often in the middle of nowhere, no days off, rough work environment, lots of assholes.

cume_pant1 karma

Ah shit, in my final year of a biology degree and I'm struggling with potential career paths, thought that could be an option but it doesn't sound great

wildbiologist_3 karma

Yeah, but I also made 250k in one year and paid off all my debt. So you get paid for the crappy factor of it.

Dork_Rage-1 karma

I’ve heard rumors of a ferocious wolf-cougar hybrid stalking babies in upper Indiana. Any truth?

wildbiologist_7 karma

That would be quite the hybrid! I don't think there's any truth in that rumour. ;)

Evynd-4 karma

Is your cat vegan to?

wildbiologist_2 karma

Nope

paintandprimer-38 karma

My question is this. Why would you think anyone would care about you enough to do an AMA?

wildbiologist_28 karma

There's a lot of people who want to get into the wildlife career field that might have some questions! :)