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Wild America: Know Your Wild Neighbors

Posted on Jul 13, 2018

Roger Tory Peterson’s Wild America Nature Festival (July 28 & 29 at Panama Rocks) was created to help strengthen our emotional connection to the natural world and to facilitate understanding and respect for the many fascinating creatures with which we share our planet. At a time when ever fewer people are spending time immersed in nature, it is more important than ever to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to nature, and to address misconceptions and behaviors that too often put our wild neighbors in peril. One of the best ways to do this is to meet wild animals!

One of this year’s featured presenters is nationally- renowned animal expert and handler Jeff Musial. Over the past decade, Musial has been making a name for himself in the world of wild animals; from running his nationally recognized animal sanctuary to making many television appearances on CBS’ “The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet,” NBC’s “Today Show,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.” Jeff’s vast knowledge of exotic animals, worldwide, coupled with his comedic styling and endearing personality have made him an uncontrollable force when it comes to educating people of all ages about the many different animal species that inhabit the world.

Jeff Musial; the Animal Guy!

Since childhood, Jeff has surrounded himself with animals! What started with catching garter snakes and frogs in the backyard quickly transitioned to working in a pet shop, studying zoology in college and ultimately, launching his own animal sanctuary, Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics in 1999.

Through Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics, Jeff Musial has not only rescued thousands of rare and exotic animals but he’s been captivating audiences of all ages with his unique blend of education and entertainment. With his comedic style, Jeff, along with his animal ambassadors, is quickly becoming a foremost national figure when it comes to animal education. He uses the term “edutainment” to describe his unique approach to teaching people about wild animals.

When asked how he got started in his work with animals, Musial replied: “When I was a kid I just loved animals. I was a zookeeper for Halloween from the time I was two until I was probably a senior in high school. That was my go-to: I’m a zookeeper Halloween costume. But anyways, I just loved animals. I wanted to make a career out of it, and I wanted to teach people about how cool animals were. As a kid I had a science teacher that had a room with like turtles and snakes and fish in it. Hamsters and gerbils, and that was like my heaven. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to learn about it all day and sleep over there even. When I got older I was like, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna be a science teacher with a room of animals. Or maybe I’ll be a zookeeper.” Jeff ultimately went on to found what he calls his “wildlife education company”, Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics.

Jeff Musial recently posted this photo on his Twitter account with the caption “My idea of a vacation …….. #boom #myRealwildlife #mothernaturerules #gorgeous”.

When asked if there is an underlying purpose to his work other than to entertain and educate his audience, Jeff expressed that he feels that nowadays everyone is in sort of a technological coma always staring at screens. He wants to bring the animals that people see on Google or on nature shows right in front of their faces. As he put it: “You see something, you fall in love with that something, you want to share that something or help that something, and that’s how it all comes full circle.”

When asked if he was familiar with the life and work of Roger Tory Peterson, Musial replied: “Yeah, I was reading some of his back story on [RTPI’s] website, and I feel like we were kinda cut from the same cloth.” He also indicated that he is looking forward to his appearances at the Wild America Nature Festival where he will enjoy the company of so many other animal and nature enthusiasts.

In addition to Jeff Musial’s entertaining animal show, the Wild America Nature Festival will include rehabilitated and free-flying birds, and other live animal displays. And if seeing live animals up close isn’t enticing enough, the festival will also feature headlining talks by Roger Tory Peterson’s son, Lee Peterson, and nationally best-selling author Jennifer Ackerman; a Nature Art and Craft show; a Local Food Cook-off; lectures, classes and workshops; live music, and more.

Learn more about the festival, purchase discounted pre-sale tickets, and view the schedule of events at www.wildamericafest.com.