Bear Grylls Takes Pride in His Conservation Growth: ‘We’ve Got to Figure It Out’ (Exclusive)

by Jon D. B.

Taking to this planet’s wilder places is a passion all of us Outsiders share, but few who breathe have as much experience Running Wild as Bear Grylls. Being a fellow conservationist did, however, prove the perfect ice-breaker when chatting with the star ahead of the show’s return to National Geographic.

If you’ve been a Bear Grylls fan for the decades he’s been in entertainment, too, then you’ll remember the wildlife-centric components of earlier shows like Man vs Wild. And whether Bear was using a camel carcass as an emergency shelter, or running head first into a grizzly bear encounter, these are elements that wouldn’t exactly play the same today. As the man himself says, “The world moves on.”

“In the old days, we definitely used to be hunting out the bigger game and bigger things,” Bear recalls. “But more and more so, [especially with] Running Wild, I kind of shy away from that. I think the world moves on. And with my conservation hat on now, I don’t want to be killing big things for meat and game unless my life is really on the line.”

To Bear Grylls, ‘If you love something, you do all you can to protect it when it’s hurting’

Through multiple charities, partnerships, and boots-on-the-ground projects, Bear has become a true champion for conservation. Earth’s the only planet we’ve got, and it’s one he’ll die defending.

“It’s super important, as you know, isn’t it?” Bear tells me during globe-trotting travels ahead of Running Wild‘s return to National Geographic this month. “We might all be different nationalities, different languages, different this and different that, but we all share the same planet. And we’ve got to figure it out.”

“As far as I see it, it’s not even a debate,” he emphasizes. “If you love something, you do all you can to protect it when it’s hurting. So well done for what you’re doing. We’re in it together,” he offers to Outsiders.

Bear Grylls and Anthony Anderson on their journey through the Sierra Nevadas in RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS: THE CHALLENGE. (Credit: National Geographic/Ben Simms)

As a result, “We’re trying to avoid the big animal encounters now,” Bear clarifies. Instead, the survivalist icon prefers to focus on foraging for the bounty nature provides alongside the reality, which is filming Running Wild.

“We tend to find bugs and grubs, carcasses, maggots, and I’ll fish for things or get bird eggs and stuff like that,” he says. Such was the case as Bear taught actor Anthony Anderson how to spearfish with nature-made spears in their Sierra Nevada adventure (above). “And you try to avoid the really dangerous stuff anyway if you’re in the jungles and swamps and rainforests.”

But as any Outsider knows, it’s not always up to us. Sometimes, that “dangerous stuff” finds you.

‘These guys are rookies. You want to try and keep out of the way of the really dangerous stuff’

Wildlife is wild, period. And when you’re in their environment, there’s no dictating what or when animals will show up.

“When we were in Costa Rica? Lot of crocodiles around there. In fact, a ton of them. So we’d see them everywhere. I saw them on both jungle journeys,” Bear recalls of Running Wild episodes to hit with this seventh season, now taglined The Challenge.

For these tropical excursions, Bear led Hollywood stars Florence Pugh and Ashton Kutcher through volcanic rainforests and coastal jungles of Costa Rica respectively. But again, Bear emphasizes, “The game is, when you’re with these guests, these guys are rookies. You want to try and keep out of the way of the really dangerous stuff.”

That meant no crocodiles. If they could help it.

Costa Rica – Florence Pugh in RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS: THE CHALLENGE. (Credit: National Geographic/Ben Simms)

Needless to say, both Pugh and Kutcher survived their Costa Rican journeys. Yet “It’s often more challenging to catch fish under the ice and frozen mountains of northern Canada. That’s often much, much more challenging [than hunting big game],” Bear laughs of his tundra excursion with Marvel hero Simu Liu.

But no matter which way you shake it, the movement towards Bear Gryll’s brand as conservation-minded entertainment “has been a big tweak over the years,” he cites. And that is entirely on purpose.

Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge premieres July 25 at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic. Subscribers can stream all new episodes exclusively beginning August 10 on Disney+, where former seasons are also available.

Outsider will be back soon with more from Bear Grylls in the lead up to The Challenge.