Instead of using telephoto lenses from a safe distance to capture images of the king of the beasts and his clan, the Nat Geo WILD network placed Boone Smith and a cameraman in a Plexiglass box in the middle of the pride.
“They had this roar that could reverberate throughthe box,” says Smith, 39. “They’d come up and sniff and growl at us.”
This South African lion adventure, filmed for a Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week special, was admittedly more adrenaline-fueled than his average workday. Normally, Smith steps out the front door of the Preston, Idaho, home he shares with wife Stephanie and their two children, Jake, 9, and Claira, 5, gathers his hounds and makes the 15-minute commute into the mountains to catch mountain lions as a “wildlife consultant and capture guy” for nonprofit research groups.
“The dogs corner a cat in a tree,” says Smith, a fourth generation houndsman. “We dart him, go up and get him, tie him up.”
For previous Nat Geo WILD assignments, Smith traveled the world to capture big cats, from cougars in his backyard to jaguars in Belize and Brazil to snow leopards in Afghanistan.
“African lions are not endangered,” he says. “But their population has dropped to 32,000. If we don’t do something, they will become endangered.” Smith’s ultimate goal? “That people will see this show and say, ‘Lions are awesome. And how do I help them?’”
Boone Smith’s Man v. Lion kicks off Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. Central.