Tracker Boone Smith

Celebrity Q&A
on February 4, 2012

We loved watching tracker Boone Smith during Nat Geo Wild's Big Cat Week. What's the most frightening encounter he has ever had with a big cat?

—Richard Davis, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Smith, who has 20 years at his trade of tracking and collaring or marking predators, says the scariest was his recent close encounter with a jaguar while filming Hunt for the Shadow Cat in the jungles of Belize.

"Jaguars were a new cat to me," says the graduate of Utah State University, who holds a bachelor of science degree in fisheries and wildlife. "I had read a lot about them. I had actually handled a few of them before that in clinics where I was learning how to use drugs with a vet in cooperation with some zoos. But to be out there in the jungle where it is dark and we were a little later setting snares then we wanted, and all of a sudden there is this growl. [My reaction] was this primal instinct. It was like a lightning bolt right through to your toes."

Other than that Smith, who says safety is not just a priority for him but also for the animals, has been pretty lucky, walking away with just a few bumps and bruises.

The fourth-generation tracker and "hound man" was raised on a cattle ranch in southeast Idaho, where his father and grandfather helped him develop an understanding and love of the outdoors. He left ranching to work as a river guide in central Idaho for several years while attending school.

Smith, who lives in Preston, Idaho, with his wife and two children, uses his expertise to gather data on big cats, their behavior and their landscape to help scientists with conservation studies. 

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