Following in the intrepid footsteps of Mike Rowe, who tackled all types of messy vocations for the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” Jeremy Brandt takes on tough tasks involving all types of creatures in the new Nat Geo Wild series “Jobs That Bite!” Premiering on Nov. 9, with an episode involving a lion dental exam, goat wrangling, and shrimp fishing, followed by a bee relocation, camel milking and mating, and canine anal gland expressing the next week, Brandt gamely goes where few dare in the name of entertaining TV.
The affable Brandt, an actor, commercial pilot and athlete who once worked as a snowboard instructor, jumped headfirst into the job, relishing his close encounters with animals — even when he bravely risked his limbs inside their various orifices. “I’ve been stung, I’ve been scratched, I’ve been bit,” he concedes, cheerfully pointing out that it was what he signed up for.
He’d initially auditioned on tape, and when it was down to four candidates, producers requested additional video of him interacting with an animal. “I had this idea to wash a pig. But it was 100 pounds and it did not want to go in the water. First of all, it took me 15 minutes to catch the thing, then I tried to lift it into the pool, but it wouldn’t go. By the third time I thought, ‘If I want to get this job I need to be able to pick this thing up, I can’t quit. I need to do this.’ And I did.”
His roll-with-it, up-for-anything attitude have served him well, even though he had prior experience with animals, other than the dogs he had as a kid. He has no pets now, but as a result of visiting the Texas Worm Ranch, he now has red wriggler worms for organic composing and would like to do some more of the beekeeping and falconry he attempted on the show. “I’m looking into getting bees and I’d also love to get a hawk,” he says.
Some of his jobs were dirtier and more potentially dangerous than others. “Whenever you stick your arm up a cow’s behind, that’s pretty dirty and gross,” he laughs. “The one that I was most hesitant about was catching a skunk barehanded. These guys remove nests from under the house in a humane way; they don’t use cages. They go under the house and hand grab them if necessary. We never came across a live skunk, thank God — a lot of skunks carry rabies. I knew I’d get sprayed or bitten.”
Herding ostriches was another tough task, Brandt relates. “We’re on horseback, me and about five other wranglers, trying to catch ostrich on horseback. They run way faster than a horse. I’m not comfortable on a horse, so when my horse starts running with the other horses, trying to chase the ostrich, I’m getting bounced around, dragging me under the branches of the trees. That was pretty fun, but pretty hard.”
Admittedly not a fan of snakes, he nevertheless handled a 13-foot albino python. “I knew it was a tame snake and wasn’t gonna bite me. But it wrapped around my neck a little bit and they told me to get my hand in there,” he recalls. The saddest, most disturbing job was the necropsy of a pregnant harbor seal that had washed ashore in Oregon. “It stunk and there was blood everywhere,” he remembers. Far more enjoyable was the marine mammal rescue center at the Long Island Aquarium, which was full of rescued and rehabbing seals. “They nurse them back to health to be released in the wild.”
Brandt, who has always wanted to go on an African safari, got a kick out of the domestic next best thing: going behind the scenes at Lion Country Safari in Florida. “I got to work on a 420-pound male lion. A baby giraffe was born that night and I got to do the neonatal exam on it, and work with chimps and rhinos. That was really amazing.”
Remarkably, in 24 or so animal encounters in the six episodes made so far, Brandt hasn’t been injured too badly, aside from a bee sting and cutting his hand shucking an oyster. “I never had to go to the hospital, knock wood.” The father of four children between 6 and 12, he’s thrilled to be able to do a show that they’re equally excited about. “They came along to the camel dairy, when we milked camels. They loved it. They wanted to come along to the next job.”
Even though the cross-country nature of the series means he has to be away from home between 10 days and two weeks at a time, he hopes the show is picked up for more episodes. “I really want to do one on blue whales. I live in Redondo Beach and I’ve done some standup paddling off the coast, and every September the blue whales come and me and my buddies paddle out like three miles to see them,” he says.
He likes the fact that the series illustrates that working with animals isn’t limited to veterinary care, and there are so many more possibilities out there. “All these people are so passionate about their jobs and their animals, whether they’re breeding them, saving them or whatever, and they’re so generous to let me come in and be a part of it. You see the behind-the-scenes aspect, see what I’m doing and put yourself in my shoes. It gives me the chance to be a kid again, and the same for the viewers. I grew up camping, exploring, and having adventures so I’m kicking myself over all the fun things I get to do. I feel so fortunate,” he says. “I’m happy to be along for the ride.”
Brandt worked with Brian, a staffer with Lion Country Safari in Florida, to blindfold the baby giraffe to keep her calm during her examination. (Photo: National Geographic Channel)