While the title of the new Animal Planet series “Mysterious Creatures with Forrest Galante” may bring to mind a past show like “Finding Bigfoot” — who, alas, was never found — Galante hopes viewers will not see the title and think this show is something akin to “Snipe Hunt: The Series.”
“It’s not the title I would have chosen,” Galante said in a recent phone interview about “Mysterious Creatures.” “It’s a catchy title … I would have chosen something a little bit more about human-wildlife conflict.”
The latest episode of “Mysterious Creatures,” airing at 9 p.m. Feb. 26 on Animal Planet, is devoted to Pacific Northwest “lake monsters.”
“Originally we were actually looking at the Ogopogo, which is in British Columbia, but Canada was closed to Americans for travel [due to COVID-19] and the next most well-known was this Lake Chelan Dragon,” Galante said.
In many ways, “Mysterious Creatures” is an extension of Galante’s 2018-19 Animal Planet show, “Extinct or Alive,” where the wildlife biologist attempted to track down animals thought to be extinct.
“We’re attempting to resolve, dispute and expose extinction before it happens,” he said. “Whether that’s damming of waterways in the Pacific Northwest or the misidentifying of creatures in South America or direct human-wildlife conflict in Africa, this is the message that I’m trying to convey: There are nonlethal mitigation methods to human-wildlife conflict that don’t result in extinction. It’s fighting extinction before it takes hold.”
With his wife, zoologist Jessica Summerfield, and 2-year-old son, Rhodes, along for the survey, Galante visited Lake Chelan in early June 2021 to search for signs of the supposed Loch Ness Monster-like beast that stems from Native American legends, an 1892 sighting and the aftermath of a 1945 tragedy when a school bus plunged into the lake, killing 15 children. Galante’s investigation led the team to the Columbia River near The Dalles, Oregon.
“As a wildlife biologist who focuses on extinction and combating extinction, I looked for stories that I felt were impactful to that message, [including] the damming of the waterways of the Pacific Northwest,” Galante said. “Although nothing is in immediate risk of extinction with regard to the waterways in the Pacific Northwest, the accumulation of that problem is quite large.
“So I wanted a story that was engaging and fun and exciting, but also gave some exposure to the fact that the waterways have changed, the biology and ecology of the wildlife in the Pacific Northwest has changed with it.”
Much of the problem is man-made and attributable to our dams, Galante continued.
“Western influence has actually done quite a lot of damage,” he said. “Things like the sturgeon, that at one point in time should have been rampant throughout the Pacific Northwest and all the fresh waterways connected to the ocean, are now cut off from those waterways by man-made dams.”
Although other rumored mysterious creatures from the Pacific Northwest get mentioned at the top of the hourlong episode, Galante says he did not leave the region inclined to revisit any of them if “Mysterious Creatures” gets renewed for a second season, “at least not of any of the lake monsters,” he said.
“I truly believe that the giant white sturgeon account for what people are seeing and misidentifying throughout the region.”
Mystery (creature) solved, it seems..