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Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet

'Crocodile Hunter' visits WSU

Published: Feb. 14, 2005 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News
Reproduced with permission of the Daily News

By E. Kirsten Peters, Daily News staff writer

There were no crocodiles for Steve Irwin to wrestle so he played with grizzly bears instead when he visited Washington State University on Sunday. Irwin, known for his antics with crocodiles on the Animal Planet cable channel, flew to the Palouse from Australia to film footage for his show, "The Crocodile Hunter."

Crocodile Hunter
Kevin Nibur/For The Daily News

Steve Irwin greets fans Sunday at the Washington State
University Veterinary Hospital. Irwin was in town filming for new segments for his show, "The Crocodile Hunter."

He spent eight hours on the WSU campus, most of it at the veterinary teaching hospital. The best filming of the day, however, was in WSU's grizzly bear facility at the eastern end of Grimes Way.

"He let the grizzlies lick his face. It will be the highlight of a program," said John Stainton, Irwin's producer for Animal Planet.

Those who have been involved with filming the WSU grizzlies in the past were impressed with Irwin's success with the animals that were roused out of their winter slumbers to meet the "Crocodile Hunter" and his television crew.

"Last time we filmed there, I tell you, we had trouble," said College of Veterinary Sciences public information officer Darin Watkins. "I don't know what it is about this guy, but he had Mica (one of the grizzlies) sitting in his lap and licking him."

The working title of the four programs is "New Breed Vets" and it is expected to air in April.

"The theme will be the cutting edge of wildlife and veterinary medicine," Watkins said.

Besides spending face-to-face time with the grizzlies, Irwin saw a juvenile bald eagle and a horse get magnetic resonance imagery exams at the veterinary hospital. He also observed WSU vets doing an endoscope exam on a thoroughbred horse while it ran on a treadmill at the vet school.

The MRI machine has been available to the vet school for several years, but it's still an unusual event for the instrument to be used on birds.

"Snowy (a bald eagle) has been here for some time with a damaged wing," said WSU undergraduate and Raptor Club President Evelyn Brand. "The question was whether the wing could be fixed or not and the MRI exam showed that it really couldn't be. So Snowy will be kept (in captivity) as an educational bird at a facility in California."

The many laboratory and examination facilities at WSU impressed Irwin.

"We don't have all this in Australia," Irwin said of the veterinary hospital's technology.

Irwin was fatigued after a 22-hour flight from Australia followed by a full day of filming. As he left the vet hospital, Irwin took time to be photographed with arms around children who had gathered on campus hoping to see him. "I can't answer questions," he said to the media. "I'm a real family man and I want to get all the kids into photos."

After a couple of breathless minutes of photograph taking, Irwin and Stainton were driven from the vet school to the airport.

"He was here only 24 hours," said college of veterinary medicine spokesman Charlie Powell. "He's leaving on the same flight he came in on last night."

E. Kirsten Peters can be reached at (509) 334-6397, ext. 310, or by e-mail at

Washington State University