Where Do I Start?
Bewilderbeasts isn't something you have to listen to in order to enjoy. Pick the title of your preference and go for it! However, the earliest episodes, as is the case with most audio entertainment, might sound different as Melissa was figuring out how to do sound editing and not feel like she was sitting alone in a dark closet by herself - which is harder than one would think.
She has since found a way to plug in a light so she's not in the dark, and she doesn't care her upstairs neighbors can hear her cackling away in a closet talking about exploding whales, horseshoe crab blood, aquaphobic Labrador retrievers hunting for whale poop (for SCIENCE!), or swearing birds.
But, if you want a few to try first, here are the recommendations to get your feet wet:
This is the animal that started it all for the podcast and the critter that inspired the logo for BewilderBeasts. Decades after Croatia was torn apart by war in the 1990s, thousands of deaths annually are still attributed to unexploded landmines from that war. Dogs are heavy, need a handler, and are quite expensive to train - but bees are light, are fast learners, and don't need a human on the other end of a leash guiding the way! So how does one train a bee to find land mines, and is it effective? Abso-freaking-lutely it's effective, and a great example of how associative learning, a skill Melissa uses in dog training, can work on literally any animal - including kid siblings. This was the first recording so the sound might be a bit different from in later episodes, and Melissa couldn't even say her own name right, but it was the animal who started it all. The logo will make much more sense after listening to this episode. Additional subjects include why painting eyes on cow butts work against predators and what is Melissaphilia? It's a family friendly show, so it might to be what you think!
#13: Sergeant Stubby
Sergeant Stubby is the only dog promoted to the rank of sergeant in combat, but it also dives deep into the importance of mental health and the responsibility of the free press when it comes to creating wartime mascots, like Stubby. This episode also covers a cat who hilariously ruined a manuscript for researchers to find 600 years later, and one man discovers a beheaded rattlesnake can bite hours after death.
Packed with schaudenfruede, this is the 50-year-old story of the time a highway department was tasked with getting rid of a beached whale carcass and everything that could have gone wrong, did. And, it's on film! Melissa dives in on this whale of a tale and all the off-ramps that were missed culminating in a whale-splosion. The other two stories include a cat who solved a murder and a family's beloved tortoise that despite not getting very far was gone for way too long.
If you're in on urine, this is your episode. The main topic is 350 goats who had to be airlifted out of a national park because they were accosting hikers for their sweet, sweet, liquid gold. That's right - the goats would stand by while tourists went pee off the trail, then would lick it clean - which, while a funny headline, ended up being very problematic as the goats are chasing park guests for pee, and are no longer migrating annually to their salt lick spot as they can get all their salt from our ...natural deposits. After one hiker was gored to death the goats had to be relocated by the most unusual means necessary, but how did they get to this park in the first place? Additional topics covered include the slowest two minutes in sports (snail racing, a real sport because The 60s were a thing) and lobsters pee out of their faces.
Melissa frequently uses a sound effect that originated in this episode - a bleeping out sound effect with a squacking parrot. Word is that President Jackson, America's problematic 7th president, got his wife, Rachel, a pet bird, but when Rachel died weeks before Jackson's inauguration, Jackson did what all of us Millennials did when we got our first Furbies - we taught them to swear. By all accounts, Jackson thought this was hilarious, but not everyone felt this way. Most notably, the reverend who was presiding over President Jackson's funeral, who had to pause the service in order to have Poll escorted out of the service because the bird wouldn't stop dropping F-bombs like a pirate. The sound effect to cover the swearing parrot's vocalizations is often used through other episodes in order to keep this family-friendly. This episode was an all birds special, so you'll also meet the 5 birds who were separated from an English zoo for teaching the other 200 birds to curse, and Australian birds who have learned to use fire to hunt prey to the dismay of firefighters. Yikes!