Dave Salmoni: Dominant Male
BY Brandon Voss
August 14 2009 12:00 AM ET
Did you ever consider figure skating as a profession?
I was a horrible child — much like a male lion, I didn't like to take instruction — so the very first time my mom tried to give me a figure skating lesson, I just wouldn't listen to her. That was the end of my figure skating career.
You've gone into a pride of lions, but have you ever been to a gay pride parade? Now, those cats can be vicious.
Toronto just had its gay pride a few weeks ago, but unfortunately I had to miss the party. I went to one gay couple's wedding, and their anniversary party every year is about the closest I get to the gay pride parades. But you're right — sometimes you'll get the very polite gay man who wants a picture with you and says, "I think you're cute." And then others just grope you [laughs].
We've all heard about the gay penguins, but have you identified homosexual behavior in lions or any other animals you've worked with?
There are definitely behaviors that we would look into. You know how a dog in a dog park will dry-hump another male? It's not so much gay as it is about domination. I've definitely seen male lions do that to each other — where they're like, "I'm going to show you who's boss and dry-hump you." I've never seen a male-male partnering where a female's been replaced with a male, but you see certain behaviors like that in any animal that has dominance in their social structure. If a big male elephant wants to show a younger male he's boss, he'll jump on his back and dry-hump him so he'll pay attention.
You've worked closely with lions and tigers. How familiar are you with the bear community?
Well, I started off as a bear scientist. My first degree was in bear behavior. But that's probably not the same community you're talking about [laughs].
So you tame wild animals and brave the wilderness. We get it, Dave — you're butch. Do you have any notable feminine qualities?
My family sees this side of me more than anybody, but since I was a kid, I've never been able to handle weddings or funerals. I was always the teariest one in the family. Because of my career, I'm always asked to give speeches at weddings, and I'm completely unable to get through them.
Finally, settle a hot topic that's up for much debate on various nature-lover's message boards: Could you kick the asses of wildlife TV personalities Jeff Corwin and Bear Grylls?
As a tag team, if they both had really big weapons, they might have a chance. Unfortunately for them, I actually have physical contact with 550-pound animals. And I don't think the two of them combined are 550 pounds. Nor do they have big claws and teeth.