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‘Bare Hands Rescue’ Puts St. Louis’ Wildlife Command Center Front And Center

Michael D. Francis, left, and Michael Beran worked to create "Bare Hands Rescue."
Michael D. Francis, left, and Michael Beran worked to create "Bare Hands Rescue."

St. Louis households with animal intruders have long known about the Wildlife Command Center. The locally based company humanely removes wildlife from pigeons to snakes to feral hogs — and it provides those services in six cities, from Reno, Nevada, to Kansas City, Missouri.

Now the company — and its wildlife-trapping, animal-training, Hollywood critter-wrangling founder, Michael Beran — is getting its closeup. “Bare Hands Rescue,” the new reality show pilot premiering on Animal Planet and Discovery+ Aug. 22, focuses on Beran and his animal adventures.

And yes, he really does do it bare-handed.

“When you put gloves on, two things happen. One, you have a false sense of security, and you’re not as hyped up and aware as you are bare-handed,” Beran explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “Gloves are bulky and they retard your strength. So when you put gloves on, you cannot feel things and you also lose a percentage of your strength in your hand. When you’re dealing with a bobcat, or a raccoon, you need [an] amount of strength to handle the job.”

Asked if he’d ever been seriously injured, Beran said, “Define seriously.” He added, “I’ve got all my fingers, and I’ve never had a tendon severed.”

'I've Got All My Fingers'
Listen to Michael "Bare Hands" Beran and Michael D. Francis on St. Louis on the Air

Beran worked with Michael D. Francis of St. Louis-based boutique production companyMichael D. Francis Presents on the pilot. The two met after Beran took one of Francis’ seminars, hoping to improve his company’s YouTube channel.

“When I tell you he’s the real deal, he’s the real deal,” Francis said. It took just one day on a ride along to see the bigger potential: “After I rode around, I was like, I don’t want to do any YouTube videos. We have a TV show here.”

Francis said Beran’s willingness to run toward what most of us would consider danger is part of what makes him good TV.

“It’s part of the excitement, the drama, of how this is going to end: ‘Will he make it out unscathed?’” Francis said. “I can tell you that his theory about [how] he knows how to handle any animal without getting bit, it’s always funny when he tells you that and he goes in, and he always gets the animal and the animal is always in good shape — and then you see him come out and his hands will be bleeding, and it’s like, ‘I thought you didn’t get bit!’ And he kind of looks at me and [says], ‘Shut up.’”

A native of Louisiana who has worked extensively in Hollywood, Beran moved his headquarters to St. Louis in 2014, about a year after starting Wildlife Command Center. He and his wife considered numerous other cities before stopping through St. Louis.

“My wife was enamored with the limestone outcroppings everywhere,” he said. “Long story short, Bonnie fell in love with the area, I fell in love with the area. Great airport, major intersections, major interstates, three major rivers .. and everything just lined up for us, so well that we moved up here in August 2014.

“We turned on the internet on August 15, 2014,” he said, “and we have been nonstop growth since that day.”

Related Event

What: “Bare Hands Rescue” World Premiere Watch Party
When: 6-9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Public Media Commons in Grand Center (3653 Olive St., St. Louis, MO 63108)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.