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Tough Outdoor Jobs

Every backpacker dreams of a glory job in the outdoors. Here's what it takes to make the grade for 8 of the toughest ones out there.

WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST

Job description Spend quality time with life-list animals. Yes, you better know your way around a lab, but you also have to get around the backcountry. And sometimes you have to do it fast. Like when you’re in Alaska, chasing down a caribou fawn to radio-collar it. Or how’s this for a rush: Tranquilize a brown bear, drag it out of the brush, collect a tissue sample, and release it (always making sure the grizzly is pointed the right way when it wakes up, one bear researcher notes). Kim Titus, chief wildlife scientist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says, “You have to be comfortable in remote locations, be fit, and have good judgment in high-stress situations.”

Entrance exam
­+ General fitness: Hike 2 miles over rolling terrain with a 30-pound pack in 40 minutes.
­­+ Brown-bear dragging drill: The average male brown bear weighs 500 to 900 pounds. Drag 300 pounds (use friends as ballast) on a common snow sled for 20 feet across dirt or grass.
­­+ Fawn-collaring drill: A
caribou’s top speed is 48 mph, but fawns run quite a bit slower. Have a friend boot a football (so it bounces along the ground, onside-kick style), then sprint to retrieve it. You should cover roughly 50 yards in 10 seconds.
­+ Flora and fauna quiz: Identify by sight, smell, sound, scat. Quickly now: grizzly or black bear?

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