Christian Cave saw some movement in the water. Based on the ripple patterns on the water’s surface, he identified it as a snapping turtle.

From the high bank, the Kennesaw State sophomore environmental science major dove into the creek. Standing ankle-deep in the water and holding a camera, Bobby Hardin Jr. reached into a backpack with a free hand to toss Cave a snorkel and mask, while Ryland McGreevy hopped in the water to try and direct the turtle toward Cave.

Cave put on the combination and submerged himself for several seconds. He emerged empty handed, disappointed and laughing heartily.

“That’s my favorite species,” he exclaimed, dripping wet and waist-deep in Allatoona Creek. “It’s going to be a great day.”

From two guys with a video camera and an Instagram account to a three-man operation with a business plan and hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple social channels, the Caveman Wildlife Crew has evolved, much like the reptiles they feature on their channels.

Environmental science majors Cave and McGreevy have been friends since junior high, sharing a love of science and an even greater desire to bring respect for wildlife to the masses through their TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages. Cave serves as the on-air talent while McGreevy does most of the filming.

Marketing major Hardin joined the team last year, bringing social media videography skills, production experience, business savvy and social media marketing acumen. Hardin has written the team’s business plan, and he knows his way around the algorithms that bring Caveman Wildlife video to people seeking nature videos.

And the videos have earned some serious reach.

This spring, they traveled to South Florida for an Indigo snake expedition, then to New York City to discuss TV opportunities with a subsidiary of Discovery, before traveling to south Georgia to work with the Orianne Society on the preservation of Indigo snakes. Cave said these trips embodied Caveman wildlife’s mission – equal parts conservation and entertainment.

“It’s been crazy and I don’t know that I deserve any of it,” Cave said. “But I couldn’t ask for a better experience, traveling all over with my friends and letting people know about the importance of wildlife.”

Cave loved animals from a young age, thrilling to the weekly exploits of Australian personality Steve Erwin on TV and then finding the animals in the forest around his family’s home in the Lost Mountain section of Cobb County.

“I look back at my childhood pictures and it just seems like I was at Tennessee Aquarium with a butterfly or have a Mason jar with a praying mantis in it,” he said. “I just had a natural inclination to handle creepy-crawly things, keep it in the cup for a second and see what it was. That's how my early childhood went.”

He also loved performing, though, and pursued drama throughout high school. He arrived at KSU in Fall 2019 and declared a theater performance major. Then Caveman Wildlife took off, and he realized he needed to lend credibility to his science acumen.

“I couldn’t just be Christian Cave, wildlife explorer, so I felt I needed to get some kind of extra knowledge in science,” he said. “That’s why I switched to environmental science – and KSU has these great professors and great minds, so I know I’m in the right place. I’m excited to learn.”

McGreevy attended Lost Mountain Middle School starting in the seventh grade, and bonded with Cave, a funny, outgoing guy with long hair who had his same science class. McGreevy said the two made each other laugh constantly and formed a bond, not only through their shared humor but with a love of science.

The two remained close friends through high school and into college, and each chose Kennesaw State for the proximity to home. It also meant they could continue their exploits in the wild, and that work has only grown.

Often Cave would locate an animal and hand the camera to McGreevy, who said he has stepped up his game when it comes to videography. On most shoots Cave carries a backpack with camera and sound equipment and can put it together nearly instantly as the moment demands.

“I do a lot of primary videography with a DSLR camera,” McGreevy said. “The dynamic that we have allows us to work fluidly when we're out in the field. We all have different jobs, different things to attack and different things to keep in mind.

“But at some point, it’s just hiking around in the woods with your friends.

Oddly, Hardin was a year ahead of Cave and McGreevy at Harrison High School in Cobb County, but never crossed paths with the other two. After an injury ended his football career in high school, Hardin focused on acting with an eye on TV and movies, earning a handful of TV and movie on Georgia-based projects credits since 2018.

He enrolled at Kennesaw State in 2018, declaring a major in marketing. When Harrison’s theater department had a performance at KSU’s Stillwell Theater in 2019, Hardin attended and was impressed with Cave’s performance. The two met up after the performance and introduced themselves. Midway through 2021, Hardin joined Caveman Wildlife.

“I do social media videography and some social media photos, and thanks to my marketing classes at KSU I’ve put together our business plan,” Hardin said. “I’m still doing some acting as well, still auditioning for roles, but I love working with these guys out in the woods.”

For the Caveman Wildlife crew, the future is now. Hardin will graduate from KSU in December with his degree in marketing, but McGreevy and Cave each have two years left in their environmental science studies.

McGreevy said the group’s first YouTube documentary will come out this summer, and that they want to do more longform pieces of that nature. There’s talk of an LLC and a nonprofit dedicated to conservation as well, but Cave says the crew will continue to inspire and inform.

“We're going to start putting out more entomology, more herpetology, more ichthyology, more ornithology,” Cave said. We're trying to hit all these different animal groups and even to get into plants and everything soon, where it's a wider scope and a broader approach to wildlife education and conservation.”

Cave said his team’s forays into the wild don’t always produce the chaos described previously. In fact, the production of one brief video for TikTok or Instagram involves hours of searching and waiting, with brief glimpses of the reptilian and amphibian life they prefer to feature. Or maybe a compelling insect and rodent.

“Sometimes, we’re out there for like 8 hours and we don't find anything, but that's just a part of it,” McGreevy said. “The snakes or turtles or whatever are out there, but just not today. We keep going back and we're not going to stop.”

On this day at Allatoona Creek Park in Northwest Cobb County, McGreevy finally found a newt relaxing on a rock near the water. He had to chase it briefly to get the animal in hand, but he safely trapped it in his palm and held it up. Once he handed the tiny, slippery amphibian to Cave, McGreevy grabbed the camera and started recording.

“Aw, look at this,” Cave said, on the camera and in his element. “This is Notophthalmus viridescens, the Eastern newt. Just beautiful.”

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