The Wild Life

The more exotic the better. For over ten years, Nicole Kanoy has wrangled alligators, led a stampede of wild hogs and brought the love of all creatures to the screen.

Ever wonder how the duck in the AFLAC commercial knows just when to say that famous line?  Well, you can thank an animal trainer for the perfect timing.  Of course the duck doesn’t actually talk, but it’s Nicole Kanoy’s job to get the duck on set and perform on command.  

Owner of Animals on Set, Kanoy trains a variety of species to do amazing feats for the camera.  What is even more amazing is all of the ‘actors’ Kanoy trains are rescued animals.

nicole kanoy animals on set

“I was an animal and dairy science major at Mississippi State,” explains Kanoy. “There was a dairy farm on campus that I worked on.  Sometimes injured wildlife would show up at the farm that needed care. I took it upon myself to rescue and rehabilitate them.”

Kanoy had been rescuing animals since she was a young teen so taking in needy creatures was second nature.  “I learned a lot about animal behaviors with rehabilitation.  I was able to learn how they reacted and responded to me," she continued. 

Soon she was working with Renee DeRosset, training rescued animals and earning her certification as a licensed animal trainer.  Together with Animals on Set, they provide a range of animals, from the exotic to domestic, and deliver these creatures for still shots, creative parties, commercials and of course, motion pictures.  

Their list of clients is impressive including television series such as Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Containment, The Haunting, and Constantine, which was her first job as a lead trainer. Feature films include American Made, Bastards, Birth of a Nation, Who Gets the Dog, CBGB, The  Sacrament, Killing Winston Jones, Family Moon, and the Left Behind Series' Vanished.  Her most notable work in advertising is the AFLAC duck.  

“Everybody likes the AFLAC duck,” she smiles. “There are usually about three ducks on set that are trained.  Some scenes are computer manipulated but a lot of training goes into the preparation.” 

To read about some of the other creatures Kanoy has trained (hint: lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South Magazine.