Tame the animal kingdom with this Red Dead Online Naturalist guide

red dead online naturalist guide
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Need a hand becoming a Red Dead Online Naturalist? When you get tired of lassoing outlaws and brewing booze in your Red Dead Online Moonshine shack for your rowdy bar guests, it might be time to try out the Naturalist role, one of the several Frontier Pursuits—jobs, in other words—in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online. 

Being a Naturalist is all about tracking, cataloguing, and sometimes killing animals all over the map. As with other careers, you can earn experience, buy some new tools, and wear new role-specific clothes. You'll start out your career as a Naturalist documenting animals you're probably already familiar with, but at level 5 you'll begin accepting missions to track Red Dead Online legendary animals.

There are a lot of animals in RDR2, so the job can be a bit of a grind if you're a completionist. It's not a particularly lucrative role for earning money either. But if you're in the mood to slow down and pay attention to all the beauty in the online Wild West—this Red Dead Online Naturalist guide is for you.

How do you get the Red Dead Online Naturalist role?

  • Cost: 25 gold bars
  • Location: Strawberry

Becoming a Naturalist is simple, so long as you have the gold saved up to purchase it—check out our handy Red Dead Online gold bars guide for money-making tips if you find yourself short. 

With the cash in hand, head to the Welcome Center in Strawberry, the building with that giant bear statue inside. A cutscene triggers when you go in introducing you to Harriet the conservationist and Gus the hunter. At the end, Harriet offers to sell you a Sample Kit for 25 gold. Fork over the bars and you'll become a Naturalist.

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Red Dead Online Gus and Harriet: Who should you choose?

Fortunately you don't need to choose between helping Harriet and Gus, even though they don't see eye to eye. Gus can sell you clothing items if you bring him the required pelts, which is important for the fashion conscious. He also sells a few trinket items that give benefits like increased horse bonding or more herb yield. His camps are marked with a paw print on the map.

Harriet is your primary source of Naturalist XP and gives you access to Legendary Animal missions after you reach level 5, so you'll likely be visiting her most often. She also sells Sedative Ammo, Blending Tonics for getting close to animals without being detected, and a few other handy Naturalist tonics. You can find her camps at the magnifying glass symbols on the map.

Beware, Harriet doesn't like when you kill animals and will spray you with her hallucinogenic perfume if you've killed too many recently before talking to her. Wait about ten minutes and she'll cool off.

(Image credit: Rockstar)

How to sedate animals, collect samples, and complete your Animal Guide Book

Your Animal Guide Book is where you'll keep track of all the animals you've studied. You can pull it out in the items tab of your radial menu in the far right slot. Animals each fall into a category by habitat: desert, mountain, forest, etc. Legendary animals have their own categories based on pelt color. Every animal starts greyed out but can be clicked after you've studied it in some fashion.

You can sell samples to Harriet, which will give you a stamp on that animal's portrait. After you've stamped an entire category, you can turn in the completed category to Harriet for XP. This will reset the category's stamps (but not other progress on those animals like skinning or photographing) so that you can begin a new stamp set. 

How to track, kill, and skin an animal

You've likely done all of these things plenty in the past, but as a refresher, you can track animals after entering Eagle Eye mode by pressing Mouse 3 or R3 + L3 on a controller. Use any weapon you choose to kill your prey. Approach the carcass and press the relevant button to skin it.

Killing and skinning an animal will satisfy your studying requirement. If you're looking for a non-lethal option, you can also do that by aiming either your binoculars or a gun at an animal and holding down the indicated key.

How to sedate an animal

You can buy .22 caliber sedative ammo from Harriet at any of her camps. Pull out your varmint rifle and switch to the sedative ammo while in your radial menu. The larger the animal, the more shots it will take to put it to sleep, so don't get panic if it isn't working right away. Even smaller animals sometimes take multiple shots to sedate. 

You'll hear an audio cue when a shot successfully sedates an animal, though it may continue fleeing for a few seconds before it falls asleep. Its Eagle Eye trail will also turn red. Once the animal is sleeping, you'll have a couple of minutes to approach before it wakes up.

Once an animal is sedated, you can approach and press the shown key to take a sample.

How to photograph an animal

You can use the default camera in the items tab of your radial menu to take photos or buy the Advanced Camera for $540 in the Hunting & Fishing section of your catalogue. With your camera out, press the shown key to hold it up then aim and zoom before snapping a photo.

(Image credit: Rockstar)

More Red Dead Naturalist tips

  • You cannot sample and skin the same animal.
  • You can hear an audio cue when a nearby player sedates an animal and you can take a sample from it as well.
  • Use Jeanropke's interactive RDO map if you're struggling to find a particular animal.
  • Studying animals and selling samples will be your primary way to earn Naturalist XP until you reach role rank 5 and unlock legendary animal hunts.
  • You can join a friend's legendary animal hunt to earn XP even if you haven't unlocked them yet.
Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.