Red Dead Online Naturalist guide - how to unlock and progress the Naturalist role

 Red Dead Online Naturalist role
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

To be a Red Dead Online Naturalist is to make a choice between whether to spare or kill animals, to work with the Naturalist Harriet or the hunter Gus to make your way forward with Red Dead Online's animal population. But with so much to keep in mind and consider, we've put together this full guide on how to be the best Red Dead Online Naturalist possible, what the role includes, the rewards involved, and what you'll need to do to succeed. Read on to find out how to be the best Red Dead Online Naturalist possible

Red Dead Online legendary animals | Red Dead Online Harriet Davenport | Red Dead Online Gus McMillan | Red Dead Online Elephant rifle | Red Dead Online Gypsy Cob horse

What is the Red Dead Online Naturalist role?

Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

The Red Dead Online Naturalist role allows players to take up a new life as a protector of the Old West’s wildlife. Instead of hunting animals, you’ll be asked to sedate and sample them for a new character called Harriet Davenport. Davenport is the main quest giver in the Naturalist Update, and you’ll have to speak to her to activate the role and progress through the ranks.

How to unlock the Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

You can find Davenport at the Welcome Center in Strawberry once you’ve updated the game, where you can pay 25 Gold Bars to access the Naturalist Sample Kit. This will also allow you to buy Sedative Ammo from Harriet, which enables you to tranquilise and sample animals, starting your career as a Naturalist. Harriet will provide the player with a field guide for cataloguing all of the animals in Red Dead Online, but you can’t complete each entry without killing and skinning every animal. There’s a reason for that! When you meet Davenport you’ll also be introduced to Gus MacMillan, the less animal-friendly secondary vendor introduced in this update.

Gus is not a quest-giver, and working for him won’t give you any Naturalist XP. He’s simply an enterprising trapper who would prefer it if you just killed and skinned the animals and sold the pelts and parts to him for special garments and trinkets. You can find Gus on the map by looking for paw symbols and you can find Harriet by looking for magnifying glass icons on the map. Both new characters appear in a variety of accessible locations on the open world map.

How to progress the Red Dead Online Naturalist role

Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Once you’ve paid 25 Gold Bars to unlock the role, as long as you purchase some Sedative Ammo from her for your Varmint Rifle, you can head out and start collecting samples. Once you spot any animal in the wild, shoot it with sedatives until you get the red hit marker notification you usually receive from killing someone. You should see the animal turn into a red paw on the minimap if you’ve done it correctly, at which point you can approach it and draw a sample from its tranquilised body. This will become an item in your inventory which you can take to Harriet to trade for Naturalist XP.

Like the Collector role, you’ll get more XP if you trade samples in in sets, by sedating particular animals in a part of the map. You can check which animals you need to complete a set by opening the Animal Field Guide from the radial item menu.

Beyond the open-world Naturalist gameplay, you can also earn extra Naturalist XP by taking part in missions given to the player by Harriet Davenport. Go visit her at the magnifying glass icon on the map and you can open up the missions menu when focusing on her.

All Red Dead Online Naturalist Role Missions explained 

Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

At first, you’ll only be able to accept Poached Animal missions from Davenport, where you’ll be sent to an outpost to kill poachers and unlock a cage with an animal inside, which you can sedate for an extra sample. At Rank 4, you’ll unlock Naturalist Events, which can occur during free roam and involve multiple players. You’ll either be protecting a legendary animal or tagging wild animals as a group to unlock unique samples. Both of these free roam events offer tons of XP, so make sure you accept them when they pop up as you’re playing.

Once you progress to Rank 5, you’ll receive a Legendary Animals Map which lets you sample legendary animals in the open-world. You’ll also unlock Legendary Animal missions, instanced expeditions where you’ll be sent to inspect a unique animal, kill the poachers hunting it and sample it. These missions reset daily and provide 400+ Naturalist XP when completed, as well as a legendary sample which is worth more XP back at Harriet’s camp. Of course, you can also follow Gus’s path and kill the  Legendary Animals to trade their pelts for trinkets and garments, but you won’t receive any Naturalist XP for doing so!

At Rank 7, you’ll also receive Naturalist opportunities in the open-world to save captured animals, which will provide pockets of Naturalist XP. Davenport will then upgrade your Legendary Animals Map at Naturalist Rank 10 so you can access even more of that precious XP.

Quick and easy ways to get Red Dead Online Naturalist Role XP

Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Much like the rest of the roles in Red Dead Online, excelling as a Naturalist involves finding an efficient feedback loop. Make sure you’re picking up Naturalist missions from Harriet in between open-world sample hunting for the best results.

There are two useful spots for farming Naturalist XP in Red Dead Online. The first one is in the Lemoyne swamplands, close to Harriet’s Camp. All you have to do is buy the maximum amount of sedative ammo from Harriet, then go on a rampage through the swamplands, sedating any alligator that crosses your eye line. 

Alligators are sizable beasts and will reward you with a decent chunk of Naturalist XP for each tranquilised body you can sample. Sample five alligators, run to Harriet, redeem your XP, rinse and repeat. 

You can also fast travel to Emerald Station and sedate all of the barnyard animals that spawn naturally there, including the chickens, goats, oxen and sheep. Clear the entire camp and then run back to the fast travel post - take a trip back to Lagras to Harriet’s Camp to redeem your XP, rinse and repeat. If they won’t respawn, start a new Red Dead Online session to bring them back.

What new equipment can you get from the Red Dead Online Naturalist update?

Red Dead Online Naturalist role

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

There are plenty of new items, equipment and weapons that have arrived thanks to the Red Dead Online Naturalist update. Let’s run through a selection of the most important bits of new kit you should keep your eye on:

Varmint Rifle Sedative Ammo
Cost: $0.80 per box of 20
Where to buy: Any Harriet Davenport camp
Details: Equip this ammunition to tranquilise animals and retrieve samples

Harriet’s Tonics
Cost: Varies
Where to buy: Any Harriet Davenport camp
Details: Blending Tonics allow the player to blend in and avoid detection when hunting for animals. Hardy Tonics mitigate damaging weather effects. Weight gain and weight loss tonics change how your avatar looks

Advanced Camera
Cost: $540
Where to buy: Handheld Catalogue
Details: The Advanced Camera lets players move when taking photos, and adds a series of filters you can apply to your shots to give them an extra bit of style

Wilderness Camp
Cost: $750
Where to buy: Any Harriet Davenport camp
Details: The Red Dead Online Wilderness Camp will appear in your radial menu next to the camp option, and lets you construct a mini-camp anywhere on the map, so you can rest, craft and cook

Elephant Rifle
Cost: $580
Where to buy: Any Gunsmith
Details: The Elephant Gun is perfect for those of you not keen on saving the animals. It deals incredible damage and will take out massive Legendary Animals in a few hits. Just watch out for that vicious recoil!

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Freelance writer

Jordan Oloman has hundreds of bylines across outlets like GamesRadar+, PC Gamer, USA Today, The Guardian, The Verge, The Washington Post, and more. Jordan is an experienced freelance writer who can not only dive deep into the biggest video games out there but explore the way they intersect with culture too. Jordan can also be found working behind-the-scenes here at Future Plc, contributing to the organization and execution of the Future Games Show.