Bears are an ultimate icon of the wild, regarded as among the most successful wild animals on the planet. Three of the eight bear species in the world – brown bears, black bears, and polar bears –can be found in Alaska, one of North America's last truly wild frontiers. Nature joins adventurer and bear ecologist Chris Morgan on a year-long motorcycle odyssey deep into
Alaska's bear country to explore the amazing resiliency and adaptability of these majestic animals as they struggle to make a living in five dramatically diverse Alaskan ecosystems: coastal, urban, mountain, tundra, and pack ice. Bears of the Last Frontier , a special three-part series, airs Sundays, May 8-22, 2011 at 8 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS . After broadcast, the programs will stream at pbs.org/nature . A companion book documenting the epic journey and the making of the film will be released by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of ABRAMS, in April 2011.
“There's a constant tension filming bears on their turf,” said Fred Kaufman, series executive
producer. “ Nature is pleased to have Chris Morgan as our guide into this unknown territory where anything can happen. His journey into the world of the bears features mesmerizing spontaneous interactions with them that can be both suspenseful and captivating. He allows us to get a look at the candid behavior of bears being bears in their natural surroundings.”
Traveling with a small film crew whose inclusion in the series creates a behind-the-scenes feel throughout, Morgan immerses himself completely in the bears' world to give us an astonishingly intimate portrait of North American bears. Over the course of a 3,000 mile journey that includes the Alaska Peninsula, Anchorage, Denali, Brooks Range, Kaktovik, and Barrow, Morgan reveals bears as curious individuals with unique personalities. They are complex socials animals with lives that are extremely vulnerable to habitat encroachment and climate change.
From lush forests to icy Arctic, Bears of the Last Frontier captures the allure of the wild symbolized by these remarkable creatures. Over the course of three episodes, the film reveals survival strategies of each of the three bear species.
Part 1 – City of Bears
Chris Morgan sets up camp at a remote spot in the heart of Alaskan wilderness, alongside the largest concentration of grizzlies in the world. It is June in the Alaska Peninsula. The sun sets well into night and bears are taking advantage of the long days to feed, mate, and raise new cubs.
Morgan tracks their progress as they feast on the riches of the season and re-establish the complex hierarchal social dynamics of bear society. Along the way, he experiences close encounters with bears, observing brutal battles among males during mating season as well as tender moments between a grizzly mom and her cubs.
Part 2 – The Road North
The second hour explores the world of black bears caught in the crossroads of urban development in Anchorage and the wilderness. This is a new normal for bears and for their human neighbors. Some bears are so comfortable living in urban surroundings that their primary habitat is a golf course. In residential areas, bears frequently raid garbage bins and birdfeeders for easy snacks. But these behaviors are less than ideal for bears and residents alike.
Morgan heads north out of Anchorage to Denali National Park, where the mountains loom over treeless plains and bears get by on a diet of thousands of berries a day. The grizzlies share the enormous park with foxes, wolves, and moose — and with one intrepid bear biologist and his team. Morgan continues his journey north on a bone-shaking 610-mile motorcycle journey from Denali to Prudhoe Bay along the only Alaskan Highway to reach the Arctic. Prudhoe Bay, a once pristine area at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, has been changed forever by the oil industry.
Part 3 – Arctic Wanderers
In the final hour, Chris Morgan travels to the far north of Alaska, the tiny North Slope town of
Kaktovik. It's early November and winter is coming on. But each year, the polar bears struggle for extended periods on dwindling fat reserves, waiting for the opportunity to hunt on sea ice that takes longer to freeze. In early spring, Morgan joins local hunters in Barrow, the northernmost city in Alaska, as they go out on their own hunts, facing some of the same challenges as the bears. In late spring, Morgan travels to the North Slope of the Brooks Range, where countless thousands of caribou cover the ground for miles. The grizzlies are waiting for them, as they have for thousands of years.
About Eight, Arizona PBS
Eight, Arizona PBS specializes in the education of children, in-depth news and public affairs, lifelong learning, and the celebration of arts and culture -- utilizing the power of noncommercial television, the Internet, educational outreach services, and community-based initiatives. The PBS station began broadcasting from the campus of Arizona State University on January 30, 1961. Now more than 80 percent of Arizonans receive the signal through a network of translators, cable and satellite systems. With more than 1 million viewers each week, Eight consistently ranks among the most-viewed public television stations per capita in the country. Arizonans provide more than 60 percent of the station's annual budget.
Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University.