Aired Sunday May 8th, 2011 at 7:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
Bears are an ultimate icon of the wild, regarded as among the most successful wild animals on the planet. Three of the world's eight bear species -- 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 biologist Chris Morgan on a year-long motorcycle odyssey deep into Alaska's bear country to explore 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, premieres on three consecutive Sundays, beginning Sunday, May 8 at 7:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
Traveling with a small film crew, the series creates a behind-the-scenes feel as Morgan immerses himself completely in the bears' world to give us an astonishingly intimate portrait of bears. Over the course of a 3,000 mile journey through Alaska, Morgan reveals bears as complex socials animals with lives that are extremely vulnerable to habitat encroachment and climate change. The series shows how bears are curious individuals with unique personalities.
In the first hour, City of Bears, 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.
The second hour, The Road North, explores the world of black bears caught in the crossroads of urban development in Anchorage and the wilderness. 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 then heads north to Denali National Park, where the mountains loom over treeless plains and bears get by on a diet of thousands of berries a day. 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.
In the final hour, Arctic Wonders, Morgan travels to the far north of Alaska and the tiny North Slope town of Kaktovik. It's early November and winter is coming. 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, facing some of the same challenges as the bears. In late spring, Morgan travels to the Brooks Range, where thousands of caribou cover the ground for miles. The grizzlies are waiting for them, as they have for thousands of years.
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