Chris Morgan's Wildnotes

GREAT BEAR STAKEOUT airing soon on BBC and Discovery!

Last summer I was honored to work with an incredible team of people on the creation of GREAT BEAR STAKEOUT. The project took me back to my favorite place on earth, and where we also filmed part of ‘BEARTREK’ and ‘Bears of the Last Frontier’: The Alaska Peninsula. A very special place, and home to around 9000 coastal brown bears (some people call them grizzlies). Here, the bears are thick on the ground, and they offer opportunities to capture their lives on film like never before. Headed by the BBC creators of Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, we were in good hands from the start. In addition to big, traditional natural history cameras, we were also armed with smaller unattended cameras, and high tech equipment that allowed us to really capture angles to help tell the bears’ stories in new and unique ways.

The result is a fascinating look into the daily lives of several bear characters – their trials and tribulations, and the realities of being a bear in this beautiful wilderness setting. I think you’ll be hooked!

I thought you’d enjoy a few pictures from behind the scenes. Please feel free to share this blog with others, and spread the word about bears, and the help that they need worldwide.

Air dates:

In the UK:
Narrated by Billy Connolly
BBC 1: Episode 1, Wednesday April 24th, 9pm – 10pm
BBC 1: Episode 2, Thursday April 25th, 9pm – 10pm

In the USA:
Narrated by John Goodman
Discovery Channel: Sunday, May 12 at 9pm – 11pm

Let us know what you think of the shows by commenting below.

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Chris
4.19.13

Bear sign is never far away on the Alaska Peninsula – here, some large claw marks made by a male during breeding season.
By Chris Morgan

The area is surrounded by stunning mountains – the perfect backdrop for these impressive animals.
By Chris Morgan

Not something you might expect – some bears focus a lot of energy on digging for clams early in the season after emerging from dens.
By Chris Morgan

Cameraman Justin Kelly takes a moment in the sedge meadows. Bears are everywhere so we were always very cautious, but it surprisingly easy to get used to their presence here. Unlike elsewhere, the bears here are socially tolerant of each other, and to some extent, humans too.
By Chris Morgan

A bear scours the mudflats for clams.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Cameraman Matt Aeberhard films Lucy and Solo – two of the characters we filmed for several months.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC – 016

Fellow bear guide Buck Wilde. Buck has a beautifully intuitive knowledge of these bears that comes from several decades of spending time in this area.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC – 025

Katmai Vanessa Sept 2011-112

Executive Producer Vanessa Berlowitz of Frozen Planet fame. Vanessa asked me to escort her to the Alaska Peninsula in Sept 2011 – the reconnaissance that finally led to us filming GREAT BEAR STAKEOUT in this area.
By Chris Morgan

Producer Jeff Wilson – you might recognize him from some of the behind-the-scenes clips of penguins in Frozen Planet. We were even more difficult to manage than a colony of flightless birds! What Jeff coordinated was truly amazing.
By Chris Morgan

Matt Aeberhard gets into position.
By Chris Morgan

Two young bears play-fighting. This is nothing serious – a playful bout that helps bears sharpen skills for later in life when battles will be far more serious.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Having multiple film crews we could get great footage from several angles.
By Chris Morgan

The lush sedge meadows provide protein-rich food, and a hub for courting every year. Bears come here from miles around.
By Chris Morgan

Our base camp at the bay. A very carefully managed few square yards! No smelly items or food in tents (they can attract bears), and surrounded by an electric fence that zaps out 5000 volts and helps give bears a very clear “not welcome” message. Our “kitchen” and eating is out of shot to the right – a safe distance from our sleeping quarters.
By Chris Morgan

Because we were there for so long, and with several cameras, we were able to capture footage that even surprised Buck, Brad and I. Here – the remains of a bear that was killed by the largest male in the area (I named him ‘Van’, short for Van Gogh, as his right ear had been bitten off). I couldn’t believe we witnessed and filmed this super-rare event.
By Chris Morgan

An empty clam shell and the hole it came out of! The bears are incredibly dexterous when it comes to handling these comparatively tiny shellfish.
By Chris Morgan

Part of the crew at the end of another long day of filming – look out for all of them in the show: Buck Wilde, Justin Kelly, me, Barrie Britton, Matt Aeberhard.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

We got quite used to waking up with bears outside out tents. Not something that should be considered “normal” anywhere else in the world!
By Chris Morgan

Cow parsnip – one of the bear’s favorite plants to eat, and the namesake of one of our characters.
By Chris Morgan

Filming time lapse shots of the tides.
By Chris Morgan

The meadows burst with flowering plants in spring and summer – many of them targets for grazing bears. This one is called chocolate lily. Deceptive as it actually smells like an outhouse!
By Chris Morgan

Me with cameraman legend Barrie Britton. You name it, he has filmed it.
By Chris Morgan

I think this one should be the album cover. Left to right: Justin Kelly, Buck Wilde, Jeff Wilson, Tom Hooker, Barrie Britton.
By Chris Morgan

Fellow bear guide John Mitchell transfers the crew at the end of a long shoot.
By Chris Morgan

One of the remote camera control centers at Brooks River, and the man in charge of the hi-tech wizardry, Nick Turner (left).
By Chris Morgan

Wildlife film maker Justine Evans captures bear action on the shore.
By Chris Morgan

Producer David Marks makes a river crossing.
By Chris Morgan

Nate Stewart (left), whose bear-like strength kept remote cameras fully operating under the power of a battery of car batteries! Nick Turner (right) was in charge of remote camera operations.
By Chris Morgan

The remote camera “flight deck” at Brooks River.
By Chris Morgan

Justine Evans films the bears, while David Marks films me.
By Chris Morgan

Justine films bears upriver.
By Chris Morgan

Left to right: cameraman Rolf Steinmann, cameraman Matt Aeberhard, and cameraman/director Justin Kelly.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

A helicopter equipped with a specialized aerial camera called a Cineflex lifts of from the Kittiwake – our support vessel and landing pad.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Jeff Wilson (left) and Mark Smith – what a team. Ever seen the famous snow leopard chase-down-a-cliff-sequence in Planet Earth? These guys did it.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Cineflex owner and operator Daniel Zatz talks through shots with producer Jeff Wilson.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Just another day at the office for Nick Turner.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Best skipper in the world – Mike Stewart captained the Kittiwake support vessel.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Me, John Hechtel (bear biologist), John Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, Sam Taylor, Tom Hooker, and Nick Turner moving around the incoming tide.
Photo: Chris Morgan

There are moose here, but they are usually more elusive than this as there are bears and wolves everywhere.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Mark Smith and Rolf Steinmann film cameraman Matt Aeberhard and Buck Wilde following Parsnip and Pushki – two bear characters you will come to know well in the film.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Chatting to fellow bear guide Brad Josephs. Brad knows these bears better than just about anyone and has been guiding every year for John Rogers for over a decade.
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Ahhh we’d be lost without our radios!
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Buddy and bear biologist John Hechtel who helped guide one of the teams along the coast.
Photo: Chris Morgan

David Marks floats the incoming tide. We tested all our gear to the absolute limit on this shoot!
Photo: Chris Morgan

It’s a wrap! Me with cameraman Mark Smith!
© Jeff Wilson, BBC

Arriving back in civilization (Kodiak) on our support vessel.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Our trusty wader boots – we’d have been very wet all season without the right gear.
Photo: Chris Morgan

Us? Ready for a cold beer at the end of the shoot? What do you think?!
Photo: Chris Morgan

New friends – getting ready to depart Kodiak and go our separate ways after a grueling, but incredibly successful shoot. (Kittiwake owner John Rogers in the white cap).
Photo: Chris Morgan

Pure gold. The case of hard drives containing several hundred hours of footage!
Photo: Chris Morgan

29 thoughts on “GREAT BEAR STAKEOUT airing soon on BBC and Discovery!”

      1. 🙂 you are totally welcome ~ have forwarded your post, and also posted it on FB and Twitter- it is always a pleasure to support you, and what you do.

  1. Spectacular! Absolutely awe-inspiring, heart-gripping and beyond believable. Way to go, all of you. What a remarkable team! Blessings to you and the great work you are now bringing forth into the world to raise awareness about the majestic bears.

  2. Do bears really line up clam shells like that according to size? And how about those two big guys standing up face to face giving a high five just when they thought the camera was no longer running, exclaiming “Dude, nice take!”

  3. The Katmai bears will be presented to the world being worthy of our attention and protection to continue their presence on this earth. Kudos to all of those involved.

  4. Let’s hope public enthusiasm continues to grow in their appreciation of nature, bears in particular — and the naturalists and film makers who tell their stories. Continued good luck Chris! Joe

  5. Great pictures Chris, Will atch show, Al And Lois still talk about our trip with you. It was the best trip we have taken, Good luckto you Chris
    Al And Lois from California

  6. Fantastic shots, Chris! Can’t wait to see the show! The bears will surely benefit after all your hard and fun work to bring their story to the screen. Thanks so much for sending the photos. Brought back such wonderful memories of the Katmai Coast and Brooks Camp. Many thanks to all of you for this forthcoming production! Mary Ann

  7. Keep up the good work Chris, My wife and I met you at Brooks in July of 2007, we have been following you all over the place ever since.
    Your work means so much to us, we love the bears and hope that you have many more productive bear adventures, congratulations.

  8. This is wonderful! I will be watching for the program very carefully. It looks like the crew did a great job. Bears are so different from their reputation, very uniquely different in character from each other. I’m sure the crew, though happy to return to civilization felt like they had dropped into another world when they got back. Sort of a culture shock.
    Your work on Frozen Planet was excellent and amazing; I know this program will not disappoint and will surprise a lot of people. Bravo!

  9. Can’t wait. What a labour of love it’s been for you all. I was out there with Hugh Rose in June and met Nick Turner and Max McKay setting up at Brooks Falls prior to the main salmon run. Spoke to Hugh last night and he mentioned he’d met up with you since. Delighted to see it’s being shown in the US too. (Don’t miss the mozzies though!)

  10. Hi,

    I have just started watching your program ‘The Great Bear Stakeout’, which is very well done. There were two behaviours of the dominant bear, Van, that I would like to understand more about. It has to do with his relationship with a couple of the female bears. In the first episode, he threatens a female and her cub as well as kills a female.

    I can understand him having hostility towards males due to competition but am confused as to why he has hostility towards females. Can you tell my why a dominate bear would threaten a female and her cub that is on his territory and why he killed that female bear during the mating season when he was trying to mate with Alice? To me it seemed like killing for killing sake which I thought was quite rare in the animal kingdom.

    It is a fascinating program and I am very much looking forward to seeing episode 2.

  11. Absolutely fantastic, compulsive viewing. Keeping my fingers crossed that all the cubs we followed will make it through the winter. Any chance of another series?

    1. Buck’s sis here (Buck a.ka. as Sam). Amazing. Thanks for sharing behind the scenes photos. I can sleep a little better at night! LOL!

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  13. They just showed this again in the States and I caught it for the first time. Loved it! Is there any chance of revisiting these bears to see how they have gotten along?

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