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October 6th, 2009

The Bear Blog with Chris Morgan follows the journey of Chris and his crew during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Base camp for the Bears crew

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There’s nothing quite like coming back to your favorite place on Earth. I’ve been bringing people to the coast of Alaska to view brown bears for many years, and I’ve fallen in love with the majesty of this wild area — and with the giant brown bears that call it home. But this trip is a little different, and I can already tell it’s going to be an adventure to remember.

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September 21st, 2009

The Bear Blog with Chris Morgan follows the journey of Chris and his crew during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Dean’s journey in Alaska as part of the Bears of the Last Frontier crew was about to take an unexpected turn

By Dean Cannon, Assistant Producer

Today I realize Rick and Jessy’s job isn’t a bowl of cherries. It can be deadly.

A 45-year-old woman has been badly injured by a moose cow protecting her calf. What she thought was the sound of an injured child was a calving moose. “Our eyes met,” said the woman. “I could tell it was going to end badly.” As she turned to run, the moose charged and kicked her to the ground. A last kick knocked her unconscious. The woman was taken to the emergency room, where she received stitches to her stomach and forehead.

Back at the scene of the incident, Rick and Jessy arrive on the scene with a dart gun. These are the kind of instances when Rick and Jessy must not only prevent injuries to members of the public, but also to themselves. As we creep into the shaded backyard full of pine trees, it feels like a military operation. Rick and Jessy communicate with hand signals to indicate where they will move next. Rick tells me to find a tree and stay on the other side of it if I get charged. I am mostly looking through the viewfinder of my camera, adjusting focus and making small F stop tweaks for the constantly changing light. If the moose sees me first, I probably won’t know about it until I am on my back. Half an hour later, Rick decides the moose and calf have bolted. The relieved woman thanks Rick and Jessy, and we head off for the day. My arms are covered in mosquito bites, but thanks to fear, I didn’t feel them.

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September 4th, 2009

After a federal judge denied a request by the Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue to stop round-ups from beginning in the Pryor Mountains, several horses were chased by helicopters into corrals set up by the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday.

This morning, the Today Show on NBC ran a story on the controversy surrounding these round-ups, which are set to continue.

The third installment of the Cloud saga, Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions, premieres on NATURE Sunday, October 25.

September 2nd, 2009

The Bear Blog with Chris Morgan follows the journey of Chris and his crew during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Mt. Redoubt

By Dean Cannon, Assistant Producer

Clear blue skies greet us today! Anchorage is a cool place, but the Alaska we’ve come to see is around the first bend of Turnagain Arm. Today is a stunner of a day. A lady tells us May has already seen better weather than the entire summer of 2008. As we round the first turn on Highway 1 to Homer, the clear Arctic sky has not a single cloud to put these gigantic mountains into perspective. That job was left to the tiny little RVs trundling at the water’s edge. Four hours into the drive and the still active Mt. Redoubt gives us a glimpse of Earth’s fury below. Looking like a conical hat, it steams silently some 60 miles across hazy Cook Inlet. At the third and last pull-out for miles, we all decided to stop and take pictures. Joe’s left hand is balancing all our cameras while he attempts to shoot with his right hand. It’s a consequence of being the only award-winning cinematographer in our van…

Tomorrow, I drive back to Anchorage. My shoot there deals with problem bears in the city limits. I will be looking for bears milling around houses, rutting through dumpsters and generally being themselves: the bears gone wild of Anchorage. I am really excited to do this, but it dawned on me today I have never seen a bear up close and personal. I’ve also never been around an animal that could eat me. It seems like a good time to ask Chris a few questions. Joe is looking for his coffee grinder. Man, I hope he finds it…

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August 22nd, 2009

This is the third post in the new Bear Blog with Chris Morgan, where you can follow the journey of Chris and his crew during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Dean Cannon

My name is Dean Cannon. I am assistant producer and 2nd camera on Bears of The Last Frontier. When Joe asked me if I wanted to be his AP on the project, I immediately took up the offer. Projects with Joe always turn out to be an adventure. Whether it’s on location looking for elusive wildlife in China or the last pearl diver on Con Dao as I have been, Joe’s films are as inspirational to work on as they are to watch. Joe also knows of my desire to “get out of the office” so to speak. And I hoped there might be a chance of seeing Alaska and its amazing wildlife myself!

Early Days

Planning a large documentary film shoot involves heaps of preparation. Months of research, equipment selection, and planning must occur before the camera is even switched on. We also deal with lots of people with very different roles on film shoots. It’s a little like conducting a 100-person ballet on a moving floor while the stage is being built. The producer must be intimately familiar with the macro as well as the micro. Many big decisions are made in the moment that impact results downstream. Weather, broken equipment, or a change in someone’s availability can affect the outcome of a shoot, but not always for the worse. A clerical error may mean an extra day camping while searching for an elusive animal. Often it is on that extra day the animal is spotted. There is a fluidity to filmmaking where sometimes inertia can end up being the guiding force on a shoot. Gut feelings compete with reason. It is the producer’s job to know which one is right. My job is to man the phones and keep the lines of communication flowing. The cameraman’s office is the world. An AP’s office is virtual.

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August 18th, 2009

Cloud’s band. Photo by Ginger Kathrens

The agency in charge of managing wild horses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is planning on rounding up all the horses in Cloud’s herd and removing 70 of them, plus some foals, beginning September 1. All mares that have foaled before will be given a two-year contraceptive drug, PZP-22, which is still in the experimental phases in the wild. The Cloud Foundation, which I started in 2005 to protect Cloud’s herd and all wild horses in the west, is opposed to this massive roundup. Noted geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran has written that the minimum population for this herd to maintain genetic viability is 150 to 200 horses. With this removal, Cloud’s herd would be left at only about 120 horses plus some foals.

In order to remove 70 horses the BLM will roundup older horses. I am fearful that many of the horses I have known since birth, which have lived their entire lives in the wild and that you have seen in the Cloud programs, will be removed. Many of the horses you’ll meet in the next Cloud program, Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions, may be gone from the wild by the time this program airs.

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August 14th, 2009

This is Chris Morgan’s second post for the new Bear Blog, where you can follow his journey during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Joe Pontecorvo and Chris Morgan

We’re finally here! After a year of busy preparation we’ve arrived at North America’s last frontier – ALASKA. My name is Chris Morgan – I’m a conservation ecologist, and for the last 20 years I’ve worked on bear research and conservation projects all over the world. In places as diverse as northern Spain, Pakistan, Ecuador and the Arctic I’ve come to really love these creatures and the wilderness they represent. I’ve have spent half my life working to conserve them and the places they need to survive. With me here in Alaska is my film-making friend Joe Pontecorvo. His beautiful wildlife films have won international acclaim, and also several awards. His style blends adventure, conservation, and stunning natural history to make for an epic mix.

NATURE asked us to join forces once again to do a film about bears, so naturally we headed here – North America’s last frontier. Of the world’s eight bear species, six are threatened with extinction. They are found from the Arctic to the tropics in the wildest places on earth. And it doesn’t get much wilder than this. Here in Alaska, three of the world’s eight remaining bear species still exist. Like the bears it supports, Alaska is a giant. It covers an area over half a million square miles – around 354,000,000 acres – and it’s bigger than the next three largest states combined. It’s a mind-boggling scale that we’re about to really come to terms with. And here’s why…

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August 7th, 2009
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Brace yourself for the ride of a lifetime as adventurer and bear biologist Chris Morgan takes us on a motorcycle odyssey deep into the wilds of Alaska in Bears of the Last Frontier, coming to NATURE in 2011. For more than a year, Chris will live among the wildest creatures on Earth, immerse himself completely in their world, and reveal to us as never witnessed before, an astonishingly intimate portrait of North America’s three bear species: brown bears, black bears, and polar bears.

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