Bears of the Last Frontier


It’s finally here — time for us to share our incredible Alaskan adventure with the world through Bears of the Last Frontier. It has been quite the journey. The film has been nearly two years in the making, and for both of us it has become an unforgettable part of our lives. Over the course of a year and a half we traveled well over 3000 miles across Alaska and shot 500 hours of footage for this epic three-hour PBS Nature series. We spent many, many months in bear country – piecing together the lives of these fascinating animals by observing and filming them, and by living in bear country, among the animals and people that share bear habitat.

When Joe and I met nearly ten years ago (coincidentally in Alaska) our minds reeled with the possibilities for collaboration. A filmmaker and an ecologist, and a combined dream to have a huge impact for wildlife conservation through the magic of film. The opportunity to work with PBS Nature has been a dream, and has resulted in three beautiful episodes we hope you’ll love.

Watch a preview:

We’ve both worked all over the world for the last twenty plus years — Joe as an award-winning wildlife filmmaker, and me as a conservation ecologist. Joe has created dazzling films on an array of epic subjects — from tigers to Asian elephants, and my work has focused on wildlife research and environmental education — mostly about the bears of the world. I’ve also guided hundreds of people on expeditions to see polar bears and grizzly bears. We’ve both witnessed the powerful emotions that these animals can trigger in people, which is why they make such great representatives for conservation, and such great characters in film!

Alaska harbors all three of North America’s bear species, from three hundred pound black bears to polar and brown bears weighing well over half a ton. It is home to the highest mountain on the continent, vast glaciers, immense forests, and a level of isolation that can be found nowhere else in the United States.

And it’s big. This northernmost state is the same size as the next three largest states combined (California, Texas and Montana).

Alaska’s wilderness allowed us to step back in time on a journey that took us through five major ecosystems and the habitats of its three bear species. It was also a journey that put us to the test as we hiked, camped and lived among the biggest bears in the world, chased black bears through the streets of Anchorage, followed grizzlies on the prowl for immense caribou herds, and searched for polar bears miles out on the pack ice. In every one of these locations bears have adapted impressively to their surroundings.

We’re hoping that, as you wander through this website and sink yourself into the series, you will feel immersed in the world of the bear. It is a truly wondrous place.

We also hope that you might be inspired to learn more. Bears represent wildness more than any other species, but we cannot take that wildness for granted — it will take determination, passion, and imagination to ensure that future generations can enjoy a world that includes bear habitat.

Be sure to check out the wonderful organizations listed under resources for ways to learn more. We’re all in this together. And remember — what’s good for bears, is good for people!

We’re so glad you’re along for the adventure!

Chris Morgan, Ecologist
Joe Pontecorvo, Filmmaker

  • barbara

    AWESOME. This is going to be amazing. I really hope there is less techno music though!

  • Jessica Dally

    Thanks for posting this beautiful page. Folks can learn more about the work Chris is doing around Bear conservation by visiting his Facebook page here:

  • Samantha Sherline

    I’m really looking forward to this. I just hope the so called music doesn’t drown out the dialogue as to many shows are doing these days. Anyway, I love bears and only bears and bear things come into my house and I have every bear movie, book, etc. that has ever been made. This will definitely be one of the best. I hope this will give people a better understanding of this great animal
    and that more will be done to protect them. Thanks for doing this not only for human enjoyment but for BEAR appreciation.

  • Tom McMillin

    Growing up in Idaho and near Yellowstone Park, I was able to see bears in their natural environment and also in local zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. As a child I participated in a local fundraiser to provide better living quarters for a sun bear at the Tautphaus Park Zoo. My father was a local physician who loved the outdoors. He took us on many trips into the backcountry near Yellowstone Lake. On one trip he had to make a mad dash to the boat as a black bear chased him around the campfire as we hastily broke camp after making breakfast one morning . We learned from those experiences that we were in the bear’s home, and that we as visitors needed to be better equipped to stay in these wild and beautiful natural settings without having a negative impact on the bears.

    Inicidentally, I am very proud of my nephew Billy McMillin who did the film editing on this project. Also, my congratulations to Chris Morgan and Joe Pontecorvo for their hard work, dedication and love of bears that made this beautifully filmed collaboration possible.

  • jackie wagner

    looking forward to seeing this and am so excited as my daughter is in Alaska now for 5 months photographing the sweet bears she loves.

  • Will Grimes

    This is “Awesome” I can not wait to see this .I love the wildlife of Alaska and that thy still have their own place to live and be wild.

  • Andy hoffman

    Where is the bike? We want the bike!

  • Kevin McHugh

    A beautiful film. I enjoyed every minute of it this evening on WETA.

  • Jane Stanley

    Absolutely fabulous! The first of three parts!! I cannot wait to see the rest. Thank You for this wonderful work.

  • Linda Corbin

    Absolutely fantastic – I am a wildlife fanatic and can’t even begin to tell you what animals I love best – all of them I guess. I fight for the wolves, the bears and the bison in Yellowstone, I do what I can for animals in Africa and local shelters and wild birds and captive parrots who have been abandoned….. so much to do!! If only people would quit screwing things up!!

  • ron dibacco

    Thanks Chris,
    I was there the summer of 2009 and met the female with the two cubs, the guide I was with called her Peaches (the split fur mark on her forhead). It was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life and thanks to you I was able to go there again. I can wait to see more. Thank you very very much.

  • Jana

    Hi Chris, just loved the show about bears in Alaska. I live in British Columbia and we have lots of bears around us. I’m an Aussie and just adore the bears here in B.C. Thank you for being such a nice guy and caring about them. I was pleased that there was no killing in the show. I just can’t watch it when animals hunt .. except for the marvellous salmon of course. It was quite a treat to see them in Alaska. My office wall here is covered in bear photos .. *(s)…. and we get quite close to the real ones quite often. Thank you again for a great show… and keep up the good work and stay safe. Best wishes from Jana

  • jeff

    great show.
    live in nome bear season starts on the 10th hope i find one like brutus.

  • Wanda Pitser

    Hi Chris, This program was so beautiful and emotionally moving. Thank you for sharing it with us. I lived in Alaska for twenty two years and loved every minute of it. Had a couple of occassions to run into bears, but gave them a wide birth. Myhusband was a surveyor on the Alaska pipeline and he would have his moments with the bears too. Quite exciting at times for he and his crew. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful films and further adventures.



  • Nancy Kennell

    Chris… Riveting, jaw dropping and deeply satisfying. Your reverence and delight were written all over your face. Thank you, thank you. And, so good to see you again. ~Nancy

  • Andy L

    Fantastic film. Those bears approaching you scared the heck out of me … no way I’d try anything like that. They are magnificent animals. Thank you.

  • Catherine

    What a fortunate man you are Chris-to be able to travel, teach conservation–and live among bears! You are living my dream-and the dreams of countless others I’m sure. Bears are such amazing creatures–I have been
    fascinated by them since I was a young child. I was mesmerized watching the first segment of your film. Alaska
    has such breathtaking beauty–with bears-what is left of them-and all the other wildlife representing the splendor of the wilds of Alaska. I thoroughly enjoyed your narration–while watching the cubs grow up–what a gift this was for me that you shared your experiences among these wondrous bears! Thank you Chris Morgan–and I am very much looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

  • Michael Scally

    As a amateur photographer I had to watch this twice because I was stunned by the quality of the film or video. The lighting, the composition, the details in every shot, the overall photography is absolutely amazing. You don’t see films like this everyday. This guy Joe is a genious ! Hope they continue to make films like this one.

  • Rob

    I was in Katmai two summers ago with my father and spent half a day photographing the same mother and cubs in Hallo Bay that Chris features, as well as dozens of others over the course of a week or so. Got some amazing shots on an AMAZING experience that I will never forget. Thanks Dad!

  • Murton

    I thought the first episode was amazing, Chris…photographer was gorgeous, and you obviously deeply love what you are doing with these maginficent animals that get misunderstood by many people…I liked, though, that you made it clear to the audience that these are not animals to think as anything but potentially dangerous if cautionary measures aren’t taken.

    My favorite scenes were with the Mother and her cubs…amazing how Mothers of so many species have uncanny skills in teaching their young how to cope with the dangers and joys of the world. Those cubs were so wonderful to watch as they relied on “Mum” so exclusively

  • amy

    this is itrasting

  • Aileen Murphy

    Saw the first episode and was mezmerized! Fabulous photography and how the bears tolerated humans was incredible. I watched it again when it repeated later in the week and enjoyed it just as much. Can hardly wait for the next 2 episodes. Way to go PBS!

  • Patti

    I just loved this show. I could relate to living amongst the bears as I live in Northern Ca. and had several bear friends. The mothers brought me their babies every year. I saw the most enjoyable interaction between the different bears and their cubs. Brothers & sisters played together as the mother would just lay back and relax in my yard and be very comfortable as she felt trust in me. I’ve moved after 25 years of interaction with these beautiful animals, which sometimes I forgot that they were wild animals. I called them all Baby Bear, and they would show up after I called this out. One Big Boy enjoyed my hot tub, which ended up with styrafoam (?) every where, even on baby bear. Of course I thought it was cute, but very smelly as I had to clean out the hot tub. I could go on forever about my little friends, who grew up to big boys & girls. I miss them and grateful I had this opportunity in my life. I even feed them grapes out of my hand, behind a sliding glass door. Alot of trust from both sides. AMEN!!

  • Lisa

    Hi Chris….
    Just watched Part 2… (The Road North)! I watched Part 1 last week (City Of Bears)!

    Great shows…can’t wait for next weeks adventure! This is amazing what you’re doing….Thank you for sharing this great experience with all of us. Love the Filming as well, Joe!
    Bears are very interesting and beautiful creatures…thanks to you guys, you’re making it possible to see how special and important they really are on this earth. (Including all the other creatures)!

    Again, Thank YOU!
    Bear Lover and Avocate~ Lisa

  • Douglas Leib (AKA Wildlifeman)

    I just watched the 2nd episode on PBS. Twas a wonderful one hour program. I am a beginning wildlife videographer here in Montana, adjacent to Glacier National Park. I aspire to someday produce such a great video. Kudos to Chris & Joe. I am now hunting to see the other 2 episodes. Wildlifeman.

  • Yasmin

    Wow! Thanks for opening up this world of bears and nature for people like me, where survival in the human world has so many challenges, contrasted with the unique challenges these animals also face. My heart experiences something awesome when I see mother and baby bears taking care of each other and can spend time frolicking as well. Can’t wait to see the episode on the polar bears! Thank you thank you thank you Chris & Joe & PBS…

  • Margarita

    Quality and professionalism (narration, filmmaking, picture, music, people involved in different episodes).
    PBS always makes the difference to certain audience! Thank you for making the difference!

  • Sean Carrell

    Great program. My kids and I are hooked. Unfortunately, I missed the first part. You and I met at the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and we discussed outreach/education for black bear. This type of programming is so important and critical to the bears survival, but also fosters a hope and understanding that these bears are integral to our environment. Understand that you may be at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle on June 4th. Is that true? May have to come up and check it out.

  • Knud Caspersen

    I do like all the “Nature”, as well as the “Nova” programs, but being a senior, I, as well as 40 mill. other hearing impaired Americans, cannot understand the the spoken words, thanks to the annoying background music. It is so frustrating.

    Can somebody out there explain to me why it is necessary? Isn’t the spoken word, what you want to convey to your viewers?

  • Adam

    Dear Chris and Joe – my heart is so full after imbibing of your masterful story-telling in the Bears of the Last Frontier. A partnership of destiny, yours is. Your love of bears and the miraculous beauty of the wilderness touched me so deeply. I cried many times during the episode, but no more than when mother bear found her lost cub. There can be no doubt that the guiding hand of serendipity was with you in every moment of your journey. The story of the bears is all heart; the cinemtography so elegant and beautiful. All best wishes for future endeavors. And big bear hugs to you both and your entire support team.

  • Patricia OBrien

    Like others, I loved the first episode, but watching the second episode left me saddened. Yes, the photography and the bears were wonderful, but as an Alaskan who cares about wildlife, some of the statements fell flat. For example, Anchorage residents could easily enact laws similar to other Alaska communities where garbage may not be placed outside until garbage pick-up day. And industrial size and government containers must be bear proof. Anchorage authorities unnecessarily shoot and kill many bears every year, because the majority in Anchorage can’t be bothered with prevention.
    I get that Nature is a feel good show. So it avoided the political reality in Alaska where the extraction mentality of the last century is alive and well. And I don’t mean hunting to provide food for the table. Far too much wildlife is killed for sport and trophies as well as to “manage for abundance” of species like caribou. The Alaska Board of Game has enacted rules of cruelty. They are supported by politicians who are indebted to the hunting and trapping industrial complex. Black bears, and now brown bears as “an experiment,” are snared by their paws. While a mother bear is trying to chew off her paw to escape, the frantic cubs cry. When the trapper eventually shows up, cubs will be shot along with their mother. In those beautiful Denali shots, Woe be to the bear, wolf, or indeed any wildlife that steps over the park boundary.

  • Andy

    AWESOME show!…can’t believe how close you get to the bears…hope you brought extra underwear.
    I have a question, and will post it here, as well as in the questions to Chris & Joe area of the site…
    Do Grizzly and Polar bears ever meet, and if so, who would be the victor in a battle between average size bears of each species?
    I know this is a primitive/morbid question, but i’ve always wondered, and your answer will settle a bet :-P …i’m on the side of the Polar bear.
    I would absolutely love to be able to take the same trip you have.
    But in order to keep the conservation going–to keep “the footprint of man” to it’s minimum in these areas–i will watch your series, again & again, suspend my disbelief (not that’s it very difficult at all), and enjoy from a distance.
    Besides, i don’t think i have the nerve you have, to be able to sit there, SO CLOSE, while a multi-human-sized bear sniffs me out.
    Keep up the great work of revealing what’s beyond the horizons & opening up the last frontiers of this world, to those who will probably never be able to be there themselves.
    God Bless you, and stay safe!

  • Mike

    Interesting! I hope that veryo ne’s Sunday was great and I hope that they have a great week!

  • Mike

    I forgot to say that bears are cool!

  • Mike

    I meant “evryone’s”. I’m sorry about the typo.

  • Mike

    I meant “everyone’s.” This should help.

  • Sarah

    I found this series a welcome and refreshing counterpoint to the version of bear conservation offerred in Werner Herzog’s film “Grizzly Man.” Viewers still get your individual perspective and a sense of your personal journey here, but the fact that you maintain a safe distance from all the bears you encounter–whether in an Anchorage backyard or out in grizzly country–is the critical difference.

    You’ve done a remarkable job of interpreting scientific observation for a broad mainstream audience without sensationalizing the danger inherent in wilderness travel.

    Thank you for your exceptional work.

  • Tongass National Forest

    For folks living in Alaska, we’re looking for first-bear-sighting stories now that spring is upon us! Visit if you’re interested in sharing.

  • Ana B.

    Chris & Joe, and everyone else involved in this super awesome bear video series — THANK YOU!!! This is SOOOO MARVELOUS, everything about it is superb!!! Thank you for your hardwork to bring & share this world to us!!! Take care always & look forward to more of your remarkable work!

  • Frank Brown

    Hello Chris/Joe
    Your show, your efforts is just outstanding. Having lived in Kodiak in the early 50’s, I remember the brown (Kodiak) bears quite well. My job there was as a station engineer, with buildings and equipment to maintain. The two buildings (one where 28 personnel lived) the other was an equipment building (diesel power/boilers/vehicles) was some 50 ft distant from the first. Many early mornings on my way to the equip. bldg. I would encounter the Kodiaks wondering around the bldg. Im not surwe who ran first, but I would bet it was me. I would at times wonder up to some salmon streams and find as many as 10 to 15 feeding at any one time. You could get close, but be ready for a tree climb if they felt you were in the way. Keep up the good work in portraying the bears as they live, in the wild country. Stay safe and keep the PEPPER handy

  • Jed Reagle

    for Andy Hoffman –

    The motorcycle appears to be a BMW F-650GS. If so, that would be a single cylinder (you can hear the “thumping” of the single cylinder), chain driven dual sport machine made by BMW. Touratech – a German based designer and maker of after market dual sport equipment has added quite a bit to the stock machine to make it even more functional off the road. The aluminum panniers are the single most obvious modifications that have been made, but it appears there has been even more work done on this motorcycle.
    More current versions of this motorcycle, the F-650GS are now sold as a twin cylinder, chain driven motorcycle with a twin cylinder 800cc motor.
    I get a headache every time I think of this model change trying to figure out why it isn’t referred to as an F-800GS?

  • leonel reyes

    thayt is coooooool

  • leonel reyes

    the show is cool thank you

  • Tony the Tech

    Hey Joe,

    How on earth did you get that crane shot of Chris riding along the ridge in the second episode? The cinematography is so great in this show. You sometimes forget there is a guy following Him around with a bunch of camera gear.

  • roger

    The De Haviland Beaver that picked you up was the N number “N460G” ? Who was the company? or private?

  • John P

    Such an amazing segment. Well done to the whole crew. Gourgeous.

  • Neil Aird

    Beaver would have been N46DG



  • Kathleen Bradley

    The bears have stolen my heart. Thank you for this wonderful series. I hope to support Alaska Wilderness in the protection of their habitat.

  • dion monstavicius

    Great show!

    What rivers were you on in part 1 and part 3?

    I kayaked down the Sheenjack about 15 years ago and I think you might have been there in part 3.

  • Heidi Wolfe

    Chris & Joe, Thank you for your wonderful and awe inspiring show. What dedication you have for the education & protection of these most magnifcent animals. I can hardly wait for your next adventure. Thank you again & again. Take care & be safe.

  • Christine

    I loved all three parts! Chris Morgan and camera man Joe had a connection with the Bears and made a hands on approach with the bears. They were laid back and relaxed at least that’s how they looked on TV. The Bears sensed that and didn’t seem threatened by Chris and Joe.

    It has always been my dream to experience wildlife close up. With your program i felt like i was right their next to the Bears. Thank you!

  • Erica

    My husband and I live in Juneau, Alaska and are fortunate to see black bears and brown bears in their natural habitat. We really enjoyed all three episodes, however, we have two observations:

    1) You did an entire episode on bears in Anchorage, but not one mention of the bear attacks of recent years on Anchorage trails.

    2) Next time – a little less of Chris, a little more bears, please. Yes, he’s gorgeous, too – but we came for the bears =). (We appreciate seeing his emotions, but it was a bit much).

    Looking forward to your next adventures!

  • Andy L

    I loved the series. Awesome work … THANKS!

  • Karen Bostic

    I use to live in Alaska, and have seen many brown bears. You did a wonderful job filming the Alaskan terrain and bears. IT was a beautiful.

  • Joseph Pontecorvo

    No one can be more proud than my wife and I. We are Joe Pontecorvo’s parents, and his Mother and I thought all three episodes were great. I celebrated my 85th birthday on June 1. What a birthday present from my son.

  • Penelope Wells

    Brilliant and inspiring! Thanks so much for your three episodes on Bears of the Last Frontier. I’m a keen supporter of Nature and look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

  • Peter D

    The Vanishing World. Beautiful movie to watch by future generations when all animals are extinct by human predator.

  • Ellen

    I’ve seen a lot of nature programs on PBS and this is one of the most beautiful and heartful I’ve had the honor to see. I’m not even through the first part and just wanted to say thank you for producing this amazing series with such intimacy and care.


    Congratulazione a Joe e a Chris per il loro lavoro e la loro passione, sono anch’io un appassionato di orsi e di natura selvaggia (wild).
    Il mio sogno? Andare in Alaska a vedere queste meravigliose creature che sono gli orsi, chissà se un giorno potrò andarci.
    Mi auguro che tutti gli Americani amanti della natura lottino per far chiudere tutte quelle società che promuovano la caccia all’orso, all’alce, al cervo, al lupo al puma ecc.
    Salviamo la natura.

  • Chuck

    A slight correction: wolverines, not bears, represent wildness more than any other species.

  • Lena

    I watched all three installments of this film. It was terrific.

  • Britany Mcmullan

    My brother suggested I may like this web site. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You can not believe just how much time I had spent for this info! Thank you!

  • Israel Granto

    God Bless The Adventurer ! My condolences to the Families

  • Sarita Ziobro

    Motten ist in einigen Regionen auch der Ausdruck fuer Ziagretten rauchen (wohl weil die wie das Feuer glimmen). Also “ich ga eis ga motte” heisst dann “ich gehe eine Zigarette rauchen”.

  • Rick Simpon

    good Kharma keeps the wheel turning…

  • gaucho

    Of course like your net web page but you require to have to check out the spelling on various of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling troubles and I uncover it seriously bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I’ll absolutely occur back again after yet again.

  • Markus Villanova

    F*ckin’ awesome things here. I am very glad to look your article. Thank you so much and i’m having a look forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  • Wayne

    Great show man. Tried to chat but could not find the link.

  • Carmen

    excellent ! bears are so amazing animals ! I wonder in the case of polar bears, how fast can they adapt to new situations (like for example, settlements in Svalbard)?

  • Kendall

    Looks like original chat was May 8th. Here’s the link.

  • Chris P

    Having been up close up and personal with Brown Bear in Alaska, I found the footage interesting. Though I have had these creatures come within 5 feet of me several times (where I had no way to easily move away from them), I have never and will never go anywhere near a mother with cubs. This behavior bordered on total recklessness – take that back, it was totally reckless. No experienced outdoorsman would ever put himself or his mates in such a position.

    Another complaint, he never explained the real reason why the females with cubs so avoid males and the danger they present. The real answer is that a male will kill the cubs so that the female will go into heat. An inconvienent truth for sure, but nevertheless the truth that any experienced outdoorsman knows.

    This was NOT an eductional film, it was pure BS.

  • http://www.theresademientieff.facebook thetesa

    I AM WATCHING PART 1 Right now…. how Beautiful

  • George Lyons

    Beautiful and riveting video, Chris
    Brave, bold and informed film makers are you all.
    Kudos on your achievement!

  • rebecca

    i have to agree with Chris P. there is no reason for a human to ever intentionally get that close to a bear, much less a female with cubs!! being a “professional” or a photographer is not an excuse, and in fact makes it that much more shocking that pbs and nature would include that footage without stressing how stupid it is. i felt like i was just watching grizzly man again. maybe you should follow up with that movie.

  • george

    So, Joe,…..
    How much money….
    and fame ……
    are YOU currently and intrinsically expecting to gain from this exploitation of God’s gift of nature. Your simplistic naievity or maybe just stupidity have utterly amazed me. I must say that your photographers have done an astounding job!
    Your narrative has found me gasping in disbelief! You call Prudehoe Bay an industrial wasteland but you fail to give credence to the engineering and skills of man kind which have enabled you to even make your incredible journey in Alaska.
    As I’m sure you noticed not once but many times how the wildlife uses with preference the trails ( roads ) created by man. Yet you resoundingly criticize man’s impact

  • James P.

    The film was great, But showing Chris and Joe that close to wild bears you are asking for trouble. Viewers will
    say that Chris did it and so can I. Putting the viewers and the bear in danger. Show what happens to bears that keep getting to close to humans

  • Sherice

    Your part 2 really sucked. Watching you drive your motorcycle through Alaska. Really. I watch nature to see nature not you and Joe driving. Part 1 was great and I hope part 3 will be better. Stay safe.

  • Connie Mc

    Excellent and exciting! Very informative and I love the part with the grizzly bears!

  • Patricia

    This is an awesome show.I watched part one already and this one.I will find the second one next and watch it.I really learned a lot more than I knew about polar bears by watching this program.Keep up the good work and thank you!

  • Hal

    I’ve been a bit surprised by the comments criticizing Chris for getting so close to the mother bear with cubs. I assume this is the scene with brown bears in Episode 1. (I have not yet seen Episode 3.) Were we watching the same scene? I thought it was pretty apparent that the filmmakers did not intend to be that close but that the mother bear moved toward them. I thought it was also apparent that the filmmakers didn’t WANT to be that close. But once a bear, especially a mother bear with cubs, is getting close, you don’t have the luxury of just getting up and moving away. The act of STANDING UP and BECOMING LARGER could be interpreted as a threat by the bear which could cause an attack that might not otherwise have happened. I assume (hope) that the filmmakers had bear spray that they would have used (only) as a last resort. I think the filmmakers did the right thing by staying low and remaining calm.

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