Natural World: Grizzlies of Alaska - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
GRIZZLY by name, amazing by nature… or so it often seemed while watching this latest episode of BBC2’s Natural World, entitled Grizzlies of Alaska.
While constantly being reminded of the dangers posed by these amazing creatures, biologist Chris Morgan kept us enthralled and consistently gob-smacked at just how entrancing (and occasionally gentle and unassuming) they can be.
He and a lone camera-man spent a summer camping among them, in what he described as “a city of bears”… one of the few places in the world where packs of bears come to congregate and live in semi-harmony.
Yet there was always something to threaten unrest, whether it was a mother grizzly constantly remaining cautious of the surrounding males as she attempted to bring her two cubs up, or randy males battling each other to earn the right to have his wicked way with the nearby female.
At several points, Morgan found himself potentially in the way but opted to stand firm, holding his breath, as male bears roamed by to contine on their quest. Perhaps most worrying for him of all, though, was a close encounter with the mother and her curious cubs, as they braved a close inspection, and thereby placed him in danger of incurring the wrath of mum.
Morgan possessed an endearing everyman quality about him as he struggled to contain both his excitement and fear on each of these occasions.
He would often giggle at his own jokes, or the splendour of what was unfolding around him… but he remained at pains to point out the risk factor of what he was doing and just how quickly things could change.
As ever with such documentaries, the spectre of Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and the fate of its subject, Timothy Treadwell, hung large over proceedings.
But Morgan’s hour-long show went some way – as other documentaries have – to repairing the potential damage done to the bears’ reputation that Grizzly Man undoubtedly inflicted.
Alaska is their territory, after all… and they should be allowed to roam wild as they see fit without having to pander to human intervention. And so long as Morgan remained respectful, even vigilant, he seemed to be a welcome visitor in their midst, even when at their hungriest and lining the river in anticipation of the impending salmon run.
In return, they granted Morgan and his camera-man some lovely images – from numerous shots of cubs playing with mum, or learning things for themselves, to slow-motion bear brawls and fishing expeditions in the river.
Admittedly, a lot of this kind of thing has been captured before but there was still the element of surprise, such as the sight of a marauding grizzly successfully attacking a Puffin colony, or female bears getting feisty with each other for the right to have sex with the most powerful male.
As we have come to expect from the BBC’s nature department, this was a spellbinding insight into one of the planet’s most spectacular environments and its richly engrossing inhabitants.
Watch a clip: