Chris Morgan and Joe Pontecorvo set 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 (just feet away), observing brutal battles among males during mating season as well as tender moments between a grizzly mom and her cubs.
The word “grizzly” in its name refers to “grizzled” or gray hairs in its fur, but when naturalist George Ord formally named the bear in 1815, he misunderstood the word as “grisly”, to produce its biological Latin specific or subspecific name “horribilis”.
Brown bears are found in Asia, Europe and North America giving them one of the widest ranges of bear species. The ancestors of the grizzly bear originated in Eurasia and traveled to North America approximately 50,000 years ago. This is a very recent event in evolutionary time, causing the North American grizzly bear to be very similar to the brown bears inhabiting Europe and Asia.
In North America, grizzly bears previously ranged from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as the western shores of Hudson Bay. In North America, the species is now found only in Alaska, south through much of western Canada, and into portions of the northwestern United States including Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, extending as far south as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but is most commonly found in Canada.
Watch the episode Bears of the Last Frontier: City of Bears.
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