Unforgettable day

Yesterday was one of them. IN fact it blew my mind. I spent all day tingling with goosebumps. We were in LA to witness something I have never seen before……beautifully composed music being played by a world class orchestra in an historic space. But THIS was something extra special……we were here to witness the score recording for our film BEARTREK…..composed and conducted by the one and only Jeremy Zuckerman. WOW! It was an experience I will never forget….26 strings, plus brass in the Eastwood Scoring Stage of Warner Brothers Studios. Hallowed ground for sure….so many huge films have been scored here.

I’ve been working closely with Jeremy for several weeks as he has created the score but nothing could have prepared me for the wave of emotion I felt as we watched the film on the big screen while the orchestra played their hearts out, breathing life and energy into our baby! TOTALLY AMAZING! We have been working on BEARTREK for the last 7 years, so you can imagine how it feels to be at one of the final stages of the process. I could barely hold it together as I welcomed the orchestra as the newest members of the BEARTREK family. THANK you all. THANK YOU Jeremy, and thank you Mark Robertson, all of the brilliant musicians and engineers, and Warner Brothers for the use of this special place.




Grizzly bear film short – just released!

WANTED: Grizzly Bears?

We’re thrilled to share a brand new bear film with you…released to the public just this week. Its  a seven minute short about the North Cascades grizzly bear featuring BEARTREK’s Chris Morgan.

They interviewed lots of people on the street (and on the trail) and packed it full of fascinating information and beautiful scenes.

There may be only 2 or 3 grizzly bears left in the North Cascades….and the government has just started to look at ways to remedy that.

We hope you enjoy it……and please do share with friends – its important to get word out about the opportunity that lies ahead for the North Cascades, its grizzly bears, and its people.

The Wildlife Media Team

p.s. Here’s the film’s homepage: www.grizzlybearfilm.org

The BEARTREK effect hits Mongolia – even before the film is out!



We recently lost a dear friend, and so did wildlife.


Bears of the Last Frontier Important Tool in Protecting 11 Million Acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Photo (c) Brenda Phillips

On February 21, 2013, former Interior Secretary Salazar issued a Record of Decision that adopted a new Integrated Activity Plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve). The final plan is an important step for lasting protections in the Reserve. The preferred alternative (B-2) strikes a needed balance between responsible development, while including conservation of 11 million acres of Special Areas within the Reserve.

This decision came after months of public support for the area-wide plan which the environmental community including Alaska Wilderness League contributed significantly to including 400,000 comments coming from the League’s members and activists, radio interviews, editorial and letter to the editor outreach across the country, work with leaders in tribal communities in Alaska and with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to comment around the plan, as well as hold several events across the country educating the public about special areas in the Reserve.

The large public involvement in this decision was possible because of a multi-year public outreach campaign. Bears of the Last Frontier series in Alaska was an important tool for raising awareness about the Reserve and Alaska’s wild places. Alaska Wilderness League hosted live screenings of the series in Fairbanks, AK; Minneapolis, MN; Cambridge, MA and Philadelphia, PA.  The premiere of the third episode of Bears of the Last Frontier series with footage of the Reserve, also included an advertisement which Chris Morgan contributed to and encouraged people to join the campaign. Alaska Wilderness League also shared information about the series with the League’s members nationwide and the League’s environmental coalition partners were encouraged to do the same. This helped significantly in getting interest in the issue and resulted in action when it took time to tell the Obama administration to protect areas in the Western Arctic. This education work continues today and we look forward to partnering again to help increase awareness of these areas in the Arctic.​

All’s Swell That Ends Smell!

By Greg Kornelis

Do you smell that?  Is it a loaf of pumpkin bread?  Are your cold weather clothes mildewy?  Are the fall leaves decomposing?  Or is the dust burning off the furnace?  Each season brings with it a palette of scents especially Autumn when the leaves change color, the temperature gets cooler, and many creatures seek their annual refuge in hibernation including black bears and grizzly bears.  Now is the time of year to wander the wilderness around you, observe nature’s primordial shift into low gear, and harvest her subtle offerings with your five senses.  Breathe-in through the nose.  Hold it.  And out through your mouth.  Ahh.

Did you smell that?  I bet you did.  Because your nose and olfactory receptors are more discerning than once thought.  Common wisdom on the subject has stated that the human nose was weak when it came to detecting subtleties in odor, only capable of detecting up to 10,000 scents.  But, in a study published in the journal Science, Leslie Vosshall and her colleagues from Rockefeller University posit that the human olfactory system can distinguish more than a TRILLION different scents!  According to the results of her scientifically tested estimate, we humans should be more than ready for the evolving odors of Autumn.

Remember that pumpkin bread?  (And who could forget it?)  Can you imagine the scent of it wafting from the oven?  Now, can you imagine being able to smell the eggs used to make the batter?  Or being capable of smelling the baking powder and vanilla in the loaf separately?  Could you even imagine being able to tell, just from the scent of it, who baked it?  If you could, you’d be as gifted a sniffer as a Conservation Canine!  The extraordinary abilities of a dog’s nose are no secret to man who has used his best friend to hunt animals, criminals, drugs, and for other uses throughout history.  But, in the field of Conservation their help is invaluable to scientists seeking to research rare and elusive species by detecting their scat.  (I’m glad the dogs are doing it and not ME!)  The collection of scat is important for determining population numbers, dietary issues, and stress factors in threatened and endangered species.  Dr. Sam Wasser of the University of Washington is the director of Conservation Canines – a conservation science program that trains dogs noses in the detection of scat by species and even by the individual who “baked” it.  Our four-legged friends have worked on projects studying caribou, elephants, grizzly bears, black bears, and even orca whales!

Remember… that loaf of pumpkin bread?  (I won’t let you forget it!)  Now, imagine smelling that sweet aroma wafting in from outside.  It’s so strong you can taste it; your mouth waters as you walk towards the odor.  It must be close by, but you keep walking and walking until you finally spot it through the window at the bakery.  Not next door, or down the street, but in the next town over!  If you walked 18 miles to find it, you might understand what a black bear might go through to track down its dinner.  Bears have some of the most powerful noses in the animal kingdom – 7 times greater than that of a dog!  It helps them find mates and protects them from humans and other bears, but it can also get them into trouble when they find and learn how to eat human food.  This occurs when food is left out and unattended or when waste isn’t properly disposed of.  Bears who become accustomed to eating human food can quickly become a danger to the public and are sometimes killed.  As the saying goes – “A fed bear is a dead bear.”  This generally isn’t a problem this time of year when black bears and grizzly bears retire to their dens for the winter, but if you’re a polar bear that’s returned from the ice, it’s a different story.  Polar bears have strong sniffers too – being able to detect seals up to 40 miles away and through 3 ft of snow.  After the pack-ice melts over the summer and fall, the polar bears return to dry land to wait until their hunting grounds freeze up again.  In this time it is imperative that the Arctic residents of Churchill, Manitoba be “Bear Aware” and not attract them into town.

A study of bears in Yosemite National Park shows how valuable techniques to keep bears out of people food are: by enforcing the use of bear resistant food containers and educating the public on food storage regulations, the park has been able to reduce bear consumption of human food from 35% to 13% (numbers not seen since 1915).  The importance of keeping bears out of human food doesn’t just go for National Parks, it goes for anyone living in Bear Country (even Polar Bear Country).  Because no one wants to be inadvertently responsible for the death of such a magnifi”scent” creature.  That would REALLY stink.


“YosemiteBears and Human Food: Study Reveals Changing Diets Over Past Century”


Scat detection dogs in wildlife research and management: application to grizzly and black bears in the Yellowhead Ecosystem, Alberta, Canada by Samuel K Wasser et al, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Vol. 82, 2004

Western Wildlife Outreach (westernwildlife.org)

Ask a Polar Bear!

By Greg Kornelis

(c) Joanna Patterson

In the past couple weeks, global air currents forced an arctic air mass known as the “Arctic Vortex” onto the United States as far south as the State of Georgia.  Meteorologists and newscasters have been seen on television throwing cups of hot water into the air to show how it spontaneously turned to snow in the sub-zero temperatures.  Areas of the Midwest even experienced windchill factors of -60°F.  All of this has prompted hardline climate-change deniers to call the validity of “global warming” into question.

Though it may be cold outside now and again, the weather we experience day to day is not representative of a changing climate by itself.  The science of climate change deals with long term average temperatures which have risen steadily over the last 30 years.  97% of climate scientists agree that the earth’s atmosphere is warming.

But don’t take my word for it.  Ask a polar bear!  In a study of polar bears and arctic sea ice along the western shores of the Hudson Bay it was shown that sea ice has been retreating earlier and advancing later over time.  This has stranded bears on the shore, reduced their time to hunt seals on the ice, reduced cub production, and deteriorated adult health.  “It’s survival of the fattest,” concluded lead author Dr. Seth Cherry (though himself not a polar bear).  The bears have also seen a declining trend in Arctic sea ice cover since satellite imaging began 35 years ago.  The 2013 sea ice maximum was the fifth lowest ever recorded, and the 2013 minimum was the sixth lowest(up from the record lowest of 2012).  Even more, the polar vortex’s recent position over the United States and subsequent sub-zero temperatures may have been influenced by warming patterns in the arctic.  When stored heat energy in the polar region escapes into the atmosphere it can push arctic weather systems further south than normal.

The record low temperatures over much of the eastern United States have reminded many of what cold weather is like.  According to NASA Goddard Institute’s Gavin Schmidt, the city of Minneapolis experienced 14.7 days of temperatures below -10°F per year in the 1970’s.  In the last decade those temperatures were reached only 3.8 days per year.  “The real story is that people have forgotten what cold weather is like.”

Another study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that the weather we experience today alters the way we remember past weather events and our concern over climate change.  For example: if it’s cold outside, we’re more apt to remember other cold days than the sweltering ones, thus we become less anxious about the overall warming global climate.  The lead author of this study, Lisa Zaval, relents that “we have not found a method to combat this effect.”  But, I think I might have an idea how to remind people that global warming is in fact a very real phenomenon: Ask your local hungry polar bear.

Wildlife Media has been very proud to provide financial support for research on the effects of climate change on polar bears in the western Hudson Bay thanks to the kind generosity of the Isdell Family Foundation (thank you Isdell family!). And it is also the location for one of our 4 BEARTREK stories to be featured in our upcoming feature-length documentary. The pic below shows Chris with an anesthetized bear during filming.




Zaval, L. et al.  How warm days increase belief in global warming. Nature Clim. Change. 2014/01/12/online





Cherry, S. G., Derocher, A. E., Thiemann, G. W., Lunn, N. J. (2013), Migration phenology and seasonal fidelity of an Arctic marine predator in relation to sea ice dynamics. Journal of Animal Ecology, 82: 912–921. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12050

Does Fishing Lower Grizzly Bear Stress? Maybe When They’re Biting.

by Greg Kornelis


Joe Pontecorvo filming bears in Alaska for our PBS special "Bears of the Last Frontier". Photo: Chris Morgan

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation (RCF) of British Columbia is working to understand the intricate and numerous connections between salmon and the keystone species they support.  Lacking consideration in the management of B.C. fisheries, the affects of over harvesting and declining returns of salmon on grizzly bear and orca whale populations are the focus of the RCF Salmon for Wildlife Initiative.  A recent research publication in PLoS ONE shines light on the connections between dietary salmon and grizzly bear health.

According to new research, declines in salmon abundance over the years can have negative consequences for grizzly bears’ stress and reproductive health.  Throughout their evolution, coastal grizzly bears have relied on the returning salmon every fall to pad out their fat stores for the winter hibernation ahead.  With the reduced returns of chinook salmon and other species, it is more important now than ever to understand the relationship between dietary salmon and grizzly bear fitness.  Biologist Heather Bryan (RCF) analyzed the stress and reproductive hormone concentrations in coastal and inland grizzly bears to see just how they are connected to the fall salmon runs.

By measuring stress and reproduction hormone levels in the grizzly’s hair (from hair snags), Bryan was able to see how the hormones could be affected by availability and abundance of dietary salmon.  For example, coastal grizzly bears (who eat salmon) were found to have higher concentrations of testosterone than interior grizzlies (who don’t eat salmon).  More testosterone is important for mate acquisitions, food competition, and cub protection.  The levels could be due to the need for dominance hierarchies at streams with high population densities – which are made possible by returning salmon!  Amongst the coastal grizzlies, it was found that higher salmon consumption resulted in lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.  This result wasn’t too surprising however; just imagine walking to your fridge in the middle of the night and finding it empty!  Would you be more stressful or less?  Chronically high amounts of stress hormone can have negative affects on health, reproduction, and social interactions too.

The more we learn about how salmon abundance affects hormone levels in grizzlies and how those hormone levels affect fitness, the better informed we will be when it comes to integrating grizzly welfare into our fisheries policies and conservation efforts.  You can find the article at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0080537



Bryan HM, Darimont CT, Paquet PC, Wynne-Edwards KE, Smits JEG (2013) Stress and Reproductive Hormones in Grizzly Bears Reflect Nutritional Benefits and Social Consequences of a Salmon Foraging Niche. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80537. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080537


Just in time for the holidays, we have a really special opportunity to commemorate the work we’ve done together to save bear species around the world. As a result of the generosity of award winning artist and fellow bear aficionado, Michael Felber, any donation of $75 or more between now and December 31 will receive a signed print of the piece Grandfather. When you go online to donate, please note the number of prints you wish to receive and the mailing address for those prints – thank you. Prints will be mailed out within 5-7 business days after receipt of donation and mailing address.

Print size 17″ x 19″
Printed on 100% recycled paper using fade-resistant inks.
Each print is the same size as the original colored pencil over watercolor drawing.

I first met Michael among the bears of Alaska several years ago…his drawings are truly incredible, and he is the loveliest man you can imagine. He began supporting BEARTREK by donating notecards featuring one of his beautiful bear drawings. And now he has taken his generosity even further – his way of giving back to the bears, as he says.  In Michael’s words: “This is a colored pencil drawing of a dominant male brown bear that I spent some time observing 15 years ago, on two trips to Katmai National Park, two years apart. It was late in the day, and the sun was low, and just happened to rake across the fur on his face in a beautiful way. This bear was about 20 years old and in his prime. He was so dominant that if we were observing any other bears, and this bear came along, the others bears all ran away. He was very relaxed because he was rarely challenged, but the wound on his cheek and the scar on his nose are evidence of his fights.I call this drawing “Grandfather” partly because Native Americans traditionally addressed the brown bear as Grandfather, as a sign of respect, and partly because he is a grandfather, and that makes people think about bears having families.”

Michael recently delivered his prints personally to my office in Bellingham.  It was a wonderful visit….and such a nice example of how help pours in from many directions, in many forms when you have a just cause, and good people involved. He told me that he spent more time on this drawing than any he’s ever done – the detail is incredible. THANK YOU MICHAEL!  We know that you have so many choices when it comes to giving – I hope you’re able to help us help bears in this way, and enjoy a gorgeous piece of art in the process. Your donation will help us spread the news about bear conservation far and wide through our upcoming global media campaign…creating a conservation movement and providing direct support to the projects and biologists featured in BEARTREK, currently in its final editing stages.Thank you for your support…you can feel proud of what you have helped us accomplish already….even before BEARTREK is released!

Best wishes & bear hugs,

Chris & the Wildlife Media team

P.S. When you go online to donate, please note the number of prints you wish to receive and the mailing address for those prints – thank you. Prints will be mailed out within 5-7 business days after receipt of donation and mailing address.

Saving Grizzly Bears




Photo: © Mick Maxwell

Jewel was a Stein-Nahatlatch grizzly bear from one of the smallest and most isolated grizzly bear populations in British Columbia. Now she is dead, a victim of poaching. It doesn’t need to happen! The new Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative, launched this summer to protect grizzly bears Coast to Cascades, plans to safeguard year-round ample habitat and connect remaining grizzly bear populations.

Learn more about Coast to Cascades here: http://www.coasttocascades.org/

Learn about the poaching reward offered by Conservation Northwest: http://bit.ly/reportpoaching