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Bear Island

Airs Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A brown bear and her cubs. This program explores the secret world of rainforest grizzlies (brown bears) for a better understanding of these creatures and how their environment is being depleted by mankind.

In "Bear Island," bear biologist LaVern Beier of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Geographic Crittercam team join forces to vicariously walk with grizzlies into the deepest corners of their habitats.

Bear biologists Jack Whitman and LaVern Beier (pronounced "bear") study the secret lives of brown bears in the Alaskan temperate rainforest.
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Above: Bear biologists Jack Whitman and LaVern Beier (pronounced "bear") study the secret lives of brown bears in the Alaskan temperate rainforest.

One of the last grizzly strongholds, the dense rain forests of Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska hide more of these bears per square mile than any other place on Earth. But logging, road construction and human development are changing the shape of the grizzlies' world. As the modern world closes in, the great bear's world is shrinking, and encounters between humans and bears are on the rise.

Since the grizzlies on Chichagof Island spend most of their time hidden in the thick of the rain forest, it has been difficult to observe them on their turf without risking life and limb -- until now.

A brown bear hunting in shallow water on Chichagof Island, Southeast Alaska.
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Above: A brown bear hunting in shallow water on Chichagof Island, Southeast Alaska.

Prior to Crittercam, bear biologists used a variety of tools such as bear snares, radio collars and GPS systems to track grizzlies in their natural habitat. Terrestrial Crittercam now allows scientists to observe up close what bears do in the woods by transmitting live images from the bear's point-of-view to a remote receiver. The technology has made it possible to gather critical data and unprecedented television footage of how the elusive brown bears feed, breed, hunt, and survive on Chichagof Island. And in a place with more bears than humans, there is a great deal to learn to ensure a peaceful coexistence.

"Bear Island" producers Greg Marshall and Birgit Buhleier for National Geographic Television allow the viewer to experience firsthand the lessons of the wild as the scientists learn more about the bears' natural responses to their environment while they go about their daily lives.

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