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Airs Wednesdays, June 21-July 5, 2017 at 9 p.m. on KPBS

Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.

Credit: Courtesy of bondjb/

Above: Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.

— GREAT YELLOWSTONE THAW Showcases Animal Survival During the Region’s Toughest Spring —

Witness one of the greatest seasonal changes on planet Earth in the stunning new three-part series GREAT YELLOWSTONE THAW airing Wednesdays, June 21-July 5, 2017 on PBS.

Filmed over the course of several intense months, from deep winter to early summer, the series intercuts the stories of several different animal families — including wolves, bison, grizzlies, beavers and great gray owls.

Photo credit: Courtesy of David Dirga /

Three wolves marching together, Yellowstone National Park.

The series follows the animals in the Yellowstone ecosystem as they emerge from winter’s cold and adapt to an early spring thaw, before encountering the soaring summer temperatures.

From winter to summer, Yellowstone’s temperature typically swings 140 degrees.

Photo credit: Courtesy of BBC/Tim Martin

Kirk Johnson with bison and calves in the background, Yellowstone National Park.

Dr. Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and a renowned paleontologist and author, hosts the series.

Johnson and a team of Yellowstone experts explore how these animals fend off floods, starvation, and fires, as well as the area’s extreme evolution from cold to heat during the spring season.

Photo credit: Courtesy of emattil/

Fire rages Antelope Creek, Wyo.

GREAT YELLOWSTONE THAW showcases the extraordinary survival instincts the park’s natural species possess.

Viewers will learn how the early thaw brings the bears of the Rocky Mountain region out of hibernation prematurely, creating concern over food supply.

Baby Bears

Grizzly expert Casey Anderson is keeping an eye on a mom and her two 4-month-old cubs. They’ve emerged from hibernation and are facing the outside world for the first time as a new family. But Spring can be a time when these young bears are at their most vulnerable.

The wolves, which have recovered from their extinct status in the 1990s, are now beginning to thrive, but the fluctuating temperatures pose a threat to the species once again.

While the beavers have to make their homes in freezing rivers, the great gray owls must migrate to find food in thawed areas in order to survive.

Beaver Evacuation

Wildlife cameraman Jeff Hogan is astounded when he witnesses something on the Snake River that he’s never seen before. A beaver mom has made a decision to move her kits away from the lodge. As she makes the treacherous journey over the dams and upstream with a kit in her mouth, Jeff follows her and tries to work out why she’s made this unusual decision.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Kirk Johnson return to PBS to share with viewers the amazing adaptability of these animals in an often brutal environment,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “As part of our ‘Summer of Adventure’ line-up, this series highlights the dramatic and inspirational animal stories in a location that all Americans know, but very few know intimately.”


Episode 1 airs Wednesday, June 21 at 9 p.m. - Learn whether the brutal winter weather will favor predator or prey. Can the grizzlies that emerge early survive? Why are wolves and Great Gray owls in danger of starvation? Find out how Yellowstone’s unique geology affects the mighty bison.

Official Trailer

Journey with Kirk Johnson to Yellowstone, where wolves, grizzlies, beavers and Great Gray owls survive one of the greatest seasonal changes on the planet. As the temperature swings 140 degrees, cameras capture how the animals cope.

Episode 2 airs Wednesday, June 28 at 9 p.m. - See how spring brings new life and a break from the brutal winter temperatures. But the dangers aren’t over. Wildlife families face a torrent of water cascading down the mountains as the great thaw gets underway. Beavers are in particular danger.

Next on Episode 2

Spring in Yellowstone brings new life and a break from the brutal temperatures of winter, but the dangers aren’t over. The wildlife families now face a torrent of water cascading down the mountains as the Great Thaw gets underway, and the beavers are in particular danger.

Episode 3 airs Wednesday, July 5 at 9 p.m. - Find out why a summer with soaring temperatures could pose a threat to Yellowstone’s ecosystem. Learn if the Great Gray owl family survives a major fire in the Beartooth Mountains and see how one particular wolf pack is feeding its 11 pups.

Next on Episode 3

Its summer in Yellowstone and with soaring temperatures comes the risk of wildfires that could devastate the ecosystem. When a major fire breaks out in the Beartooths, a team is scrambled to see if the Great Gray Owl family has survived. And how is one particular wolf pack feeding its 11 pups?


Episodes from this series will be available to view on demand (June 21-July 19) for a limited time after broadcast. Extend your viewing window beginning July 20 with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn more and activate your benefit now.

Wolves and Ground Squirrels

One pack of wolves near Jackson has a huge number of pups to support. So how are they doing it? Wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton James heads out to see what the wolves are managing to eat in a year that’s not been kind to Yellowstone’s top predator. The answer is found in a man-made oasis.


This series is part of a multi-title co-production deal among PBS, BBC and BBC Worldwide North America.


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