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The Great Polar Bear Feast

Polar bear at Kaktovic bone pile, Alaska.
Courtesy of Andrew Graham Brown/Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.
Polar bear at Kaktovic bone pile, Alaska.

Encore Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV + Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On Demand

Watch now with KPBS Passport!

Each summer, an increasing number of polar bears are converging at Kaktovik, a tiny Alaskan town on the shores of the Southern Beaufort Sea, to feast on the remains of whales left on a nearby beach by the Inupiat tribe. This spectacle is captured in "The Great Polar Bear Feast," which premiered in 2016 on PBS.

The film documents the immense struggle that polar bears face in the wild and how a unique relationship between the bears and the local village is shedding new light on the future of this iconic animal.

The filmmakers accompanied the U.S. Geological Survey lead polar bear scientist, Dr. Todd Atwood, as he and his team fit one dozen female bears with satellite tracking collars to gather data on them over the several months and witness never-before-seen behaviors.

"The Great Polar Bear Feast" tells the story of Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears as they face the challenges of the Arctic summer, the time of year when the sea ice they depend on for hunting melts at an increasingly rapid pace. Using the satellite data, the film follows two female bears and their cubs as the ice begins to melt.

One mother, with two cubs, travels south to Kaktovik and is able to partake in the feast of whale blubber. The other, with a single cub, stays put and then must swim several hundred miles to the north to reach the nearest ice.

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Lone bear with bloodied nose on Kaktovic shore, Alaska.
Courtesy of Andrew Graham Brown/Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.
Lone bear with bloodied nose on Kaktovic shore, Alaska.
Head shot of polar bear in the water, Katovic Bay, Alaska.
Courtesy of Andrew Graham Brown/Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.
Head shot of polar bear in the water, Katovic Bay, Alaska.
Polar bears gather to eat the fresh meat on the Kaktovic bone pile, Alaska. (foreground bear is collared with the U.S.G.S. tracking collars)
Courtesy of Andrew Graham Brown/Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.
Polar bears gather to eat the fresh meat on the Kaktovic bone pile, Alaska. (foreground bear is collared with the U.S.G.S. tracking collars)

“'The Great Polar Bear Feast' exemplifies the type of smart, compelling science programming that PBS is known for and provides deeper insight on complex issues in the Arctic,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming and Development for PBS.

Produced by Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.