Friday, May 31, 2013

Shenandoah Park Wildlife In Discovery Channel Series North America

Shenandoah National Park Black Bear Sow and Cub
The Discovery Channel series North America premiered Sunday night (May 19th) and quite a few people have been asking me about the Black Bears that were shown in Episode 1 'Born to be Wild' (my last Flickr post about it is here). So I created this blog in hopes it will clarify a few items.

Yes those are the SNP bears that I helped the film crew locate, but they are not the sow and cub which are shown in the beginning in a den, those 2 bears were filmed elsewhere about a month before the film crew came to SNP. The coyote is also from SNP, but wasn't in the same location as the Bears, it was filmed in the adjoining woods next to Big Meadows about 3 weeks later. The 'magic' of film making :-)  The 2 Whitetail fawns shown playing were also from Big Meadows. The Wild Turkey gobbler seen in the ending segment of Episode 2 was also filmed in the Big Meadows area.

I am not sure what happened to the filming company Wild Horizons LTD. Their web site has been taken down and the email bounces as well. Plus in the beginning of all this, the series was named Wild Planet: North America, but at release time it simply became North America. I was quite disappointed that the close-up footage of the cub nursing was not shown, and some other footage as well - hopefully that will be shown in an upcoming episode. 

I also find it to be rather odd that Shenandoah National Park is not included in the Location list of the episode information on this page: I'm puzzled by this - they spent 4 weeks here between April and June and paid me a couple thousand dollars. I'm thinking it may have something to do with the split out from the Wild Horizons film crew, not sure though.
UPDATE: they have since credited some of the SNP footage:

Big Meadows Whitetail Doe, Fawn and Coyote

Did you see the Whitetail Doe/Fawn/Coyote segment in Episode 3 of the Discovery Channel series 'North America': Learn Young Or Die?

The Yote featured in the Episode 3 footage - the wind kept
him from getting the exact location of the bedded Fawn.

For those of you familiar with the Big Meadows landscape, a lot of that footage probably looked familiar to you. That's because the majority of that footage was filmed in Big Meadows on the morning of June 14th, 2011 by award winning cinematographer, Martyn Colbeck.

Award winning cinematographer, Martyn Colbeck
filming the Coyote in Big Meadows. 

Thanks to the 'magic' of film making as described above, the viewer has no idea that footage from various dates and locations are stitched together to convey a storyline and sequence of events. With this particular segment, they lead you to believe all of the meadow footage is from a Grand Teton's meadow, of which some of it is as they do switch back and forth - but the majority of the meadow footage is of Big Meadows.

The main goal of their second visit to SNP (May-June 2011) was to hopefully capture predation on Whitetail Fawns either by Black Bears or Coyotes. It almost happened for them twice, but the above coyote sequence was the closest opportunity they would get.

Not sure what politics are involved behind the excluding of the SNP location footage, but I really don't care about that because it was a lifetime experience for me, I got paid well, met some incredibly talented and important people in the film industry, plus I think this series is one of the best Discovery productions ever created in my opinion. And all of this is due to my Flickr photostream, where they came across my photos and then contacted me.



In April of 2011, I was given the coolest opportunity of a lifetime. I was contacted via email in December 2010 by a young lady named Evie Wright of Wild Horizons Ltd, a UK-based documentary filmmaker. She saw my wildlife photos on Flickr and that is what initiated our correspondence - isn't the Internet such a powerful medium? At the time, Wild Horizons was contracting with Discovery Channel for an upcoming series about North America and she wanted to know if I could get them positioned into key areas for Black Bears emerging from their Winter dens.

Of course I said yes, and told her that it was not a 100% guarantee, but rather a 50/50 chance, as the bears are hard to find in the mountains in early Spring when they first emerge from their dens - they are lethargic and food is scarce. They do not travel much and will stay in one confined area until both of these conditions change. At first they will 'hang out' in trees for several days until they shake the lethargy.

So basically they contracted me to help them locate wildlife, emerging Black Bears in particular. They came to Shenandoah National Park twice during the Spring in 2011 and I was able to help them locate this Black Bear and her tiny Cub, which they managed to get some spectacular footage of (more info here). They also got some footage of newborn twin whitetail fawns, coyotes, wild turkeys and Spring scenery from some of the overlook vistas.

They sent an award winning cinematographer on both instances, Martyn Colbeck. Working mainly for the BBC's Natural History unit based in Bristol, UK, Martyn has filmed sequences for many of the best known blockbuster series produced by the BBC over the past 15 years, most recently the highly acclaimed LIFE OF MAMMALS. He won an Emmy in 2007 for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming for his work with the PLANET EARTH series.

Some video footage of the Sow and Cub that I took with a small, standard definition Sony video camera. She keeps the tiny cub beneath her most of the time but every now and then it wiggles out and offers a glimpse. The background sound that you'll hear is water running off the steep ridge due to some very heavy rains that fell a few days prior.

Here is the promo video trailer that was given to me by the film crew. However it was created before they ever came to film at Shenandoah National Park so there is no SNP footage included.

The latest trailer that Discovery Channel is promoting: “North America” Coming to Discovery Channel in 2013

Although my helping hand in this epic series was very tiny, it is a life moment I will never, ever forget. I was in total awe of the HD video equipment they had plus the commitment to rise early each and everyday to hike in rough terrain until the daylight faded (while toting the equipment on their backs).

A Timeline Of My Posts On Flickr During The Filming

For more Black Bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.