National Geographic show 'wild' for Kodiak bears

The pilot episode, 'Project Kodiak,' set to re-air Saturday

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010

KODIAK - The Emerald Island and its famous bears were a big part of the premiere episode for the new television series "Expedition Wild."

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The Associated Press
The Associated Press

"Project Kodiak," the first episode of the new series, which premiered April 5 and will re-air Saturday on National Geographic Wild (Nat Geo Wild), features Kodiak bears catching salmon.

Host and naturalist Casey Anderson made the trek to Kodiak for the filming of the show in July 2009.

He has been around bears all of his life and has worked with both captive and wild animals for the last 16 years. He even owns a grizzly bear named Brutus who posed for pictures in Anderson's wedding as his best man.

For bear-lover Anderson, last July's trip to Kodiak was the first time he had ever been to the island - a trip he always wanted to make.

"It's the ultimate bear trek," Anderson said. "It was always a dream of mine to go there."

Kodiak was chosen as the location to film bears because the large population on the island and because they are the biggest bears on the planet.

Most of the crew's time on the island was spent at Fraser Lake, even though the film crew was staying in the city of Kodiak. Filming the bears was a highlight of the show Anderson said.

"It was amazing," he said. "Kodiak is one of the only places that bears and people are really coexisting. There's a triangle between bears, people and salmon. They know their place and it works."

Anderson said he was able to tell there is a unique respect between bears and people on the island.

"You can tell on the island that they need each other," he said. "People respect the bears and bears respect them, too. To have that many people and bears interacting, most people would think there'd be a lot more conflict."

Filming bears on the island not only showed Anderson how people can coexist with their bear neighbors, but also gave him one of the greatest bear viewing moments he's ever had.

"When we stayed up near midnight at Fraser Lake the big boars started to come down to fish," he said. "One time, we had almost 50 really big boars fishing at the river under the midnight twilight. That's a tough one to top in bear viewing - and was quite a moment."

Shooting a segment of the show on the unique Kodiak bears wasn't all about fulfilling dreams and watching bears dine on salmon. There also were some difficulties Anderson and the film crew faced that are common to Kodiak residents.

"I think everyone on the island could say the rain," Anderson said. "It's one thing to be fishing and bear viewing, but when you're filming, rain is not friendly."

Anderson said this bear paradise is a great model for other places where bears and people coexist. As a Montana native he has noticed a lot of trouble between people and bears.

"In Montana, there is tension," he said. "Usually it's the fault of the people."

The show also features Anderson's bear and friend, Brutus. With Brutus he is able to show another side of grizzlies that usually isn't seen in the wild.

"When I do a show like 'Expedition' I can show a side of the bears that you can't otherwise see," Anderson said.

The show will also air every Monday on Nat Geo Wild channel - which is not available on GCI cable.

Anderson is really excited about the show and is eager for viewers to see the bears of Kodiak.

"It's really a great show and puts Kodiak in a wonderful light," he said.

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