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The Last Grizzly of Paradise Valley
Sunday April 14 at 7 pm on CBC-TV
For 25 years Canadian wildlife filmmaker Jeff Turner had made a career out of filming grizzly bears, but he has never even seen one in his home mountains – the North Cascade Mountains of Southwestern Canada. These rugged mountains are not a National Park or a protected area. It is forested land, most of which continues to be logged. These changes threaten the future of wild animals like the grizzlies, which have almost disappeared from the Cascades.
In this film Jeff Turner returns to his roots and embarks on a beautiful and lyrical exploration of the wildlife around his home in the Cascade Mountains of Southwestern British Columbia. His goal is to find and film one of the handful of grizzly bears still left in these mountains. In his year long quest he encounters many different animals from his childhood including black bears, ospreys, coyotes and mule deer. During the year he begins to piece together the changes that have been brought to this mountainous landscape and the impacts that this has had on the wildlife living there. He explores the relationship between humans and wildlife in this working landscape – an area where timber companies harvest the forest and ranchers raise cattle, where tourists visit and play on the lakes and rivers, and hunters roam the forests.
Amongst all these human uses on the land Jeff finds the local wildlife still managing to survive and even thrive. But much of this wildlife, loons, osprey, herons and dragonflies use the land in a way that makes it easier for them to live alongside humans. Problems arise more for creatures like the grizzly bear, which must roam over huge areas to find enough to eat.
The forests in the Cascades are also under assault by tiny insects. Mountain pine beetles burrow under the bark to lay eggs that will eventually kill the tree. Thousands of hectares of forests have died in recent years as infestations are on the rise, due in part to global warming. This has accelerated the rate at which the forests are cut along the eastern slopes and increased the chances that humans will come into contact with wildlife.
Jeff believes it is only by developing a connection to the land through a personal relationship with wildlife, that we will feel enough of a sense of community with nature to make room for it in our lives.
In the end, despite all the changes to the landscape and the increasing human presence in the forests and valleys of this mountain range, Jeff still manages to find a grizzly bear. It is only a glimpse across a valley, but it’s enough to give him hope for the future of this place. “If we can make some room in our lives for the wildlife that we share this planet with. If we begin to make space and share the landscape then I know there is hope for our future and that of the wildlife we live with”.