Nature: Bears

Air date: 11/20/2019

Nature: Bears

Premieres Wednesday, November 20 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

From the mighty grizzly bear to the endearing spectacled bear (the real-life “Paddington Bear”) and from the bamboo-eating panda to the bizarre-looking sloth bear, this remarkable animal family has long captured the human imagination. Among the biggest land mammals on the planet, bears need a lot of resources to survive and must use all of their skills, brawn and brains to get what they need – whether they’re foraging for honeycombs or tasty plants, standing up to their rivals or raising cubs. Follow the adventures of bears across the globe as they draw on their remarkable adaptations to survive in an ever-changing world. Find out what it really takes to be a bear.

Long TV Listing:
Follow the adventures of bears across the globe, from grizzlies to pandas to sloth bears, as they draw on their brains, brawn and unique adaptations to survive. Find out what it really takes to be a bear in today’s ever-changing world.

Short TV Listing:
Follow the adventures of bears across the globe, from the mighty grizzly to the bamboo-eating panda.

Running Time: 60 minutes

Featured Creatures:

  • Grizzly Bear
  • Spectacled Bear
  • Polar Bear
  • Giant Panda Bear
  • American Black Bear
  • Asiatic Black Bear
  • Sun Bear
  • Sloth Bear

Noteworthy Facts:

  • Polar bears can pick up the scent of a seal from 20 miles away and underneath 3 feet of ice.
  • To find a mate, bears rub up and down trees to leave an attractive scent. It doesn’t take long for other bears to find the scent and reciprocate; this way of communication lets the bears know who’s around and who’s available for mating.
  • The Giant Panda has adapted its body and behavior to be able to almost exclusively eat bamboo. To prevent injury from the bamboo’s splinters, the panda’s esophagus and stomach are lined with tough, thick walls. Since bamboo is low in calories, the panda spends 14 hours a day chewing through 26 pounds or more of bamboo.
  • In the summer, Grizzly bears time their hunting of crustaceans during the period of low tides on the exposed sand. Grizzlies can dig up to 100 clams in one low tide, and they also gather seaweed, barnacles, and mussels.
  • In autumn, the Grizzly, Asiatic, and American Black bears enter a phase of excessive eating called hyperphagia, when they consume up to 100,000 calories a day. The excessive eating helps the bears during hibernation, when they don’t eat or drink for seven months and rely on their fat reserves to stay alive.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • A male Polar bear treks to find a female Polar to mate, but his long journey doesn’t promise romance at first. The female Polar bear has to be impressed; she will only mate with him if he is fit and strong. She puts him to test to prove his worth by racing down the snow-filled terrain and climbing up a mountain.
  • Food is hard to come by in India’s dry grassland, so the Sloth bear must go through unusual circumstances to obtain some. At night, the Sloth bear targets a termite mound. To get inside, the bear uses its three-inch claws to tear into the mound, and its floppy lips and lack of front teeth allow its mouth to act like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up 100 termites at a time.
  • For cubs, lessons start early. A Black bear cub decides to take on a fallen tree that houses a beehive filled with honey and bees. While searching for the honey, he ends up getting stung by an army of bees. The cub runs off, but his more experienced mother returns to the tree with a more strategic technique. She smashes the dead log and quickly grabs the honeycomb inside, reducing the number of stings.

Series Overview:
Nature is a voice for the natural world, bringing the wonders of wildlife and stories of conservation to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

Production Credits:
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor. Bears is a BBC Studios production for BBC in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. The documentary is produced by Anushcka Schofield and edited by Mark Robertson. Olga Merediz is narrator.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Fairweather Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, Doris R. and Robert J. Thomas, Gary and Christy Roeber, Ron Hull, The Sun Hill Family Foundation in memory of Susan and Edwin Malloy, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by Viewers Like You.


About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

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Brown bear/grizzly mother and two yearling cubs walking in the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. During the salmon run, this is a prime fishing spot and cubs quickly learn how to catch their prey by watching their mother. Credit: Tony Campbell / © Shutterstock

Sun Bear in Thailand. Sickle-shaped claws and bare-soled feet allow the sun bear to climb some of the jungle’s tallest trees in search of fruit. Credit: © Lukasz Kwasiborski / Shutterstock

Giant Panda cub resting between two trees. Pandas were once on the brink of extinction, but thanks to conservation efforts over the last six decades, the wild population has nearly doubled to more than 1,800 bears. Credit: © Shutterstock / Wonderly Imaging

Brown bear/grizzly scent-marks a tree by back scratching. It’s like leaving a calling card to other bears and helps individuals work out who’s around, who to avoid and who’s available. Credit: © Erik Mandre / Shutterstock

Brown bear/grizzly playing in the snow. In colder climates, grizzlies avoid the worst of the weather by entering a state of hibernation for up to seven months. Credit: © Wolfgang Simlinger / Shutterstock

Spectacled bear cub in tree. Six of the eight bear species are vulnerable to extinction, including the spectacled bear. Ecuador. Credit: Pete Oxford / © Naturepl

Polar bear female coming out the den with a three-month cub. With so many skills to learn, bear cubs will stay with their mother for 2-3 years. Wapusk National Park, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Credit: Eric Baccega / © Naturepl

Sloth bear mother with cub on her back. A sloth bear’s shaggy coat provides a haven for her cubs; using strong forelegs and toes they can cling onto her back. Karnataka, India. Credit: Yashpal Rathore / © Naturepl

Black bear cub clings to a tree in the woodlands of Minnesota, USA. With many potential predators in the forest, climbing trees is one of the most important skills for a black bear cub to learn. Credit: Tony Campbell / © Shutterstock

Polar bear on the drifting ice with snow. The Arctic sea ice could be gone within a half century, and with it, potentially over a third of polar bears. Svalbard, Norway. Credit: Ondrej Prosicky / © Shutterstock