The Bears of Durango

An adventure-filled exploration of conservation science

  • Fred Vigeant
Watch Bears of Durango Wednesday, August 25 at 8pm on WITF. You can stream WITF TV live on our website and through the PBS Video app on Roku, Apple TV and iPhone and Android smartphones.


Bears of Durango dives headfirst into occupied bear dens as wildlife researchers tackle a bear problem in Durango, Colorado.

In response to an exponential increase in bear-human conflicts––bears breaking into cars, bears breaking into homes, cubs being trapped in garages, etc.––Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioned a study to determine what is contributing to the trend, and what can be done to quell it.

An adventure-filled exploration of conservation science, Bears of Durango embeds with the team of wildlife researchers tasked with conducting the black bear study.

Led by Dr. Heather Johnson––a savvy, articulate scientist who regularly wrestles bears three times her size––the research team traps and collars bears, visiting and gathering data from the large carnivores in their tough-to-reach dens each winter. With the help of Heather’s quick-witted sidekick, 78-year-old bear trapper, Lyle Willmarth, the research team tags more than 600 bears over the course of the six-year study.

The film follows the team’s wild encounters with bears big and small, concluding with a debunking of myths about black bears, startling trends in population dynamics, and actions communities can take to address the problem being identified.

A humorous love letter to the scientific method, Bears of Durango invites people to consider their own backyards, and how they can better cohabitate with the wildlife around them.

Watch Bears of Durango Wednesday August 25 at 8pm on WITF.

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