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  • NARRATOR: WITH A FIRE AT ITS HEART...

  • YELLOWSTONE IS OUR FIRST NATIONAL PARK...

  • A PRIMAL FORTRESS THAT SAVED THE DISAPPEARING WEST...

  • THANKS TO ITS FIERCE WONDERS.

  • MORE THAN THREE MILLION VISITORS A YEAR COME TO MARVEL.

  • BUT ONLY A HANDFUL VENTURE PAST THE LOOKOUTS.

  • OVER THAT RIDGE AND INTO THE NEXT VALLEY IS WHERE

  • THE REAL DRAMA HAPPENS.

  • OLD BATTLES...

  • NEW LIFE...

  • AND UNEXPECTED COURAGE...

  • IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW YELLOWSTONE...

  • THINK AGAIN...

  • YOU HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED IT LIKE THIS.

  • ♪ [THEME MUSIC PLAYS] ♪

  • ♪ ♪

  • IN THE SHADOW OF THE ROCKIES,

  • AN ANCIENT DRAMA IS ABOUT TO PLAY OUT....

  • ONE THAT NEARLY DISAPPEARED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH:

  • YELLOWSTONE'S TOP PREDATOR AGAINST THE LARGEST MAMMAL

  • IN NORTH AMERICA.

  • ONCE ONLY 23 BISON REMAINED HERE.

  • AND NOT A SINGLE WOLF.

  • BUT NOW THESE ETERNAL ENEMIES FACE OFF AGAIN...

  • AS THEY DID LONG BEFORE ANY HUMAN SET FOOT HERE.

  • YELLOWSTONE HAS TURNED BACK TIME.

  • IT'S LATE WINTER IN AMERICA'S FIRST NATIONAL PARK,

  • AND THE WORLD'S.

  • YELLOWSTONE IS A MELTING POT OF SAVAGE BEAUTY CREATED BY

  • ONE OF THE BIGGEST EXPLOSIONS EVER TO ROCK THE EARTH.

  • AND ITS VIOLENT HEART STILL SMOLDERS...

  • BLOWING OFF STEAM THROUGH SOME 300 GEYSERS...

  • MORE THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD.

  • THE MOST FAMOUS GEYSER, OLD FAITHFUL,

  • HURLS HOT WATER 150 FEET INTO THE AIR VENTING ITS RAGE

  • EVERY 60 TO 90 MINUTES.

  • THAT'S HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BUILD UP ENOUGH PRESSURE

  • TO TURN GROUNDWATER INTO EXPLOSIVE STEAM.

  • SOME BISON TAKE REFUGE IN THE STINKING SULFUROUS HEAT...

  • A LAST HAVEN FOR THE WEAK AND WEARY.

  • BUT ELSEWHERE IN THE PARK,

  • THEY MUST FACE THE BRUTAL WINTER HEAD-ON.

  • MOTHERS-TO-BE STRUGGLE TERRIBLY,

  • TRYING TO FIND ENOUGH FOOD FOR TWO IN THE RELENTLESS SNOW.

  • THE CALF SHE CARRIES IS A REMINDER OF A MIRACULOUS

  • COMEBACK, IF SHE CAN HOLD ON THROUGH YELLOWSTONE'S

  • NOTORIOUSLY HARSH WINTER.

  • BUT SPRING IS LATE THIS YEAR,

  • TEMPERATURES HOVER WELL BELOW FREEZING AND THE SNOWPACK

  • DOES NOT GIVE WAY.

  • THE GRAZING ANIMALS MUST STRUGGLE MIGHTILY IN SEARCH OF

  • A FEW BLADES OF GRASS.

  • MANY ELK GROW WEAK AS WINTER DRAGS ON...

  • BUT SOMEONE ELSE GROWS STRONG.

  • THE WOLF THRIVES IN WINTER.

  • HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND SOCIAL CREATURES,

  • THEY OFTEN SHOW DEEP AFFECTION FOR ONE ANOTHER.

  • THEIR INTENSE FAMILY TIES ALSO MAKE THEM A

  • DEADLY HUNTING UNIT.

  • ONCE COMPLETELY EXTERMINATED FROM THE PARK,

  • GRAY WOLVES WERE REINTRODUCED IN 1995 AND

  • HAVE BECOME A VITAL PLAYER IN THE PARK'S ECOSYSTEM.

  • EAGERLY CHASING A BIG BULL ELK,

  • THE WOLF IS IN ITS ELEMENT IN YELLOWSTONE.

  • ♪ ♪

  • ♪ ♪

  • BUT THIS BULL DIDN'T EARN HIS RACK BY BEING ANYONE'S FOOL.

  • HE FINDS REFUGE IN THE FRIGID LAMAR RIVER,

  • WHERE THE WOLVES CANNOT FOLLOW.

  • AND AIMS HIS IMPRESSIVE RACK AT THEM.

  • [HOWL]

  • BUT ANOTHER DINNER AWAITS...

  • AS THE REST OF THE PACK ANNOUNCES.

  • THEY'VE TAKEN A WEAKENED BISON DURING THE NIGHT AND

  • THERE'S MORE THAN ENOUGH TO GO AROUND.

  • WITH SUCH A LARGE PACK TO FEED,

  • THEY NEED TO HUNT SUCCESSFULLY NEARLY EVERY DAY.

  • BUT THE WINTER ITSELF IS FAR MORE DEADLY THAN WOLVES.

  • ONE OUT OF TEN BISON WILL DIE BEFORE THE SEASON IS DONE.

  • FOR OUR MOTHER-TO-BE IT IS A PARTICULARLY HARD TIME.

  • THE SCARCITY OF FOOD MEANS MANY ARE STARVING.

  • WITH WEARY, MASSIVE HEADS, THEY PLOW THROUGH 4-FOOT

  • DRIFTS IN SEARCH OF ANYTHING EDIBLE.

  • THEY ARE THE LAST TRULY WILD BISON IN THE UNITED STATES.

  • SOME 30 MILLION OF THEM ONCE BLANKETED THE AMERICAN PLAINS;

  • IT COULD TAKE SIX DAYS FOR A SINGLE HERD TO PASS YOU BY.

  • BUT BY 1900, ONLY A HEARTBREAKING TWO DOZEN

  • CLUNG TO LIFE IN THE CENTER OF THE PARK,

  • THE LAST REFUGEES OF A CENTURY OF PERSECUTION.

  • PROTECTED IN 1902, THEY'VE SLOWLY REBOUNDED TO

  • ABOUT 5,000 TODAY.

  • BUT IN A TERRIBLE WINTER, THEIR NUMBERS COULD CRASH.

  • WITH THE BISON CARCASS PICKED CLEAN,

  • THE LAMAR WOLF PACK'S SPECTACULAR ALPHA FEMALE IS ON

  • THE LOOKOUT FOR MORE MEAT.

  • AND AN ELK CALF HAS STRAYED FROM ITS HERD...

  • WITH THE POWER AND CUNNING BORN OF LONG EXPERIENCE,

  • SHE'S LIKE A HEAT SEEKING MISSILE.

  • ♪ ♪

  • THIS IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE.

  • [BIRDS CAWING]

  • THE DEATH OF THE ELK CALF MEANS A REPRIEVE FOR

  • OUR PREGNANT BISON...

  • BUT FOR HOW LONG?

  • [HOWL]

  • IN WINTER, THE ALCHEMY OF HEAT BELOW AND COLD ABOVE

  • MAKES YELLOWSTONE LOOK LIKE A DIFFERENT PLANET.

  • EVEN AT 50 DEGREES BELOW, THERE'S MAGIC IN THE AIR.

  • ♪ ♪

  • EXTREME SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES IN A CLOUDLESS SKY SOMETIMES

  • RESULT IN A FASCINATING PHENOMENON:

  • THE FORMATION OF DELICATE ICE CRYSTALS...

  • KNOWN AS "DIAMOND DUST".

  • SOME BISON HAVE DEVISED A SPECIAL STRATEGY.

  • HOT SPRINGS GIVE OFF HEAT, ENABLING GRASS TO GROW.

  • A HASSLE-FREE SPA PACKAGE AT MINUS 20 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.

  • WINTER IS IN SLOW RETREAT,

  • IN YELLOWSTONE'S OWN GRAND CANYON.

  • WARMER TEMPERATURES UNLEASH THE FROZEN LOWER FALLS,

  • TWICE THE HEIGHT OF NIAGARA.

  • AND SOMEONE ELSE IS BEING UNLEASHED, TOO.

  • JUST OUT OF HIBERNATION,

  • A YOUNG BEAR CAN'T RESIST THE AROMA...

  • OF FRESH CARRION.

  • A SECOND GRIZZLY HAS BEATEN HIM TO IT...

  • THE CARCASS OF YET ANOTHER BISON THAT DIDN'T

  • MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER.

  • AFTER SPENDING MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS IN THEIR DENS,

  • THEY'RE EAGER TO FIND SOME FOOD.

  • BEARS LOSE UP TO A THIRD OF THEIR BODY WEIGHT

  • DURING HIBERNATION.

  • AND THEY'RE RAVENOUS.

  • SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE.

  • GRIZZLIES WOULD RATHER INTIMIDATE THAN FIGHT;

  • THERE'S JUST TOO MUCH RISK OF INJURY IN

  • BEAR-ON-BEAR VIOLENCE.

  • STANDING UP TO YOUR FULL HEIGHT IS MEANT TO IMPRESS...

  • OOPS.

  • THE OWNER OF THE CARCASS DECIDES TO SHOW HIM

  • HOW IT'S DONE.

  • BUT WHEN RITUALS FAIL...

  • VIOLENCE IS INEVITABLE.

  • NARRATOR: HUNGRY BEARS ARE VIOLENT BEARS.

  • ♪ ♪

  • THE PAIR IS CLOSELY MATCHED AND EQUALLY DESPERATE FOR A

  • POST-HIBERNATION FEAST.

  • A FIGHT LIKE THIS IS A RARE SIGHT IN YELLOWSTONE.

  • [GROWLING]

  • WITH A FINAL SLAP, THE NEWCOMER TELLS HIS

  • RIVAL TO "SHOVE OFF" AND CLAIMS HIS GRISLY PRIZE.

  • SPRING IS FINALLY HERE IN EARNEST.

  • IN THE VALLEYS, WARMER DAYS EASILY SHRUG OFF LATE SNOWS.

  • IN THE PARK'S NORTH-EAST LIES SODA BUTTE,

  • A LIMESTONE MOUND CREATED BY A HOT SPRING.

  • A MUDDY CONDO COMPLEX OF SORTS IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

  • AMERICAN CLIFF SWALLOWS ARE BUSY NESTING...

  • THE MUD AT THE FOOT OF THE CONE MAKES A PERFECT CEMENT.

  • BISON LOVE THE MUD OF SODA BUTTE TOO,

  • BECAUSE IT'S RICH WITH MINERALS....

  • MINERALS THAT THE PREGNANT FEMALES CRAVE.

  • SOON THE VALLEYS OF YELLOWSTONE WILL BE

  • FULL OF BABIES.

  • OUR MOTHER GROWS RESTLESS AND NERVOUS.

  • WITH GOOD REASON.

  • DOWN THE VALLEY,

  • A PACK OF WOLVES HAS FOUND A STILLBORN CALF,

  • BUT IT WILL ONLY FEED ONE OR TWO OF THEM.

  • SO THE REST HAVE TURNED ON THE MOTHER.

  • WEAK FROM HER ORDEAL, SHE IS TOUGH...

  • BUT VULNERABLE.

  • SHE MAKES A BREAK FOR THE HERD.

  • A RISKY DECISION.

  • EVEN WHEN SHE REACHES THE HERD,

  • THE WOLVES DON'T GIVE UP: BISON ARE MOST VULNERABLE TO

  • ATTACK FROM BEHIND...

  • FINALLY, THEY ROUND UP, CREATING A SHAGGY,

  • IMPENETRABLE FORTRESS.

  • ON THE SLOPES ABOVE, OUR HERD IS MISSING SOMEONE.

  • THE MOTHER HAS SLIPPED OFF INTO THE BRUSH TO GIVE BIRTH.

  • THIS MOVING AND INTIMATE MOMENT HAS RARELY BEEN SEEN

  • IN THE NATIONAL PARK.

  • ♪ ♪

  • ♪ ♪

  • IMMEDIATELY THE LITTLE ONE STARTS SQUIRMING FREE

  • FROM THE AMNIOTIC SAC.

  • HE'S ONE OF ABOUT 700 BISON CALVES THAT WILL BE

  • BORN THIS YEAR.

  • THE MOTHER LOVINGLY CLEANS HER CALF,

  • URGING HIM TO HIS FEET...

  • HE'LL NEED TO BE ABLE TO RUN WITH THE HERD IN A

  • MATTER OF HOURS.

  • ♪ ♪

  • HE'S UP ON WOBBLY LEGS IN MINUTES....

  • ADORABLE AND OBLIVIOUS TO THE ASTOUNDING STRUGGLE

  • THAT LIES AHEAD.

  • NARRATOR: IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS,

  • WHERE THE SNOW STILL HANGS ON,

  • ANOTHER PREDATOR IS STAGING A COMEBACK.

  • IT'S THE NOTORIOUSLY SHY COUGAR,

  • ONE OF ONLY ABOUT 20 IN THE PARK,

  • RETURNING TO HER ELK KILL.

  • THESE BIG CATS ARE SO ELUSIVE EVEN PARK RANGERS

  • RARELY SPOT THEM.

  • AT ONE POINT THEY WERE VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED

  • FROM YELLOWSTONE.

  • THE RAVEN SHOULD BE CAREFUL ABOUT COMPLAINING.

  • COUGARS CAN LEAP 15 FEET STRAIGHT UP.

  • SHE'S NOT ALONE.

  • HER THREE-MONTH-OLD KITTEN IS STILL NURSING BUT

  • DEVELOPING A TASTE FOR MEAT.

  • THE RAVEN'S A NOISY IRRITANT AND IT COULD ALERT

  • RIVAL PREDATORS TO THE KILL...

  • BUT SOMEONE'S LATE TO DINNER.

  • ♪ ♪

  • KITTENS WILL BE KITTENS, NO MATTER HOW BIG.

  • OUTSIDE THE PARK, COUGARS ARE STILL SHOT BY

  • THOSE WHO THINK THEY'RE A THREAT TO LIVESTOCK.

  • BUT HERE THE LITTLE FAMILY IS SAFE.

  • ♪ ♪

  • YELLOWSTONE'S PART OF THE ROCKIES USED TO BE

  • ON THE SEA FLOOR.

  • THE CLASH OF CONTINENTS HAS DRIVEN THEM 8,000 FEET

  • INTO THE AIR.

  • BUT WHAT THE EARTH LIFTS, WATER SLICES,

  • REVEALING THE YELLOW ROCK CANYON THAT GIVES THE

  • PARK ITS NAME.

  • THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER, THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE PARK,

  • POURS INTO THE VALLEYS.

  • THE HERD MUST MOVE IN SEARCH OF BETTER GRAZING AND

  • OUR CALF IS READY TO JOIN THEM.

  • JUST HOURS AFTER HIS BIRTH,

  • THIS 40-POUND FELLA CAN KEEP UP WITH

  • HIS 1,000-POUND MOM.

  • HE'LL FOLLOW MOM ANYWHERE,

  • EVEN IF IT MIGHT BE THE DEATH OF HIM.

  • OTHER CREATURES HAVE NOT BEEN SO LUCKY.

  • WOLVES NO LONGER HUNT, BUT SCAVENGE AT THEIR LEISURE.

  • NOT FAR AWAY, THE PACK FEASTS ON STILL ANOTHER FALLEN BISON.

  • BUT SOMEONE'S GOTTEN WIND OF THEIR BOUNTY.

  • A GRIZZLY MOTHER AND THREE BIG CUBS.

  • RAISING TRIPLETS IN YELLOWSTONE IS QUITE

  • THE ACCOMPLISHMENT.

  • EVEN AMONG GRIZZLIES,

  • WHO ARE NOTORIOUSLY GOOD MOTHERS, SHE'S REMARKABLE.

  • WITH SO MANY MOUTHS TO FEED,

  • SHE HAS LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO TAKE ON THE PACK.

  • ♪ ♪

  • JUST WHEN IT LOOKS AS THOUGH THERE'S ENOUGH

  • TO GO AROUND...

  • SOMEONE ELSE IS ON THE SCENT.

  • A LONE MALE.

  • THIS IS BAD NEWS.

  • MALE GRIZZLIES SOMETIMES KILL CUBS.

  • TIME FOR HIM TO BACK OFF.

  • A MALE BEAR, A YOUNGSTER,