Big Beasts (2023–…): Season 1, Episode 6 - The Brown Bear - full transcript

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[Tom Hiddleston] Giant animals.


Living legends.

Fantastic creatures.

These are nature's big beasts.

But experience the world
from their perspective,

and you'll see it's not easy being huge.

The larger the animal,
the higher the stakes...

and the more epic the adventure.

[Hiddleston] 700 pounds of power.

A North American brown bear...

just down from the mountains.

He's hoping to mate this summer.

Just one problem.

An even bigger bear is already here.

Females know, the greater the grizzly,

- the better the genes.
- [growling]

And the boss bear has serious swagger.

Against a 300-pound advantage,

a younger male can't risk the fight.

So, while some other guy has all the luck,

all he can do is keep his head down,

keep building that bulk...

and maybe next year,

he could be King of the Mountains.

Towering up to 8,000 feet,

North America's Rocky Mountains

dominate a vast region of
snow-covered peaks,

grassy meadows...

and forested valleys.

They're home to around 30,000 brown bears.

During the brief summer, all of them
are busy preparing for hibernation.


This mother bear is taking
her one-year-old on a fishing expedition.

Timed to the annual salmon migration.

Packed with protein and fat,

these fish make ideal body-building food.

But the first-time fisher seems
a little daunted by such lively lunch.

Mum knows the best way for him to catch on

is to take him in at the deep end.

Using the snorkeling technique,

she targets female fish
carrying thousands of high calorie eggs.

But her cub can barely touch the bottom,

and he's struggling in the current.


Mum's huge lungs allow her
to stay under for minutes at a time.


While the cub just gets carried away.

A focused fisher can consume
nearly 50,000 calories a day.

But a novice can waste a lot of energy...

getting nowhere.



In the end, she lets him share.

Maybe a taste of salmon sashimi
will be incentive to learn.

Bears can lose half their body weight
during winter,

so it's vital they pile on the pounds now.

But the feast is cut short.

With a nose seven times more sensitive
than a bloodhound's,

Mum senses danger.



Male bears can be
twice the weight of females

and can kill cubs that are not their own.

It's time to go.

But both mum and cub are still
way off their ideal hibernation weight.

Up here,

everyone is trying to make the most of
the good times while they last.


Getting as big as possible
is one of the best ways

to endure winter weather.


Bison are the largest animals
to roam North America.


A 150-strong herd
has a huge impact on the land.


During peak growing season,

each bison devours 30 pounds
of grass a day.

And once they've grazed one area,

they move on to the next.

- Smaller residents, watch out.
- [squeaks]

The one-ton brutes are butting in.


When the battle
for breeding rights begins...

it's bad news for those beneath them.


And if bison aren't fighting,

they're destroying homes

by dust bathing around burrows.

They may be throwing
their weight around now...

- but in just three months' time...
- [squeaks]

...these plains will be buried under snow.

And of all the big beasts,

bison are the ones
who will suffer the most.

[birds chirping]

Winter's fast approaching,

and there's still a huge amount to do.

6 foot 5 at the shoulder,

a bull moose is the largest deer of all...

and armed with the biggest antlers
in the world,

up to 6 feet across.

Bashing branches is how this old bull
shows off.

But what impresses most
is his unique blend of signature scent.


He digs a pit...

soaks it with heavy hints of hormone...


...applies liberally...

and the females come running.


But it also attracts unwanted attention.

This is rutting season,

when males compete for mates.

After gorging all summer,
the old bull is fighting fit.

And his neck muscles have expanded
to help wield their 60-pound weaponry.

[grunting, barking]

When big bulls clash,
those antlers can inflict serious injury.



This time the rival retreats, unscathed.

The old bull has won the right
to father the female's calves,

to be born next spring.

But right now, that seems a long way off.

Winter in the Rockies
is a period of severe snowstorms,

and temperatures as low as 40 below.

Bears head for the high ground
where they can den down in deep drifts

and sleep for up to five months.

Moose have a unique ability
to survive on twigs,

so they remain active throughout winter,

sheltering in the forests.

But exposed on the freezing plains,

bison must brave the elements.

Big bodies and thick woolly coats
keep them warm.

They need to dig deep to find food.

Dead grass has little more nutrition
than cardboard...

so during winter, they slowly starve.

Trudging through snow
only saps more energy...

and makes them easier to track down.



Bison stay strong by standing together.

But when wolves create panic...

any weakness is exposed.

Some can't keep up.


A young female
has been worn down by winter,

but she's still dangerous.

So the pack wages a war of attrition.



In desperation, she heads for a stream.

[wolves growling]

She can withstand cold water
longer than the smaller wolves.

But the pack is patient.

They know this only ends one way.

By the close of winter,
most large animals are on their knees.

- [grunting]
- [wolf howling]

The weakest have fallen.


But for those still holding on,

hope is in the air.

The Rockies are beginning to thaw.

After five months
of high-altitude hibernation,

bears begin descending
from the mountains again.

Leading the kids down the nursery slopes
takes patience.

But most are already making their way
through the forested valleys.

And getting a little sidetracked.

There are some itches
you've just got to scratch.

Doing the tree twerk not only feels great,

it's a bare necessity.

It helps lose that thick winter coat.

These rubbing trees help shed
five pounds of fluff.

They also help females
to check out who else is around

and follow their noses
to the fittest males.

[birds chirping]

But it'll be a while
before this meadow sees any action.

A bear's heart only beats eight times
a minute during hibernation...

and can take weeks
to get back up to speed...

Though this maturing male
grew dramatically over the year,

five months of fasting have left him
low on energy.

He needs to get up and get in shape.

The heavyweight showdown
is only a month away.

And now, the boss is back.

The competition
just got a whole lot bigger.

The days of reckoning
are over for the bison.

Newborn calves compensate
for winter losses.

And fortified with fresh grass,

the herd can stand stronger
against their foes.

Once again they begin
exerting their influence on the land.


Living beneath the feet of giants
has its challenges.



But it also brings huge rewards.

Bison are the great gardeners of
these plains.

They mow the lawn...

plow the soil...

and fertilize the fields.

Providing a longer, richer,
brighter spring for all.

By May, the Rockies are coming back
to life in a big way.

The bull moose is now the proud father

of all the calves around this lake.

While the females care
for his tiny titans,

he can focus on feeding.

Nutritious water lilies will help him grow

a new pair of enormous antlers,

ready to fight again next autumn.

In the meadows,
that time has already come.

Females are back in season,

and last year's dominant male
is securing his mating rights.

But the young challenger
now looks stronger than ever.

He's ready to take on the boss.

The females are watching.


This is it.

[both growling]

Such ferocious fights
are very rarely seen.

Both bears are getting badly injured.

But in the end,
youth and stamina come out on top.

The old boss is beaten.

Now it's time to make way.

All grown up,

the younger male
has finally earned his right to breed.

Almost all of next year's cubs here
will be his,

and he could go on to sire
a whole generation of giants.

A successful male may rule
for over a decade,

so this great bear's story
has only just begun.