Alaska Deadly 60


Alaska

Children's wildlife documentary. The team battle freezing conditions to view a wolverine and Arctic foxes, and search for where bald eagles arrive to feed on salmon.


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Transcript


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My name is Steve Backshall.

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You can call me Steve.

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I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60.

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That's 60 deadly creatures from around the world.

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And you're coming with me every step of the way.

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We're on another Deadly 60 mission.

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A good portion of this kit is woolly gloves and down jackets.

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Cos we're heading to the frozen north.

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Four cars, three planes and 36 hours later...

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Whoo!

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That is like stepping into a deep-freeze!

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Off there in the distance are the mountains of Northern Alaska.

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That way are frozen seas that head all the way to the North Pole.

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We are well into the Artic Circle and we are here looking for animals

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that are tough enough to make this inhospitable place their home.

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We're on the search for the polar bear.

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The largest land predator in the world.

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At home on land, ice and in the water,

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I want to find out what it's like to come face-to-face

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with THE top predator of the frozen north.

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Bear tracks!

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Polar bear tracks everywhere.

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Look at these.

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They're quite small, it looks like a young adult.

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It's really something to think that we're sharing the ice

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with one of the world's most terrifying predators.

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The tracks have led us to the coast and now all that lies ahead of us

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are ever-shifting frozen seas.

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It would be extremely dangerous to venture out there.

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Looks like this polar bear has given us the slip.

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There's a snowy owl, which is one of the most beautiful birds in the world,

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just sitting perched on a big chunk of ice out there.

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He's actually in very dark plumage at the moment.

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And great hunters of the Arctic tundra.

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This one here looks like he would rather be inside

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with his feet up in front of the fire.

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We're back on the hunt.

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And starting at a place that looks like some bizarre dinosaur graveyard.

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This could be our trump card for finding a polar bear.

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The local Inupiat Eskimo that live around here have been hunting

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and catching whale for generations, hundreds of years.

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They catch about three bowhead whale per year.

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When they have taken all the meat, and it is used by the community,

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every single bit of it,

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the bones are ditched here, and you this amount of potential food

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stuck in the middle of a bleak wilderness like this.

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And it attracts an enormous amount of animals that come in to feed on what's left.

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What we are hoping for is a polar bear

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but already I can see our first amazing animal.

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Just sat almost totally oblivious,

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no more that ten metres in front of me,

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is an Arctic fox.

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There must be five or six of them on the bones around us.

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Let's see if I can get closer to this one here.

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There's no way is he letting me get this close!

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I don't believe it!

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I could reach out and touch him.

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This is incredible.

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I really didn't think I'd have any chance of getting this close to one.

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Within a couple of hours of having arrived here...

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It's chewing away at the last few remnants of meat that are left on there bones.

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Arctic foxes may look pretty,

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but they're actually hard as nails.

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They can live in temperatures down to -50.

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And have needle sharp teeth.

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But they'll generally go for an easy meal

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over taking the effort to hunt.

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These are really important animals for us because Arctic foxes

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around here get a good deal of their diet by following

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polar bears around and picking off their scraps.

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So, if there are Arctic foxes around, and they are everywhere,

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then we stand a really good chance of finding our polar bears.

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We know the bears are out there somewhere

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but seeing them's another matter.

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It's gonna take a good deal of patience.

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We're just gonna sit here and do an old-fashioned stakeout.

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I'm kinda guessing that the bears will come in after it gets dark.

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In order to be able to film them, we can't film them on a normal camera,

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we're going to use infra red.

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Johnny the cameraman's got two big infra red lights set up here.

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We have cameras that are super-sensitive to that lighting. We'll see them in total darkness.

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If the bears come in here and start feeding,

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we should be able to get shots of them.

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From here on in, it's just sitting down,

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telling ourselves stories and jokes,

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and hoping to see, shambrling towards us from the horizon,

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the shape of a polar bear.

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Ready, guys?

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How on earth are we supposed to take Nick seriously in that hat?

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My lucky bear hat.

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# Shut your eyes and think of somewhere

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# Somewhere cold and caked in snow... #

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'Bears are active day and night

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'but it looks like tonight's just not our lucky night.

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'There's only so long you can wait before...'

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SNORING

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'But we're not giving up.

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'The next day we're up bright and early and out on the search again.'

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We were wandering around the bone pile, all of our attention focused

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on the arctic foxes, which in themselves are an incredible bonus,

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when all of a sudden Chris, the guy who's with us,

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said, "What's that in the distance?"

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It's a wolverine.

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It's an animal that would definitely make it onto the Deadly 60

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but we never thought we'd find one here.

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People can be here for years and never see one of these animals.

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That said, this is one of THE most ferocious creatures,

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for its size, in the whole world.

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It's a mustelid, a member of the weasel family.

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It's kind of bigger than a badger

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but with incredibly powerful jaws and teeth

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and they'll happily take on animals many times their own size.

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But at the moment he's just got his nose down

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and he's just beetling towards us across the ice.

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I thought we'd have had to work for weeks even to see an arctic fox.

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Not only have we seen more arctic foxes

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than you could ever have counted

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but also one of the most elusive, most rarely seen

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but most spectacular animals found in this entire region.

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The wolverine.

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He's just got up on his hind legs!

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He's just...he's just stood up like a bear, look at that!

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This is one of the most extraordinary

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wildlife spectacles I've ever seen.

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That fox is getting awful close to him, look at this!

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He's coming right up behind him.

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Ooh, don't do that, fella.

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It almost looked like the wolverine was chased off.

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'What an amazing encounter.

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'But I have a feeling the wolverine is unfinished business.

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'We're due to meet one face to face when we head south

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'but, for now, it's back out on our main mission -

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'to find a polar bear.'

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Let's go south, mate, now!

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There's something out there!

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-HE LAUGHS

-It's a bear!

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No more than 150 metres off from the shore.

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So exciting. I could just feel my heart start beating.

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Out there, about a mile off in the distance,

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is our first polar bear.

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He's just...sort of ambling about at the moment.

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'But even from this distance you can see how powerful he is.

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'It's minus 20.

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'The crew and I are kitted out in layers and layers of warm clothes,

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'even the camera's got a jacket on, and we can just about work.

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'But this animal is totally at home in this frozen wasteland.'

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These frozen seas are absolutely essential

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to the polar bear's success.

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It's out there that it finds the majority of its prey.

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Particularly in the winter months, when all this is frozen over,

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the seals it feeds on go through a huge amount of their life cycle,

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they have their pups here,

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and that's where the polar bear is at its lethal best.

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Polar bears have an extraordinary sense of smell

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and can actually sniff out a seal from 20 miles away.

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Once located, they have the strength to punch clean through ice and snow

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and could kill walrus or whales that are even larger than they are.

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It's game over for any animal unlucky enough to be

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on the receiving end of this awesome predator.

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What a magnificent creature.

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'Our luck has held out, and polar bears are going on the Deadly 60.'

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Largest land predator in the entire world,

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tough enough to live in temperatures below minus 50

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and able to smell their prey from 20 miles away,

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polar bears have got to be on the Deadly 60.

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'We've travelled 1,000 miles south

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'for a personal meeting with our unfinished business.'

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One animal that we got a tantalising glimpse of in the frozen north

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also occurs down here in the south of Alaska,

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and we've got a perfect opportunity to get up close to one.

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-Hi, Steve.

-Good morning!

-How you doing?

-Fine. Nice to see you!

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-You too.

-We have Jasper here, and Jasper is a very curious wolverine.

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I'll give you a piece of moose meat, see if you can make friends with him.

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Just make a little grunting sound.

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STEVE BACKSHALL GRUNTS That's it.

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Oh, you're a little curious.

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OK, I tell you what, let's go play!

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-THEY LAUGH

-Come on, then!

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'Jasper was born in captivity.

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'His mother was saved from hunters and he now lives with Steve.

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'The other Steve.

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'He's the only wolverine in the world that I could do this with.

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'I'm hoping that hanging out with him will prove

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'why the wolverine truly deserves its place on the Deadly 60.'

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Just keep walking.

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I know this seems like just going for a walk with a big friendly dog

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but this is an animal with one of the worst reputations

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of any creature in the world for being utterly ferocious,

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utterly fearless, taking on animals many times its own size.

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I have to say, I'm a little bit nervous, because, you know,

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this isn't a completely tame animal and, if it does turn,

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then it could take me apart.

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But he's so beautiful I just want to give him a big hug!

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-Ooh, dear.

-Should I let him go?

-I think we should.

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OK. He is now...free. HE GRUNTS

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Go on, bud! HE LAUGHS

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-OK. Steve, let's go.

-OK. Come on, fella. Let's go!

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Come on, bud!

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Oww!

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He'll grab ahold of your leg, but he won't puncture the skin, I think.

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Yeah, yeah, he's...he likes you.

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I know he's only playing, but this is a nightmare!

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Get him over here.

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Hah!

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That's more than a lovebite! Ow!

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While I've got him here...just going to look at those remarkable jaws.

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Now...the wolverine can bite

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with a strength of over a ton per square inch,

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which probably doesn't mean a tremendous amount to you, or me,

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but if I was to say that a small saltwater crocodile

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has about the same...then...

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Oh!

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..it'd probably make more sense.

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If you look at them up close, look at those canine teeth!

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Just built for ripping through meat.

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But, most of all, he's just got unbelievable guts...

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and perseverance.

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An animal this size that can eat prey many times bigger than me...

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there's no doubt the wolverine's got to go on the Deadly 60!

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Oh!

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Ow!

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Stamina, guts and perseverance like no other animal I've met.

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Capable of taking down prey many times its own size.

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Wolverines are on the Deadly 60.

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Probably seems crazy to be going on a rafting trip on a day like today.

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After all, if you went over the side and ended up in that water,

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you wouldn't last very long.

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But a fish in there doesn't mind the cold as much as we do

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and it's here in incredible numbers.

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They're salmon heading upriver to spawn.

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Probably won't see any of them today underneath all this slushy ice,

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but we are hoping to see some of the animals that feed on them.

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All right! I can't paddle, film AND find the wildlife! Come on, lads!

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Don't fall in!

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This is just magical.

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This is why people come to Alaska.

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It just looks like everything - the mountains, the trees -

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have been sugar frosted with ice and snow.

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The salmon have powered all the way up here from the sea.

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If we can find where they are, we'll surely find our next deadly animal -

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the bald eagle.

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NO WAY!

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How did you manage that?!

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What a magnificent fish!

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It's looking a little bit grotty.

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He's probably reaching the end of his days.

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Soon, this fish will die having completed his mission in life -

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to spawn in the very same river where he hatched.

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While they're out at sea, where they live the majority of their lives,

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they are ferocious predators. Look at those teeth and you can see why.

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But having spawned, these fish are a shadow of their former selves.

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Let's get his gills back in the water. Send him on his way.

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Oh! My fingers are freezing!

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So now we've found their food, it's back on the search for the birds.

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Trumpeter swans. You don't get any larger flying birds than that.

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But this is the bird we've come to see.

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The largest bird of prey to live in Alaska - the bald eagle.

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Masters of the sky in Alaska and the whole of North America,

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they prey on fish, smaller birds, mammals and turtles.

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Each taloned foot can pierce and crush, causing massive damage.

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This is not a bird to get on the wrong side of.

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This is a totally bizarre sight for me -

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seeing all these black dots up in the trees

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and knowing every one is a bald eagle. They look more like crows.

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You don't get eagles this close together in these kind of numbers.

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Most birds of prey don't allow other birds of prey on their territory.

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But here, the bald eagles are living side by side with hundreds of others

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because, thanks to the salmon, there's so much food.

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The bald eagle is one of the most regal of birds.

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They fly at about 30mph,

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but when they're dropping out of the sky to hit prey,

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they can travel at over 100mph. They have a wingspan of 7-8 feet -

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that's as high as me standing on the ground with my arm up in the air.

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Incredibly powerful beak, ferocious talons,

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this is a bird that has to be on the Deadly 60.

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The largest eagle to live in Alaska,

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able to reach speeds of over 100mph,

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with piercing, crushing talons,

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bald eagles are definitely on the Deadly 60.

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It's absolutely fr-fr-freezing.

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Our time in Alaska is drawing to a close

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but there's one more iconic deadly animal I'd love to show you.

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There's loads of animal tracks

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in the soft snow along the shoreline here.

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I'll go in and get a closer look.

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Hopefully without getting my feet wet.

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Back right and then jump. STEVE LAUGHS

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-You all right?

-I am.

-Get on. LAUGHTER CONTINUES

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That wasn't exactly...

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That was not exactly the heroic landing I was hoping for. Thanks.

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Sandy shorelines like these are absolutely perfect

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for holding prints from animals.

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But soft snow like this is even better.

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And that is about as perfect a print as you'll ever see.

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A big pad there,

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five discernible toes

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and you can even see the claw marks at the end.

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This is exactly the animal we're hoping to find.

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Here they go, coming across here.

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You can see right down to the shoreline here.

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And look how deep this has sunk in.

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That's a very heavy animal.

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A brown or grizzly bear.

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It's round here somewhere.

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The tracks continue on the other side around the shore.

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So that's where we're heading, too.

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Grizzlies are top-of-the-food chain predators.

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But they can also make do with any food and prey they can find.

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Adaptable and incredibly strong, they stand up to eight feet high.

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These masters of land and water really are a must for the Deadly 60.

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All we have to do now is find one.

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Ooh! Ooh, there! There!

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Dead ahead of us!

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Look at that!

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Just wandering along the shoreline.

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Oh, my goodness! Look at that!

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He's going right into the water!

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He's just... He's just caught a salmon!

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He just reached in and grabbed a salmon!

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This is absolutely wonderful.

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Exactly the animal we were hoping to encounter here.

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We've cut the engine

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and we're gonna try and get closer by paddle power,

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just so that we can keep the noise level to a minimum,

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cos he's still just there just back from the shore.

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We're gonna be quite careful about how close we get into the side.

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Bears are very, very strong swimmers.

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You see the salmon jumping there everywhere by the edge of the lake.

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At this time of year, when they have so much food available,

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he's quite unlikely to attack us

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unless he starts to feel that we're a threat to him.

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So I think it's important that we just go in carefully and cautiously.

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Just feel our way around things.

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Oh, look at that.

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He's come back to get the rest of his dinner.

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That is the perfect Alaskan wildlife experience.

0:24:160:24:21

A brown bear coming right down to the shoreline to take salmon.

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And even though you can't see him right now,

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he is no more than a couple of metres back from the edge.

0:24:290:24:33

Anyone see him?

0:24:350:24:37

No?

0:24:370:24:39

It never ceases to amaze me how an animal that size,

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which is obviously within metres of us, can just vanish.

0:24:480:24:53

The way his colouration matches his environment is incredible.

0:24:530:24:58

But he's there.

0:24:590:25:01

And he knows we're here.

0:25:010:25:04

He's watching us.

0:25:060:25:08

He's just sat looking right at me.

0:25:120:25:15

He's coming back down to the shore again. Look, here he comes.

0:25:260:25:30

He's just sniffing the air, just sussing us out.

0:25:310:25:36

He's coming right down.

0:25:380:25:41

And this is one of the largest carnivores in the world.

0:25:410:25:45

'Our bear has a tracking device around his neck.

0:25:450:25:49

'This doesn't mean he's a tame bear, but he's been caught at some stage.

0:25:490:25:54

'And this collar allows scientists to keep track of his movements.'

0:25:540:25:57

I reckon, at any second now, some very unlucky salmon

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is about to meet his end.

0:26:030:26:06

What a privilege to be able to...

0:26:080:26:11

-WATER SPLASHES

-Oh, here he goes!

0:26:110:26:14

Success? Did he catch one?

0:26:140:26:17

Is he gonna emerge with a fish in his mouth?

0:26:170:26:19

Yes!

0:26:190:26:21

Look at that!

0:26:210:26:23

They are so efficient!

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Can you imagine a fisherman being able to,

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in the space of ten minutes,

0:26:350:26:38

just jump into the water and catch three huge salmon?

0:26:380:26:42

That's just incredible!

0:26:430:26:45

They are utterly spectacular predators.

0:26:450:26:49

I don't believe it!

0:26:530:26:55

Adaptable and incredibly strong,

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they're also fish-catching champions.

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Brown bear has got to go on the Deadly 60.

0:27:050:27:08

Join us next time on Deadly 60, where we're gonna be

0:27:120:27:15

in an environment that could not be more different.

0:27:150:27:18

HE LAUGHS

0:27:180:27:20

That went right down the back of my neck!

0:27:200:27:25

'Next time on the Deadly 60...' They're all going for me!

0:27:250:27:29

This is the first I've ever seen!

0:27:290:27:32

Listen to that rattle!

0:27:360:27:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:510:27:54

Adventurer Steve Backshall and the Deadly 60 team pack their cold weather gear and head north to Alaska. They battle for days and nights in the freezing conditions of the frozen tundra, hoping to find polar bears to add to the list.

They are rewarded with a rare sighting of a wolverine and some cheeky Arctic foxes. Steve has heard of a place where thousands of bald eagles arrive every year to feed on the spawning salmon. Keen to see them first-hand, he heads up one of the freezing rivers to get a closer look. Alaska is also home to the grizzly bear, and Steve won't be going home until he has seen one and added it to his list.


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