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Great Yellowstone Thaw

Journey with Kirk Johnson to Yellowstone, where wolves, grizzlies, beavers and Great Gray owls survive one of the greatest seasonal changes on the planet.

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Great Yellowstone Thaw

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Filmed over the course of several intense months, from deep winter to early summer, the series intercuts the stories of several different animal families—including wolves, bison, grizzlies, beavers and great gray owls. The series follows the animals in the Yellowstone ecosystem as they emerge from winter’s cold and adapt to an early spring thaw, before encountering the soaring summer temperatures. From winter to summer, Yellowstone’s temperature typically swings 140 degrees.

Dr. Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and a renowned paleontologist and author, hosts the series. Johnson and a team of Yellowstone experts explore how these animals fend off floods, starvation, and fires, as well as the area’s extreme evolution from cold to heat during the spring season. GREAT YELLOWSTONE THAW showcases the extraordinary survival instincts the park’s natural species possess. Viewers will learn how the early thaw brings the bears of the Rocky Mountain region out of hibernation prematurely, creating concern over food supply. The wolves, which have recovered from their extinct status in the 1990s, are now beginning to thrive, but the fluctuating temperatures pose a threat to the species once again. While the beavers have to make their homes in freezing rivers, the great gray owls must migrate to find food in thawed areas in order to survive.




Episode 1

Learn whether the brutal winter weather will favor predator or prey. Can the grizzlies that emerge early survive? Why are wolves and Great Gray owls in danger of starvation? Find out how Yellowstone’s unique geology affects the mighty bison.


Episode 2

See how spring brings new life and a break from the brutal winter temperatures. But the dangers aren’t over. Wildlife families face a torrent of water cascading down the mountains as the great thaw gets underway. Beavers are in particular danger.


Episode 3

Find out why a summer with soaring temperatures could pose a threat to Yellowstone’s ecosystem. Learn if the Great Gray owl family survives a major fire in the Beartooth Mountains and see how one particular wolf pack is feeding its 11 pups.