Nature | Christmas in Yellowstone
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Watch Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 8pm on WMHT TV.

Stretching across more than 2.2 million acres of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho is one of the greatest expanses of unspoiled nature and wildlife anywhere on Earth —Yellowstone National Park. Designated America’s first national park (and the world’s) in 1872, today Yellowstone receives almost three million visitors each year. And yet, only a very small fraction of those who glimpse the park’s stunning vistas, geological wonders and animal residents do so during the winter months — a time when Yellowstone’s inhospitality is matched only by its serenity.

NATURE follows in the snowy footprints of Yellowstone’s red foxes, spies on the predatory play of wolves and elk, and climbs into the den of a grizzly bear that gives birth to two cubs while deep in hibernation.

In addition to mesmerizing footage of landscapes and wildlife, “Christmas in Yellowstone” trails author and photographer Tom Murphy, who spends part of each winter camping and photographing amid the silence and solitude deep within the park.

“The undisturbed beauty of Yellowstone is really a gift that each generation of Americans, and people from all over the world, can enjoy,” says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “But not everyone can get there, so this holiday season, we’re bringing this gift to viewers — who, even if they’ve visited Yellowstone, will never have seen it quite like this.”

“Christmas in Yellowstone” is a tableau of captivating intimate scenes: a red fox shows its ingenious method of catching rodents that it can hear — but not see — beneath the snow; frost-covered bison huddle close by geothermal springs; the giant grizzly’s four-pound cubs playfully wrestle in their secluded den; a family of otters reunites with its injured youngster; a stoic bald eagle perches high up on a bare branch; and geyser steam rises beneath the winter solstice horizon that turns from pink to fiery orange. Across a vast, empty, snow-covered hill, the lone red fox curiously approaches a most unusual visitor — one who stands on skis and holds a camera in his hand.

Photographer and writer Tom Murphy has traveled to Yellowstone for 26 winters. He wades through hip-deep snow drifts to reach the perfect spot for morning photographs and, emptying out his 80-pound pack, reveals the supplies and gear that are necessary to survive winter inYellowstone. “The reason I do this is it’s an opportunity to see this country at its wildest and most beautiful, when the cold keeps most people away,” Murphy says in the program. “It’s my church, my cathedral. You get a sense of what happens when life is left alone.”