Tracking a Grizzly Bear

Have you ever wanted to know what a grizzly bear does on a daily basis? Now you can find out by checking out Bear71, an interactive documentary by Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison. Mendes and Allison monitored a grizzly bear between 2001 and 2009, according the Flowing Data blog.

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Mendes and Allison follow a grizzly bear in Banff National Park as the interaction between humans and nature comes into conflict. Grizzly  bears normally need 500 square kilometres to find food and live but that space is increasingly invaded by the growing number of tourists and residents.

Bear 71 was fitted with a radio collar and her movements, along with her cubs, were monitored. The team also used motion-triggered cameras. From the data collected, Mendes and Allison were able to know where the bears live, what they ate, and what kind of encounters they had with humans.

The result is an interactive documentary. You can use your keyboard and webcam to follow Bear 71’s journey on the Grid. It’s fascinating and sad because in the battle between humans and bears (spoiler ahead!) the bears don’t win.

As much as I want to love this documentary, I found it confusing to navigate but you can get a hang of how to use your keyboard after a while. The footage is grainy and you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking at. Maybe captions would have helped to clear the confusion. The voice narration doesn’t necessary match the footage we see. But this may be because I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the map properly.

Overall, Bear 71 is as beautifully created as it is politically motivated. The story is told through the bear’s perspective, voiced by Mia Kirshner. You can’t help but wonder what the residents of the local town or folks interested in developing the area think about this film. What about the trains that pass by? If I had to choose between the bears and the trains, this documentary would influence me to be on Team Bear if I wasn’t already.

At one point, Bear 71 tells us how she watched a jogger stop near her rubbing tree to eat a Mars chocolate bar and update his Facebook status. Sigh, human beings are terrible aren’t we?



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