Grizzly Bear vs. Polar Bear

A strange and puzzling story is swirling through the land of the midnight sun: Polar Bears and Brown Bears, isolated from one another for millennia by geography, climate, and behavior, are suddenly appearing side-by-side – prompting Casey Anderson to embark on a fact-finding mission to the Arctic and put Brutus, his nine-hundred pound Brown Bear, through the paces of “Life as a Polar Bear” in the hopes of solving one of the natural world’s most intriguing new mysteries.

With sea ice increasingly disappearing for more of the year due to climate change, the stage is set for a remarkable contest: Brown bear vs. Polar bear.  Though, in truth, this contest will undoubtedly take generations to play out in the natural world, Casey endeavors to find out: which species is the ultimate survivor? Which species is better suited for life in the Arctic’s harsh conditions? And can we predict the eventual victor in this, one of the most oddly compelling riddles of our time?

In his prior mission to Alaska, Project Kodiak, Casey sought to discover the techniques of Alaska’s coastal “fishing bears” and to attempt to teach his bear Brutus to fish “like a wild bear” in Montana. This time, inspired by the Brown Bear vs. Polar Bear challenge, Casey will again recruit Brutus to see if he can meet the serious physical challenges of “life as a Polar bear” above (and below) the surface of a frozen lake in the heart of Montana’s winter.

But first, Casey has to see and document Polar bear physiology and behavior. Here, Casey’s adventure to Barter Island takes center stage.  High above the Arctic Circle, he’ll witness an area where wild Polar bears are feeding on the carcasses of a leftover whale carcass – the remnants of a traditional annual Inupiat whale hunt.  And, as Casey discovers, this is one of the few documented places where grizzlies and polar bears are increasingly facing off over the whale carcasses.  Will Casey witness the legendary standoff?

Furthermore, Casey is able to witness up-close the physiological adaptations that make these Polar Bears the supreme predator of the high Arctic.  Aided by hollow guard hairs and giant paws with specialized traction, Polar bears excel in conditions that most Brown Bears rarely encounter in winter hibernation. To see if a Brown Bear can truly hack it in Polar bear country, Casey challenges Brutus to an incremental series of “Polar Bear Challenges.” From the relative ease of walking on a slippery ice rink to the major challenge of breaking through ice to find frozen food in the open expanse and subzero temperatures of a snowy alpine lake.  Through it all, Brutus will be pushed to his physiological limits; ultimately, his performance may shed light on the possible outcomes where Brown Bears and Polar bears converge on newly forged common ground.

Casey’s journey to Alaska will also shed light on the precarious state of the Polar Bear due to the continuing effects of global warming on the availability of sea ice.  Polar bears are reliant on this ice for much of their natural lifecycle.  On the contrary, as the ice disappears, more habitat will open up for brown bears – thus leading to a potential “population boom” for brown bears throughout the Arctic.

As it turns out, this contest, Brown Bear vs. Polar Bear, may not have a resolution in the short-term; it will take centuries for species to evolve to fill the new niches created by a warming climate but as that process begins Casey will witness history being made.  Throughout his journey, the visual grandeur of the Arctic, the power and mystery of the Polar Bear and the Brown Bear, and Casey’s illuminating perspective will combine to produce an unforgettable and spectacular finale to the latest season of America the Wild.

Be sure to tune in to America the Wild: Grizzly vs. Polar Bear tonight at 9P et/pt and check out a little sneak peek of Brutus (and a crew member) taking the polar plunge!


  1. J.P.
    N.E. Ohio
    April 9, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Such a great show! Informative & entertaining!! Too bad that Nat Geo isn’t having a drawing for one lucky winner to go to Alaska with Casey…just sayin’

  2. Bill
    April 10, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I thought the Polar vs Grizzly Bear episode was a major letdown. You don’t actually see the polar and grizzly come face to face until the last minute and not once did Casey explain that polar bears ARE NOT territorial, while the grizzly bear is which would have explained why the larger polar bear was backing down to the more aggressive grizzly.

  3. J.P.
    April 10, 2012, 11:10 pm

    I was wondering why the much larger Polar Bear was backing down from the Grizzly, thanks for pointing that out. However, I thought that the show was unique and quite fascinating…I never knew that the two species were on a collision course..I wonder if the 2 have ever mated, and how the offspring would fare in a dynamic climate? I thought the show stirred plenty of “food for thought”… I think one could easily find many other programs on other channels that would be considered a “major letdown”…just sayin’.

  4. alisha mackey
    middletown CA
    April 24, 2012, 1:30 pm

    i love your show. Is their an animal you have never seen? how long have you had Brutus?

  5. T Dean
    Marysville Ohio
    April 25, 2012, 12:43 pm

    What has happened to this show?has it changed time or just not on any longer? I enjoyed Casy`s show it was a different refreshing show, i enjoy animal programing but find myself growing tired of it always being lions, crocks an mostly programming from other country’s when there’s so much in the good ole USA i hope his show has not been cannceledi say again i enjoy this show.

  6. james
    July 30, 2012, 8:54 am

    i believe there’s more to what casey observed . and more fact about there adaptation will spring up faster than you think.

  7. alisha mackey
    midletowm CA
    November 13, 2012, 10:44 am

    I LOVE YOUR SHOW!!!!!!!

  8. Syd
    Denver Colarodo
    February 27, 2013, 8:07 pm

    Amazing video
    I love you casey Anderson,i cant believe that dude went in that really cold water.
    brutus is so cute
    I always watch your show

  9. Steven D. Kowalewski
    United States
    May 21, 2013, 9:27 pm

    I saw a show where a nuisance bear was shot in Alaska and its fur was white and skin black even though it looked like a grizzly they think their inter breading with polar bears doing a DNA test never hear the results !!

  10. Glenn Miller
    Juneau Alaska
    October 25, 2014, 8:15 pm

    The arctic grizzly bears have been on the north slope for recorded history. They are not moving north with warming temperatures as the show says. The temperature is a smaller factor in the survival of a bear than the availability of food. The arctic grizzly population exploded in the 90s when massive feeding was allowed at the open dump serving the Prudhoe Bay oilfields. The access to human food sources continues at dumps on the north slope and the bone piles where the bears in the film were seen feeding. The bone pile at Kaktovik attracts hundreds of bears each fall. It is a disgrace. Humans should NEVER feed bears. Somehow State and Federal officials think the north slope is different. Shame on them. Also shame on National Geographic for the scenes at the end of the show where geometric shaped chunks of whale blubber were placed out on the tundra to attract the sow and cubs for the “money shot”. Those chunks of blubber are prepared for human use under special permission from the whaling commission. What do you think the Japanese whaling fleet would make of that?

  11. Colette fardella
    New york
    February 5, 2016, 5:54 pm

    I loved this show, very interesting. The one thing that really upset me was the hunter was so Happy that he had killed this rare or only bear of its kind. I hope to see more on these two species colliding. I just hope the hunting of polar bears ends.