Ely Black Bears Star In Worldwide BBC Series

By KBJR News 1

May 7, 2012 Updated May 7, 2012 at 10:20 PM CDT

ELY, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---Ely's world famous black bears are starring in what some are calling "the most ambitious global wildlife series" ever created.

From grey whales to baby elephants, a new BBC documentary series focuses on the life and death struggles of baby animals from six countries over five continents.

The series is expected to attract more than 250 million viewers worldwide.

The Wildlife Research Institute's black bear studies bring the BBC to the town at the end of the road.

"They are bringing the world to Ely, MN," Mayor Roger Skraba said. "We keep saying we are being promoted to the world. The world is going to know where Ely is now."

The BBC documentary series Planet Earth Live launched from Kenya and Ely on Sunday evening.

Now, those living in the US and Canada will watch as National Geographic Wild airs a shorter version of the series, re-titled 24/7 Wild.

Over the next three weeks, the series will be broadcasted in 140 countries.

"We know that it's our best opportunity ever to educate," Dr. Lynn Rogers said. "Just to have the bears teach the people because we are not really saying much. It's just showing the bears doing their usual thing."

The documentary will feature several collared black bears, including Lilly and her cub Faith.

Lily was made famous after millions of people watched a live birth through the lens of an internet den cam.

Dr. Rogers says about 30 BBC crew members have been staying in Ely since the start of April. Given the state of the art production equipment they use, he says he's eager to see the results of the documentary.

"From a mile a way, they can zoom in on a person and have it fill the frame," Dr. Rogers said. "Then they can pull back from that and see the whole expanse. If they are up high enough, even to the extent you can see a little of the curvature of the earth."

The series is a showcase of northeastern Minnesota that many business owners hope will attract foreign tourists to town.

"It really opens up a whole new Pandora's box of people that are going to come and visit the area," Paul Ivancich, Owner of Ely's DQ Grill and Chill said.

This isn't the first time the BBC has stopped in Ely.

Dr. Rogers says he has worked with the Broadcasting Company to create 13 programs since 2007.

Jennifer Walch
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