THIRTEEN’S Nature Captures the Thrill of the Hunt in
Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo
Airs Sunday, February 17th at 3pm on WTVP-HD
– Epic life and death struggles still play out in one North American location –
It has been going on for thousands of years, the ancient rite of wolves hunting buffalo.
But with the virtual extinction of these two species from the North American plains during the continent’s
westward expansion, there is just one place left where the timeless battle continues uninterrupted: in
Northern Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park.
The centuries-old struggle of life and death between the continent’s largest land mammal
and its longtime predator and why both have survived are revealed when
presents Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffaloairing Sunday, February 17, 2013, at 3 p.m. on WTVP-Public Media. After the broadcast, the episode
will stream at pbs.org/nature.
Straddling the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Canada’s largest park – five
times the size of Yellowstone National Park – was established in 1922 to protect the free-roaming buffalo herds.
It’s here that wildlife filmmaker Jeff Turner, equipped with the addition of an aerial camera, was first able
to capture a wolf hunt from beginning to end in the remote wilderness. Having this airborne advantage was a great
help to Turner, given that a wolf pack can often range more than 30 miles a day to find prey to hunt. They can run
for hours waiting for a chance to make a kill, but the buffalo also have amazing endurance, even the calves. Turner
says he’s witnessed chases that have gone on for 20 miles.
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS. WNET is the parent
company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN
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Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo begins in winter when the wolf pack is most visible
and working as a cohesive unit, traveling and hunting together. Turner is following an average-sized pack of about
eight wolves led by a large alpha male. A wolf pack can best be described as a family with the alpha wolves, the
father and mother wolf, being the leaders and most of its members their offspring of various ages. For the pack to
survive, its leaders must provide food and security as well as teach their young to hunt buffalo. The goal is to
try to kill one every week or so, despite the buffalo’s 20-1 advantage in size over the wolf.
Buffalo are ideally suited for winter and so well insulated that snow lying on their massive bodies
doesn’t even melt. But the deep snow of winter poses a problem for them when they are being chased by a pack of
wolves; the buffalo have to break trail, which tires them faster than their predators.
The aerial camera documents the time-honored hunting strategies employed by the wolves and the
evasive tactics of the buffalo, which start with the pack trying to get the herd to run so the wolves attack
from behind. The buffalo hold their ground and face the wolves in standoffs that can often last for days, but
eventually they start running, with the pack in hot pursuit trying to break up the herd.
Scattering through the bush is another buffalo tactic, which as it causes wolves to split up.
But the large alpha male sets his sights on a yearling calf and, in a risky maneuver, stops and wounds the
600-pound animal. The large alpha then steps back and waits for the calf to die. The filmmaker remarks, “I
never realized until now that one wolf could bring down a buffalo. It’s remarkable what a strong and
determined leader can do for his pack.”
The spring and summer pose more challenges to the pack than to the herd, with an alpha
female giving birth to pups who need to be fed and their den defended. This means there are fewer
opportunities to roam in search of prey and, sadly, most pups die of starvation at this time.
Although the buffalo calves make for easier targets, the mothers are extremely protective
of their young and sometimes hide in the forest to make it harder for the wolves to isolate a single
calf. If the pups survive and grow bigger, they’ll leave their den in autumn and join the pack as the
hunting cycle continues. Turner concludes that the biggest challenge to the wolves is not the strength
of their leaders, but whether their ancient habitat will remain remote enough with the Alberta Oil Sands,
the world’s third largest crude oil reserve, directly upstream from Wood Buffalo National Park.
is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is
Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo
is a River Road Films Production in association with THIRTEEN and WNET.
Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast
industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.
The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won almost 700 honors from the television industry, the international
wildlife film communities, and environmental organizations, including 11 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first
award given to a television program by the Sierra Club. The series received two of the wildlife film industry’s
highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the
Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Recently, Nature’s executive
producer, Fred Kaufman, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Media by the 2012 International Wildlife
is the award-winning web companion to Nature featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews,
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Major corporate support for the original public television broadcast of this NATURE
program was provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc. Additional support was provided by the Arnhold Family in honor of
Clarisse Arnhold, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.
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