Wild West: High Country—Introduction (01:30)
In the far west of America lies a legendary land that was home to Native American civilizations, cowboys, the gold rush and countless natural wonders. Over millions of years, powerful forces have forged some of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth.
Rugged Frontier (05:18)
The high country of the west is a land of extremes where winters are long and hard, and summers brief but plentiful; it is in lock down for six months of the year. Coyotes prey on the victims of winter. See footage of kayakers on the Oh-be-joyful creek.
Springtime Awakening (02:39)
Over the vast territory, bordered on either side by the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies, the sun wakes residents from their winter slumber. Marmots spend up to 8 months asleep in their burrows. Grizzly bears emerge from hibernation to seek food and pack on weight.
World's Biggest Trees (04:06)
Giant Sequoias are the largest trees on Earth. The trees' horizontal root system provides nutrients to the parasitic snow plant, which in turn provides food for resident hummingbirds. Hummingbirds fight over access to the plant nectar.
Yosemite Valley (06:30)
During the last ice age, glaciers carved out the spectacular peaks and ridges in Yosemite National Park. A few weeks into spring and much of the high country is green and lush. The human residents drive cattle into the hills for grazing.
Yellowstone Lakes (02:41)
Cutthroat trout spend the winter in the lakes of Yellowstone and then head into the streams to spawn when spring arrives. A river otter crashes the spawning area to hunt trout. With the otter occupied by a fresh kill, the trout flee to deeper waters.
Alpine Meadows (03:54)
The summer sun brings blooms to the high country flowers, drawing many species to feed. Mountain goats come down from the peaks to graze, braving predators. Grizzly bears climb up into mountain goat territory to eat army cutworm moths.
Bristlecone Pines and Pikas (04:17)
The Sierra Nevada range is the backbone of California and the high ridges are home to the oldest living organisms on Earth. Pikas inhabit the debris of a mining ghost town and race the sun to gather haystacks for their winter hibernation.
Making Hay (02:51)
In Montana's Big Hole Valley, ranchers spend their days gathering hay at the Hershey Ranch. Heidi Hershey speaks about the haying season. The Hersheys use homemade equipment to construct huge hay piles from the harvest.
Mating Season (03:24)
High up in the Rockies thousands of bison congregate for "the rut." Bulls compete for mating rights in brutal headbutting competitions.
Sugar Pine Cones (03:57)
Late in the summer, birds, rodents and scientists compete to gather sugar pine cones. The birds and squirrels are after the rich sap and seeds found in the cones, but forester John Pickett gathers cones to replant the seeds in areas where the pines are being killed by an invasive species of fungus. A Steller's jay stalks a squirrel hoping to find and pillage its seed stash.
Winter is Coming (05:11)
As the days shorten, Aspens divert energy into creating a sugary anti-freeze to survive the winter. A grizzly bear feeds on acorns in a grove that has been heavily harvested by acorn woodpeckers. A larger grizzly arrives to compete for the acorns.
Winter arrives with a heavy snowfall from a storm, sealing the valleys under snow for the next six months. Hershey ranchers feed their herd with the hay they gathered in the summer. Residents of the high country turn to hibernation, predation or adaptation to survive the harsh winter.
Credits: The High Country (00:37)
Credits: The High Country
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