Sled Dogs Protect Filmmakers from Polar Bears
By: Jason Robey
The team who created Frozen Planet — the upcoming Discovery Channel/BBC series from the makers of Planet Earth — learned that if one is to travel through polar bear territory, it’s best to bring along dogs. Lots of dogs.
To film several of the Arctic scenes from the series, Frozen Planet filmmakers worked alongside 38 native sled dogs. The dogs (huskies) became trusted companions, helping the film crew transport gear through some of the planet’s most inhospitable locales, as well as providing round-the-clock protection against polar bear attacks.
“Inuit have long known that polar bears and dogs do not get on, and utilize their huskies as polar bear deterrents,” said Vanessa Berlowitz, series producer for Frozen Planet.
The photo of Berlowitz with the black dog is from a polar bear shoot in Svalbard, Norway. This dog pulled the crew during a dangerous sea ice shoot. Said Berlowitz, “The photo was taken at a cabin where we were based, while filming mothers and polar bears. I was five months pregnant in this photo.”
“I watched an unbelievable encounter where a polar bear went up on his back legs and looked like he was going to pounce on Bollom,” recalled Berlowitz. “Bollom then got on HIS back legs, barked right in the polar bear’s face, and the bear cowered and ran away!”
Bollom and Berlowitz were inseparable that summer.
“Bollom became not only my guardian, but my friend. While filming in the Canadian Arctic, he followed me wherever I went. He instinctively seemed to sense when I was getting ready to go somewhere and would be waiting by the door of the cabin, ready to accompany me. Once, he successfully drove an aggressive male polar bear away from our cabin.”
The huskies impressed the entire film crew. Said Berlowitz, “Huskies are really tough; they will sleep outdoors even in the coldest Inuit settlements because they overheat inside. They have some of the thickest fur of any mammal and can withstand really low temperatures.”Frozen Planet — a seven-part series from the makers of Planet Earth and co-producers of Life.