For wildlife filmmakers Kelsey Eliasson and Karine Genest, bears are symbols of the wild – an embodiment of the ideals of natural existence and freedom. The duo have spent countless hours exploring the backlands of Canada or traversing the frozen wilds of Alaska in search of grizzly, polar and black bears. Getting to know these apex predators and earning their trust has allowed Eliasson and Genest unique access to the secret lives of bears and they have watched, through their lenses, as individuals have revealed their distinctive personalities and characteristics.

“When they identify that you aren’t a threat they can give you that glimpse of what nature really is,” says Eliasson in a behind-the-scenes clip from Bears: Ultimate Survivors. The film introduces viewers to the charismatic bears of Canada and Alaska as the predators learn to adapt and survive in a world of climate change and human encroachment. In the snippets below Eliasson and Genest explain why they were drawn to bears in the first place and what these animals mean to them:

Watch the rest of the series here, or learn more about Bears: Ultimate Survivors