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Press Releases

Test Area North Announces “Bears of Durango” Official Premiere at the 2018 International Wildlife Film Festival

Documentary film follows wildlife researchers headfirst into bear dens through the lens of a six-year wildlife study

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MISSOULA, MONT. — April 10, 2018  

Bears of Durango
\”Bears of Durango\”

Test Area North Productions is thrilled to announce the official premiere of “Bears of Durango”. The film will premiere at the 41st annual International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) on Sunday, April 15th at 3:30pm.

In 2011 Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) initiated one of the most comprehensive research projects to date, examining factors associated with increases in human-black bear conflicts. A team of wildlife researchers led by Heather Johnson PhD, a doctoral graduate of the University of Montana Fish & Wildlife Biology program, spent six years investigating the effects of expanding human development on bear populations.

Dusty Hulet, a filmmaker based in Salt Lake City, began documenting the CPW study in March 2015 with plans to film for a few days as part of a short film about wildlife researchers in the West. Instead he spent three years following Heather and her team, and tells the story of the “Bears of Durango” in this feature-length documentary.

Hulet and his team document winter den visits with bear cubs, summer trapping efforts and studies ranging from bear-proof garbage receptacle usage to natural bear food abundance. 15-percent of the documentary is comprised of home videos submitted by Durango residents. “We got some pretty wild submissions,” said Hulet. “This content takes the film to the next level, and illustrates just how prevalent an issue this is for communities bordering bear habitat.”

The Durango study dispelled myths about bear behavior, while uncovering an alarming decline in the black bear population. Human-bear conflicts are on the rise, especially in areas with growing human populations like Durango, Missoula and other communities expanding into the wildland interface. The film provides a well-timed look into the importance of studying and understanding how human actions influence the environment.

Following the IWFF premiere, “Bears of Durango” will spend the rest of the year on the festival circuit. The film team will eventually create a shortened version of the film, which will be rolled out as an educational resource.

In addition to the filmmakers, there will be a discussion and Q&A with Heather Johnson following the IWFF screening. For more information, please visit To purchase tickets or to learn more about IWFF, visit

About IWFF

The IWFF is an annual wildlife and conservation themed film festival held each April in scenic Missoula, Montana. Founded in 1977 at the University of Montana, the vision of the IWFF is to foster an engaged, enlightened community that finds itself through cinema, and helps the planet to heal.

About Bears of Durango

In 2011, Colorado Parks and Wildlife initiated a major research effort to address increases in human and black bear conflicts. Led by Dr. Heather Johnson, a team of wildlife researchers spent the past six years investigating the factors driving the increases in conflicts in the Durango area and the effects of expanding human development on bear populations.

About Test Area North

Producer/Director Dusty Hulet has worked around the world telling stories about important issues, large and small. His work has been featured on PBS, and commissioned by organizations ranging from Tesla to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. He studied business management and film at Brigham Young University, and has since served as a creative director for multiple startups, ad agencies, and production houses. Visit for more information.

About Heather Johnson

Dr. Heather Johnson worked as a Mammals Researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife from 2010 to 2017. Prior to coming to Colorado she served as a post-doctoral scholar with the USGS Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit at the University of Montana, and as a research biologist for California Department of Fish and Game. Heather is currently a Research Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. Heather’s research has focused on large mammal population ecology, resource selection, genetics, predator-prey relationships, animal behavior, and human-wildlife conflicts. Heather has a PhD in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana, a M.S. in Wildlife Science from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. in Ecology from the University of California, San Diego.


Theresa Blake Graven