A bear walks through the Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies and is ensnared in a trap where she is tranquilized, tagged, and collared with a GPS device. She has now become Bear 71, and joins a group of wired wildlife who document the interactions between nature and their increasingly encroaching human neighbors. Bear 71 is a new interactive project produced by the National Film Board of Canada’s digital studio, and includes an interactive web documentary site, a social media microsite, and a live installation piece that launched in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival.
The main part of the project consists of an interactive web documentary created by NFB’s Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison, which introduces viewers to Bear 71 and then drops them into an interactive map of the Park, where they encounter other wired creatures that live in Bear 71’s home range: golden eagles, Big Horn sheep, wolves, and deer mice, all similarly tagged and under surveillance. The animals’ movements can be seen as they move about the park, and clicking on their markers reveals a video feed and information about the animal. Viewers can click on their own marker as well, which launches a group of surveillance feeds including their own (the site requests access to the viewer’s webcam and microphone, which can be denied) and any other viewers who happen to be browsing the site at the same time, tagged and tracked like the animals. Landmarks such as the freeway and railroad that run through the park can be seen, cars and trains moving on them as the animal’s markers cross back and forth, highlighting one of the project’s main points: when technology and the wild intersect, it is often to the detriment of the wildlife. There are also video feeds and observation points marked on the map, showing actual pictures and videos from their real-life counterparts in the Park.