HEB wildlife films

A crew led by Ben Masters sets up wildkife cameras in South Texas. Masters has unveiled a new series of HEB wildlife films. Pam LeBlanc photo

A few years ago, I tugged on my boots and dove into the brush of a South Country ranch to look for ocelots with documentary wildlife filmmaker Ben Masters.

We didn’t see any of the elusive, spotted cats that day, but Masters captured a ton of video of the slinky animals. He used some of that footage for his feature-length film “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” More of it appears in his latest project, a series of five short wildlife documentaries created in collaboration with grocery chain HEB.

“(Before this project,” my relationship with HEB was like a love affair with butter tortillas and guacamole,” Masters told the audience gathered in a cool and dark Alamo Drafhouse to watch the films last week. He couldn’t understand at first why a grocery store would want to make wildlife movies. The answer? To promote the idea it cares about the environment.

Ben Masters HEB wildlife films

Documentary filmmaker Ben Masters crawls through the underbrush where ocelots have been seen in South Texas. Pam LeBlanc photo

The films detail the creation of the Texas State Parks system and tell the story of Texans working to preserve habitat for bats, black bears, ocelots, and redfish in our state.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’m partial to the one about black bears. The film explains the revival of bear populations in the Big Bend region and other places around Texas. It also chronicles how the Borderlands Institute at Sul Ross State University is working to collar bears and learn more about them.

(By the way, if you’re a bear fan like me, I recommend following @bigbendcountry on Instagram. The account shares clips of video taken from a wildlife camera set up on land near Sanderson and bears frequently steal the show.)

Where to watch the HEB wildlife films

You can watch HEB’s five films, created by independent filmmakers working with Masters, for free online at ourtexasourfuture.com. They’ll also be shown on the big screen at select Alamo Drafthouse locations Monday, Aug. 28.

HEB wildlife films

Ben Masters checks his camera on an East Foundation ranch in South Texas. Pam LeBlanc photo

“Batsies,” tells the story of two female biologists working to save bats that are inexplicably drawn to wind turbines. Acoustic deterrents work for some species but not others.

Read more: Watch Alaska’s grizzlies fatten up during Fat Bear Week

“If we can understand why, maybe we can do a better job of getting them out of that airspace,” says one of the biologists in the film.

“Redfish Revival” explains how a small group of anglers helped bring back the state’s population of redfish, which had dropped precipitously in the 1970s.

View the series trailer here.  




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