Documentaries are a powerful way to grasp our attention and teach us much about the world we live in. When it comes to mustelids, the photographs, sounds and captivating movements bring us closer to their world than we ever imagined possible. All of the documentaries listed below are full of knowledge, and aim to improve the way we perceive these misunderstood animals.
Unless they are uploaded to public video-sharing platforms, some of these documentaries are restricted to certain regions. We encourage companies to make their documentaries accessible internationally, so that others may have the chance to watch and learn more about mustelids. To help change society’s perspective about these animals, we must provide more than just regional education.
• Invasion of the Killer Mink by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 1992 | 30 minutes
Despite the misleading (and somewhat sensationalized) title of this documentary, the American mink did not “invade” Great Britain. During the 1920s and 1950s they were imported from North America for their fur.
When mink fur became popular in Great Britain, many American minks were imported and bred in fur farms all over the nation. Some escaped and colonised the island, and soon people were concerned about the survival of Britain’s native wildlife and safety of livestock. This documentary follows the lives of these invasive minks, and while it’s true they are good at killing things (as most carnivores are), it also shows their versatile nature and the female’s care for her young.
• Minnesota Mink by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1987 | 24 minutes
The American mink is most widely known as a status symbol when its skin is fashioned into luxury garments, but there’s much more to this animal than a fur coat. They are a fascinating member of the mustelid family — as graceful in water as an otter, as feisty on land as a wolverine, and as pungent under stress as a skunk. We follow a mother American mink as she hunts, mates and rears a family near lovely Lake Superior.
► American Badger
• Summer of the Badger by NBC’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV series | 1971 | 24 minutes
Set in the scenic country of the American west, this story follows two badger cubs from their birth in a prairie den.
► European Badger
• Badgers: Secrets of the Sett by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2008 | 48 minutes
For over a quarter of a million years badgers have lived in Great Britain. This documentary follows a year in the life of a family of badgers inhabiting a valley in Devon and shows their social life underground and the advantages of being an omnivore species.
• Der Dachs – das heimlichste Wildtier der Schweiz by SRF’s NETZ NATUR TV series | 2018 | 50 minutes
English: The Badger – the Most Secret Wild Animal in Switzerland
This is a documentary in Swiss German, and focuses on the European badger’s strengths and struggles in Switzerland. Finding out what these badgers do when they are out at night proves a bigger challenge.
► Honey Badger
• Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem by PBS’s Nature TV series | 2014 | 1 hour
“Honey badger is bad ass”. Those words and a corresponding video became a YouTube sensation with over 51 million hits. This relentless little creature is one of the most fearless animals in the world, renowned for its readiness to confront grown lions and terrify rhinos, and its ability to shrug off the toxic defenses of stinging bees, scorpions, and snakes. Little is known about its behaviour in the wild or why it is so aggressive. Badger specialists in South Africa take on these masters of mayhem in ways that must be seen to be believed. They set out to study them, to stymie them, to rescue them, or to keep them as pets, but in the end, it’s the honey badgers that always seem to come out on top because honey badgers never give up, never give in. As one of their admirers puts it, “The honey badger is so brave and so courageous and so determined that you can’t help but love them!”
• Fishers in the Family by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1985 | 1 hour
The slender, luxuriously-furred fisher is misnamed — it does not catch fish. Cat-sized members of the mustelid family, Fishers are rare, energetic and playful — but out of place in anyone’s home. This fun-loving story shows how an orphaned pair of these frisky predators were rescued by Marty Stouffer and adopted by his family. They grow up with Marty and Diane’s daughter Hannah.
• Forgotten but not Gone: The Pacific Fisher by Day’s Edge Productions | 2017 | 8 minutes
This film focuses on fishers living in the northwestern United States. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries their numbers declined due to fur trapping and habitat loss from logging. After restrictions of those activities were put in place, the species rebounded in many regions. However, on the west coast, isolated populations of the fisher continue to struggle due to poisons from illegal marijuana grows. Despite their declining numbers, the fisher has yet to receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
► American Marten
• Return of the Pine Martens by NBC’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV series | 1976 | 22 minutes
Captured in Canada and released in the Nicolet Forest of Wisconsin, the marten are observed and studied to insure their survival.
► European Pine Marten
• Pine Marten: Spirit of the Wood by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 1998 | 30 minutes
An insight into the life of the European pine marten—which is making a comeback—and slowly spreading south from its stronghold in northwest Scotland.
► Yellow-Throated Marten
• Зов тайги: Харза by ЗОВ ТАЙГИ | 2009 | 37 minutes
English: Call of the Taiga: Marten
Although this documentary is in Russian, very few words are spoken. It is meant to take the viewer on a silent journey in the world of a yellow-throated marten.
It’s difficult to tell how much of this documentary is genuine, since you never see both the marten and its supposed chased prey in the same shot, but it’s still worth a watch for the great rare footage.
► African Clawless Otter
• The Secret Creatures of Jao by Aquavision TV Productions | 2009 | 30 minutes
A mini-series consisting of 7 episodes featuring a number of animals living in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Southern Africa. It doesn’t offer much in terms of educational value, as the animals are given slightly human-like qualities through a staged narrative of heroes and villains. However, it deserves a place here for its mesmerizing visuals and footage of many species that are otherwise rarely-or never showcased on TV- or elsewhere for that matter all together in one place, and simply watching the animals move around makes up for what the narration fails to do most of the time. The two African clawless otters Kobe and Kima are a prime example of this, showing how their adaptations to hunting in murky water works, what they typically eat and how the changing environment affects them.
► Eurasian Otter
• On the Tracks of the Wild Otter by PBS’s Nature TV series | 1983 | Approx 1 hour
Wildlife filmmaker Hugh Miles manages to gain the trust of a female otter in Shetland and follows her around for a year to capture her lifecycle throughout all the seasons. He even films the otter raising her cubs until they are big enough to hunt for fish on their own.
• The Otter’s Trail by ORF | 1998 | 50 minutes
Regarded as facing extinction in the 80s, the Eurasian otter has benefited from undisturbed natural wetlands in the former Communist Bloc. This documentary shows how otters expanded their range, from eastern Europe’s nature reserves, back to pockets of Austria, where they had largely disappeared through hunting by fishermen and furtrappers in the past. It also shows how we benefit from otters thanks to their predation on invasive muskrats and voles.
• Springwatch Guide to Otters by BBC’s Springwatch TV series | 2012 | 1 hour
The Eurasian otter is one of the most charismatic animals of Great Britain. In this Springwatch special Martin Hughes-Games talks to some huge otterholics, such as the wildlife cameramen Simon King and Charlie Hamilton-James, who show us how to observe otters in the wild, and Chris Packham, who tells us about the characteristics that make otters such amazing predators.
• West Coast Otters by BBC | 2005 | 9 minutes
This short documentary is about an inseparable pair of otters, a mother and her cub who live on the west coast of Scotland, and follows their bond during the cub’s first winter. The daughter has already grown but is still very playful and has to learn to catch her own fish.
► Giant Otter
• Giant Otters: Wolves of the River by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 2001 | 30 minutes
The waters of the Amazon are inhabited by two large predators: the giant otter and the caiman. This documentary follows a family group of giant otters and shows their playful social nature and their often tense relationship with caimans.
• Mission: Giant Otters by Parthenon Entertainment ltd | 2004 | 50 minutes
Diane McTurk is famous for her successes with the rehabilitation of rescued orphaned giant otter pups. We follow her as she goes in search of an otter she hasn’t seen for a year.
► North American River Otter
• Otters of the Adirondacks by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1987 | 30 minutes
This documentary follows a family of North American river otters in the mountains of upstate New York.
• The Otters of Yellowstone by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 1997 | 55 minutes
The snowy landscape of Yellowstone National Park is full of geysers and hot springs and was considered a true wonderland by its early visitors. This documentary is about the life of its most charming inhabitants, the North American river otters. A mother otter raises her cubs, teaches them to fish and protects them against coyotes until they are big and strong enough to live on their own, so she can give birth to the next litter.
• Year of the Otter by NBC’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV series | 1969 | 24 minutes
In a small Wisconsin lake, two otters are born and are followed through the first year of their lives.
► Sea Otter
• Saving Otter 501 by PBS’s Nature TV series | 2013 | Approx 50 minutes
The staff of Monterey Bay Aquarium has taken care of abandoned sea otter cubs since 1984. Through years of experience they’ve developed a refined rehabilitation program for these animals. This documentary follows otter 501 from being a helpless baby to an adult otter ready for life in the wild.
• Spy in the Snow by BBC, John Downer Productions and PBS | 2018 | Approx 1 hour
Following the Spy in the Wild franchise, this TV movie entry focuses on animals that live in the coldest places on Earth. New technology using life-like animatronics with built-in cameras are able to capture wildlife at its most intimate and in ways that have never been captured before. One of the parts focuses on an otter mother teaching and protecting her cub.
• The Unsinkable Sea Otter by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau TV Series | 1971 | 48 minutes
Sea otters were almost hunted to extinction for their luxurious fur. Now being a protected species they still have to face danger from illegal shooting and oil spills. In this documentary the Cousteau crew capture a couple of sea otters and release them in a netted cove for observation. They also study wild otters in Monterey Bay and observe their courtship and mating, and win their trust by offering them food so they can study them up close.
• World of the Sea Otter by NBC’s Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV series | 1973 | 24 minutes
Marlin travels to the Pacific coast to observe some scientists conducting research on the sea otters.
• Supercharged Otters by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2017 | Approx 1 hour
This documentary reveals the survival secrets of otters and demonstrates why they are such super predators. Wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton James spent 25 years filming these elusive animals and always did his best to help otters in need.
In this documentary he follows three orphaned river otter cubs until their release back into the wild and shows us amazing slow motion recordings of an otter’s movements on land and in water. He shows incredible adaptations such as the extraordinarily dense fur of a sea otter and an otter’s ability to smell food under water.
► Black-Footed Ferret
• Ferret Town by Caldera Productions | 2017 | 30 minutes
The black-footed ferret is a species previously thought to be extinct from the great plains. This film digs into the complexity of endangered species management and presents one of the best conservation stories in the United States.
• Wanted Alive by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 1993 | 30 minutes
Black footed ferrets were thought to be extinct since the mid 70s when in 1981 a ferret was killed by a dog. This event, and the fact that they are vulnerable to canine distemper, led to a search for live black footed ferrets in order to save them from extinction. This documentary follows the breeding program and release back into the wild.
► European Polecat
• The Cat that Came in from the Cold by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 1991 | 1 hour
Despite its misleading title, this documentary has nothing to do with cats. It’s about a wild female European polecat living on a farm in Wales, and her story of survival while raising kits. This documentary also talks about other animals and their lives on or near the farm, such as sheep, foxes, birds and rats.
• Polecats: Masked Raiders by Ibex Films | 2011 | 1 hour
Only a hundred and fifty years ago, polecats were amongst the most common predators throughout the British Isles. At that time, they were familiar to country-dwellers as the ‘Masked Raiders’. By the end of World War I, these beautiful, enigmatic animals had been brought to the very brink of extinction. The causes of such a rapid decline in numbers makes for a classic tale of conflict between carnivores and people. This film tells the dramatic story of how these enigmatic animals survived.
• Stoats in the Priory by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 1996 | 30 minutes
In the summer of 1995 a family of stoats was discovered around Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire. In this documentary Sir David Attenborough shows us how these enchanting creatures hunt and play on and around the priory grounds.
• Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom by PBS’s Nature TV series | 2010 | Approx 1 hour
This is a film about the reputation and survival skills of the wolverine. Wildlife filmmaker Steve Kroschel has spent 25 years with wolverines, and in this documentary we see he has even shared his home with them. While caring for two orphaned wolverines, he brings to light both their strengths and vulnerabilities.
This documentary does an excellent job of describing the wolverine’s essence without the need of sensationalism.
• Wolverine Country by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1985 | 29 minutes
I’m here in northwest Montana, not far from the Bob Marshall Wilderness area. These mountains are the home of a legendary creature, the Wolverine. It’s been called a ravenous monster and a supernatural being. It’s been nicknamed “skunk bear,” because it smells like a skunk, looks like a bear, and has the short temper of both. The Eskimos called it “evil one,” and the white fur trappers hated it. But, can one animal really be all that bad? We’ve never really had the chance to find out. —Marty Stouffer
• Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest by CBC’s The Nature of Things TV series | 2016 | Approx 1 hour
Filmmaker Andrew Manske goes in search of the elusive wolverine. This is another great documentary that focuses on the wolverine’s struggles of survival, and (more sociable than previously thought) behaviour.
Contains Multiple Mustelids
• Weasels: Feisty and Fearless by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2019 | 1 hour
This is an amazing documentary shining a positive light on ferrets/polecats, the wolverine, honey badger and American marten. The main focus however, is Robert Fuller’s home in North Yorkshire, where he has created a sanctuary for stoats. Such areas on his property include “Stoat City” and “Weasel Town”, where wild stoats choose to live on their own accord. This documentary shows in great detail the life of a first-time mother stoat named Bandita on Mr. Fuller’s property, and the struggles she faces to safely raise her young. It also features an orphaned weasel (a least weasel, to be more specific) named Twiz, who was saved and raised by Mr. Fuller.