Documentaries

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 only hope these documentaries will someday be accessible internationally, so that others may have the chance to watch and learn more about mustelids. To help educate and change society’s perspective about these animals, we must provide more than just regional education.

Documentaries by Species

American Mink

Invasion of the Killer Mink by BBC’s Wildlife on One TV series | 1992 | 30 minutes

Despite the misleading (and somewhat sensationalistic) 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.

This documentary follows the life of the invasive American mink in Great Britain, and their effects on Britain’s native wildlife. 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

This documentary follows a mother American mink as she hunts, mates and rears a family near Lake Superior.

Badgers

► 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.

► Eurasian 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 Eurasian 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
Badger Quest: The Honey Hunters of Niassa by Begg Nature Productions | 2008 | Approx 1 hour

A husband and wife team, Keith and Colleen Begg set out for the remote regions of northern Mozambique to continue studying and filming a feisty little beast: the honey badger. See the relationships between the indigenous people and other honey hunters.

Honey Badger: Grit by Smithsonian Channel | 2017 | 46 minutes

On the harsh and unforgiving plains of central Namibia, Africa, a young honey badger named Grit has just left home to venture out in the great, wide world, but it won’t be easy. Fewer than half of all young honey badgers survive their first few weeks on their own, as they deal with intense heat, starvation, and round-the-clock threats from the many predators of the savanna.

Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem by PBS’s Nature TV series | 2014 | 1 hour

This documentary takes us to the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa to learn about the honey badger. A young rescued honey badger named Stoffel is the main focus, and he’s quite the escape artist! Stoffel’s incredible escape antics have made him the discussion of the species’ intelligence.

Fisher

Fishers in the Family by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1985 | 1 hour

Marty Stouffer and his family adopt a pair of orphaned fishers, and attempt to rise and teach them how to survive in the wild as their mother would have.

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.

Martens

► American Marten
Meet the Marten by Marty Stouffer/PBS’s Wild America TV series | 1991 | 30 minutes

This documentary follows young American marten from early spring into winter, to see how this elusive member of the Mustelid family earns the right to survive.

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.

Otters

► 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.

► Asian Small-Clawed Otter
Pet Otters: The Truth Behind the Latest Wildlife Craze by World Animal Protection | 2019 | Approx 20 minutes

Japanese otter cafes and social media influences are driving increased demand for pet otters all over the world, with devastating consequences.

► 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.

• On the Trail of Tarka by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2006 | 49 minutes

A look at Henry Williamson’s most famous book ‘Tarka the Otter’. The film follows the fortunes of an otter living on the River Torridge in north Devon 80 years after the book was written.

Otters in the Stream of Life by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2000 | 50 minutes

This film follows a family of otters living on the west coast of Scotland. They use their intelligence and experience to adapt to life in the sea.

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.

Raising Sancho by BBC’s Natural World TV series | 2008 | Approx 50 minutes

Rescued by local fishermen as a baby and raised by giant otter expert Carolina Vargas, this is the story of a young giant otter’s journey to adulthood. At first, Sancho is utterly dependent on Carolina, and has to be bottle fed and taught how to catch fish. Eventually Carolina knows that she will have to break their extraordinary bond as Sancho makes his way back into the wild. Giant otters are highly social animals, so Carolina doesn’t know whether an orphaned giant otter can survive alone in the world’s biggest wetland. In the idyllic Pantanal, we follow Sancho’s story as he learns to survive in a world fraught with danger.

► 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.

► Contains Multiple Otter Species

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.

Polecats

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 Mink
Sauvons le vison d’Europe by FIFO Distribution | 2018 | 52 minutes

English: Let’s Save the European Mink

The European mink is facing the threat of extinction. Very little is known about this species and they deserve more attention. They are among a range of biodiversity that is disappearing from the spotlight. Discovering the field work of professionals committed to the protection of the species, scientific and ethical questions and philosophical reflections articulate this documentary. How can we coexist with the wild, respect its habitat and think about conservation work? What means must be used to protect a species in danger of extinction? What environmental and moral necessity lies behind these missions?

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.

Weasels

► Stoat
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

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

This documentary follows the wolverine in the mountains of northwest Montana.

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 wolverinehoney 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.

The North American version of this documentary is titled NATURE: The Mighty Weasel, by PBS’s Nature TV series.


Documentaries | Feature & Short Films

Mustelids in Media