Nature: The Mighty Weasel

Air date: 02/19/2020

Nature: The Mighty Weasel

Premieres Wednesday, February 19 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app

Synopsis:
Discover the truth about the infamous weasel family, often portrayed as villains and associated with unsavory behavior. We “badger” people, “ferret” out the enemy and “weasel” out of things. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? To find out, follow the adventures of first-time weasel mom Bandita, raising her kits in a unique garden, and meet tiny but mighty orphan weasel Twiz on her journey back to the wild. New, ground-breaking science uncovers the problem-solving abilities of the honey badger, the secrets behind the ferret’s legendary flexibility and the wolverine’s remarkable sense of smell. Step into the world of weasels as Nature reveals their real lives. Narrated by Ana Gasteyer.

Featured Creatures:

  • Stoats
  • Honey badgers
  • Weasels
  • Wolverines
  • Ferrets
  • Least weasels

Noteworthy Facts:

  • The weasel family, also known as mustelids, is one of the most varied animal groups in the world, with about 60 different species found from the Arctic to the tropics.
  • Wolverines are the largest of all land mustelids. Found across the Arctic, wolverines are built to survive in the cold. Their fur is thick and frost-proof and their large padded feet act as snowshoes when traveling up to 20 miles a day across the ice. A wolverine’s supersensitive nose is most crucial to surviving these extreme environments, as it allows them to sniff out prey from deep under the snow.
  • Ferrets have a unique body shape that allow them to spend 90 percent of their time underground. They have an extreme flexibility in their spine due to a unique set of back vertebrae that allows them to make their body 30 percent longer when stretched out. Ferrets’ shorter-than-average limbs allow them to move quickly even when stretched under a tunnel.
  • At only six inches long, the Least weasel is the smallest carnivore on earth. They also have the strongest bite, pound for pound, of any mammal.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Nearly a million stoats and weasels live in the British countryside. One stoat enthusiast, wildlife artist and photographer Robert Fuller, transformed his country garden into Stoat City, filled with tunnels, nests, secret chambers and around 50 hidden cameras. One stoat mom named Bandita comes to live in Stoat City to raise her kits. Bandita utilizes the space to protect and play with her kits, gather food and fight against predators like owls over turf.
  • Robert Fuller also created an oasis for the stoat’s smaller cousin, the weasel. Called Weasel Town, it’s a miniature version of Stoat City since weasels are much smaller. Fuller spotted a baby weasel lost during a nest move. Rescued by Fuller and named Twiz, she is nursed to health and raised by Fuller until she is ready to live in Weasel Town.
  • Honey badgers are known for their brawn, but they also have surprisingly large brains for their size. On the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, researchers use puzzles to test honey badgers’ problem-solving skills, including a challenge to determine if they possess the ability to use tools. They pass each test with flying colors, proving that honey badgers are among the top innovators in the animal kingdom.

Long TV Listing:
Discover the truth about the infamous weasel, often associated with unsavory behavior. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? Follow the adventures of a first-time weasel mom, fearless honey badger and a tiny orphan weasel.

Short TV Listing:
Discover the truth about the infamous weasel family. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation?

Running Time: 60 minutes

Series Overview:
Now in its 38th season on PBS, Nature is a voice for the natural world, bringing the wonders of wildlife and stories of conservation to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. Nature’s award-winning website, pbs.org/nature, features full episodes, short films, behind-the-scenes content, nature articles, educational resources and more. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details).

Production Credits:
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor. The Mighty Weasel is a co-production of BBC STUDIOS and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC in association with WNET. The documentary is produced and directed by Hannah Ward. Ana Gasteyer narrates.

Underwriters:
Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Fairweather Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, Charles Rosenblum, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, Doris R. and Robert J. Thomas, the Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by public television viewers.

Websites:
pbs.org/nature
facebook.com/PBSNature
twitter.com/PBSNature
instagram.com/pbsnature
youtube.com/naturepbs
#NaturePBS

About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

 

# # #

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of NATURE, no other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.

In the wild, ferrets spend up to 90 percent of their time underground. Credit: © Clare Jones/BBC

Stoats are easily distinguishable from weasels by their characteristic black-tipped tail. They can climb, swim and even jump vast distances for such a small animal. Credit: © Robert E Fuller/BBC

Found across the tundra and remote boreal forests, wolverines are tough animals built for the cold. Individuals have been known to travel up to 20 miles in a day. Credit: © Karel Bartik/Shutterstock

Pine Martens are an arboreal member of the mustelid family and are excellent climbers. They have semi-retractable claws and hunt food both on the ground and in the trees. Credit: © Paul J Hartley/Shutterstock

Stoats are one of the most elusive animals on the planet, and although nearly one million stoats and weasels live in the British countryside, most people have never seen more than a glimpse of one. Credit: © Robert E Fuller/BBC

A young male stoat kit named Snap in wildlife artist Robert Fuller’s “Stoat City.” Snap was one of Bandita’s three kits and grew up alongside siblings Crackle and Pop. Credit: © Robert E Fuller/BBC

When Twiz was first rescued, she came into Robert Fuller’s care weighing just half an ounce. A weasel has to eat half their body weight every day, so she quickly grew and doubled her weight in just one week. Credit: © Hannah Ward/BBC

Orphaned weasel Twiz at five weeks old. Without a mother, Robert Fuller had to teach her the skills she needs for the wild. To teach Twiz how to hunt prey, he uses little stuffed toys as substitute prey items to help her learn to pounce. Credit: © Hannah Ward/BBC

One of the honey badgers called Stompie who resides at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa. Credit: © Clare Jones/BBC

Wolverines are the largest land mustelid and their sense of smell is incredible - they can smell prey buried deep under the snow. Credit: © Clare Jones/BBC