Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

NATURE: American Arctic

Musk ox mother and calf. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Courtesy of Florian Schulz / © Tom Campion Foundation/Terra Mater Factual Studios
Musk ox mother and calf. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2 / Stream now with KPBS Passport + Encore Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m on KPBS 2.

Vast, wild and remote, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is where some of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles unfold. Situated in the northeast corner of Alaska, this refuge has long protected survivors of the Ice Age that still roam a frozen wilderness.

Preview of NATURE: American Arctic

The Porcupine caribou herd traverses all of it on the longest land-animal migration on Earth, witnessing extraordinary wildlife moments along the way. Now, this icy fortress is melting due to climate change. For the caribou, musk oxen, polar bears and Arctic foxes, the Ice Age is slipping away. NATURE takes you to the "American Arctic."


Featured Creatures:

  • Porcupine caribou
  • Musk ox
  • Golden eagle
  • Wolf
  • Snow goose
  • Golden plover
  • Arctic fox
  • Polar bear
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Red fox
  • Jaeger (bird)
  • Dall sheep
Newborn Muskox's First Day

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • A newborn musk ox learns how to survive with the help of its mother. Musk oxen were hunted to extinction in Alaska by 1860 but were reintroduced in the 1930s. There are now a few thousand in the state.
  • A polar bear mother and her cubs search for scraps during a too-hot summer. In the Southern Beaufort Sea, there are only about half as many polar bears as there were 35 years ago. North Alaska has the largest oil field in America, and its effects can be seen in the changing landscape and climate.
  • The caribou migration is a veritable feast for grizzly bears — if the bears can catch them. Grizzlies hunt all the way to the Arctic Ocean in the summer, but caribou are faster than bears on the open plain.
Polar Bears Search for Scraps in Changing Climate

Noteworthy Facts:

  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge supports a greater variety of plant and animal life than any other protected area in the Arctic Circle.
  • Each year, around 160,000 caribou make the journey from their wintering grounds around the Yukon to their calving grounds in the ANWR. A round trip of 1,000 miles, it is one of the longest land-animal migrations on the planet, rivaling the wildebeest migration on the Serengeti.
  • Arctic foxes live in tunnels in the layer above the permafrost. In winter, they sport snowy white coats, which then turn brown in the summer.
Grizzly Bear Hunts Caribou Herd

Watch On Your Schedule:

This episode is now on demand with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.



A production of The WNET Group, Terra Mater Factual Studios GmbH and Doclights/NDR. The documentary is written and produced by Martin Mészáros. Filmed by Florian Schulz and narrated by Campbell Scott. Sabine Holzer and Walter Köhler are executive producers for Terra Mater Factual Studios. NATURE is a production of The WNET Group. Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Bill Murphy is series producer and Janet Hess is series editor.