Musk ox mother and calf. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Nature “American Arctic”

Premiering Wednesday, April 13 at 7 p.m.

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. 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.

Moments to watch for:

  • 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.

Did you know:

  • 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.
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