Case Number 20993: Small Claims Court


PBS // 2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // March 27th, 2011

The Charge

"What I really want to do is just be a wolverine. I want to go where I want to go, do what I want to do, bite who I want to bite, and climb what I want to climb." -- Doug Chadwick, author of The Wolverine Way

The Case

As far back as I can remember, I've been terrified of wolverines. Not that I, or anyone I know, was ever mauled by a wolverine. In fact, I've never even seen one in my entire life. My fear of wolverines is entirely based on their reputation as ferocious, absolutely fearless carnivores that cause even grizzly bears to tremble in their paws. In my imagination, they're like the Tasmanian Devil from the cartoons, except smart. In other words, the Keyser Soze of the animal kingdom.

In reality, wolverines aren't quite the marauding demons of my childhood nightmares, but they are pretty formidable. Looking like a cross between a bear, a raccoon, and a dog, and equipped with dense, waterproof fur and long, sharp claws, they thrive in frigid environments, weathering the coldest temperatures. With their powerful limbs, they're able to run from level ground to steep, ice-coated mountain slopes without breaking stride. They can smell animal carcasses buried in the snow up to 20 feet, and have been known to singlehandedly (singlepawedly?) take down a moose. No one comes away from an encounter with a wolverine without a sense of awe.

In the PBS program Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom, part of its Nature series, we get a comprehensive introduction to these surprisingly complex animals, and to the people who have devoted their lives to studying them. Wolverines, we find, are not that easy to study; they're fairly rare -- there are fewer than 500 in the entire Lower 48 -- and favor harsh climates and terrain that are difficult to reach and traverse. Most of the study is done using radio transmitter tags and remote cameras, and individual wolverines can usually only be identified through DNA samples.

One of the things I enjoy about Nature programs is that they don't merely show us the animals, but also tell the stories of the researchers and photographers behind the camera. Seeing how much these people go through in order to catch the merest glimpse of a wolverine, and how totally dedicated they are to the study and preservation of these creatures, we get a sense of how special these animals are. We see Steve Kroschel, a wildlife filmmaker, raise a pair of wolverines from birth after the death of their mother, bottle-feeding and cleaning them every four hours for many sleepless days. It would take a hard heart indeed not to be moved by the sight of these scampering, tireless balls of fur playing with their adopted dad. The last thing I expected from a documentary about wolverines was to be reeling in stunned amazement at their cuteness, but there you go.

The DVD of Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom is, as typical for Nature discs: a fairly bare-bones release with options for English subtitles or descriptive audio (also in English). Video and audio quality are both very good, with a clear, vivid picture and clean sound.

The Verdict

After seeing Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom, the court finds wolverines so incredibly cute, it would be worth having my face clawed off just to hug one of them. Totes adorbs! Er, not guilty.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: PBS
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Official Site