Radioactive Wolves
Full Episode

What happens to nature after a nuclear accident? And how does wildlife deal with the world it inherits after human inhabitants have fled? The historic nuclear accident at Chernobyl is now 25 years old. Filmmakers and scientists set out to document the lives of the packs of wolves and other wildlife thriving in the “dead zone” that still surrounds the remains of the reactor. Buy the DVD. This film premiered on October 19, 2011. (Video limited to U.S. & Territories.)

  • Rachel

    This was such an amazingly cool program. It made me feel hopeful in the face of nothing but bleak environmental news. I want to watch it again and recommend it to everyone I know.
    Thank you!

  • John Merritt

    Amazing program: great work! So many fascinating, important issues raised — and I can’t get the haunting images out of my mind.

  • Harvey Reading

    What utter, pro-nuke propaganda. Let’s see, now, twice the birth defect rate, though we’re supposed to think that’s OK since both rates are in the single digits. No mention that I recall (hard to watch such unabashed brainwashing) of longevity of populations in the dead zone compared to populations in clean environments. Comparing the “long-term” effects on relatively short-lived, and short-lived, animal populations with humans is simply not acceptable science.

    Just one more reason I despise the National Propaganda Network.

  • Skye

    I missed this..will it air again..if so – when??

  • Janus D

    For those of us in N. Texas, the program will air again on Sunday 10/23 at 7 pm.

  • bob

    so is this a one time thing? not a series?

  • BrucieB

    Hey…PBS stuck to science. Applause!
    Numerous science based studies have shown there’s no appreciable effects as bad Gene allele no different than a non-rad hot area. The plain fact is aggressive human activity tends to suppress wildlife NOT radiation. Now most wildlife advocates support wildlife reserves around nuclear power plants. Because Nuke advocates promote a REAL fair balance between nature and humans.

  • Lena C.

    In response to Harvey R. rant: If you dispise NPR why are you watching it?

  • John Hentges

    Nuke Harvey Reading !

  • Sue T.

    I missed the show on wednesday, Oct 19th. is it going to be aired again? (Toronto area)

  • Ed M

    The law of unintended consequences. It works both ways.

  • Robin L

    Great program, but…. those are not peregrine falcons; they’re Saker falcons.

  • Dr. Bordo

    I thought the animal and plant life recovery was fascinating. As someone mentioned above…a lot of important issues were raised by this episode. I thoroughly enjoyed the program. Keep up the good work!

  • Gary

    When will this be rebroadcast in Denver ?

  • Carl B.

    @ Harvey….I guess this just goes to show Harvey, that there are a lot of people like you who choose to see the glass half, or three quarters empty. I saw this as a learning opportunity. Why are you watching PBS????? Certainly not for education….

  • noflash

    Why pbs still required flash to play?

  • Pam Herbert

    My son just returned from spending a week in the Ukraine. He toured Chernobyl…even fed the catfish and saw the wild horses. This episode was right on from he saw and experienced. It really let me share the experience vicariously. Thank you “Nature” for such a wonderful, thought-provoking episode.

  • Kat McGill

    This is the BEST show on TV I’ve seen in years! FASCINATING.

    If I wasn’t already pro-nuclear energy before I would be more so now. This is critical info. If we destroy our world with our technology and self-serving greed then shame on us. But nice to know the planet and wildlife – and the way we were given this world to begin with – will survive.

  • A. Name

    Beautiful. Just as I remembered it. I worked for a few days in the zone and I was totally blown away by the richness and diversity of the life in the area. The frogs, and the hoopoes, the cuckoos, the wild pigs and the moose and the flowers and butterflies and… mosquitoes! When I came home to my socalled “healthy” and “unpolluted” home, I wandered around the forest just to compare and I found that my home is a sterile desert compared to the zone. It is indeed a strange feeling to know that the presence of humans are more detrimental to nature than the radioactivity from Chernobyl NPP. Choosing between me, you and Plutonium, nature would be better off with Plutonium than either of us.

  • A. Supporter

    Totally agree with A.Name. People are too filled with self righteousness and self importance. With 8 Billion on the earth and growing there is little hope for the rest of the species. Would be nice to get some serious decline in populations of Humans to set things back in balance. Hardly a master race more a screwed up concept of civillization. Thankyou PBS.

  • George

    Hey Harvey, set your anti nuke power feelings aside and learn something. Having spent a few weeks on Bikini and Rongelap Atolls the recovery rate of nature is amazing. The bright side of Chernobyl is certainly a thriving wildlife reserve and ecosystem….whether it fits into the anti nuke stereotypical thinking or not.

  • Larry J.

    I volunteer at the Endangered Wolf Center at St. Louis, MO, USA. One of my jobs is to tell people how important the top predator’s role is in an ecology. This video will help in the educational aspect of my job. Thanks, PBS, and keep up the good work.

  • Bill Fernandez

    Some publishers that wanted to publish my books only accept and pay with paypal. I tired to open paypal account as a Niegria but met the hurdle of rejections. Please, what can I do?

  • Eliane

    Not available in Brazil? I try it almost every week and every time it says: We are experiencing technical difficulties that are preventing…

  • Maude Post

    First of all, John Hetges’ comment about Harvey Reading is so predictable in the current aggressive climate created by certain other media outlets (aside from PBS). You should be ashamed of such a response. If that kind of nasty remark is all you can say regarding Harvey’s legitimate concerns about what is presented as a “miracle” in this program, you are missing the forest for the trees.

    This show was so full of holes in terms of scientific inquiry and biased in terms of its message, it was laughable. As it was being explained that the so-called scientists were wearing masks to prevent breathing in radioactive hair from the animals they were examining, I was watching them getting this hair all over their clothing – which was unprotected from contact with the radioactive animals! HA!

    The reality is that the power plant at Chernobyl is a mess. The concrete sarcophagus covering the plant is now 27 years old, and it is already in need of a lot of repair. It is cracked. Water is leaking into it, which will further erode the concrete as it freezes and thaws. Who is going to volunteer to go in there to repair this mess as it continues to disintegrate and release increasing levels of radioactivity into the environment? Perhaps Mr. Hetges would like to be the first to go in.

    It is interesting to me that there are so many clean forms of energy that we could be spending our limited resources to develop, but we would rather spend incredible sums of money to develop another generation of nuclear power plants for which there is still no clear solution for storing the waste material produced. Perhaps Mr. Hetges would like to store it forever in HIS backyard. The government subsidies required to develop nuclear power are astronomical. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend this money to develop clean forms of energy like solar, wind, and geothermal?

    It is absurd to believe that nuclear power is the answer to our future energy needs. If we haven’t learned anything from what happened in Japan this year and from Chernobyl, we are in very bad shape as a species.

  • Nuke

    Maude, I must say that I respectfully disagree with you. Perhaps you are the one missing the forest for the trees. You seem to be filled with such animosity towards the matter that you are unwilling to see the potential in Nuclear power. It also seems as though you are basing your opinion on what you have learned from the media.

    At this moment, Nuclear Power is the most viable, dependable form of energy with the least deleterious effects on the environment. While I agree there have been accidents as you mentioned (Japan, Chernoble, TMI, etc) that does not mean you should abandon the technology. You have to realize these are very dated reactors and the newest reactors have greatly improved on many of their faults. The chance of failure is minimal and the newest reactors can even shut themselves down in a loss of coolant failure, without the assistance of an operator.

    As far as solar or wind forms of energy, I certainly welcome and encourage that money be put into the technology to study it further, but as for now its simply not reliable enough to power a country. The amount of power created from a wind farm is pale in comparison to a reactor. Furthermore the amount of land that is needed to create these wind farms causes much more harm to the ecosystems.

    As for now, I would much rather rely on Nuclear Power supplemented by wind/solar…oh and Im not afraid to have a reactor in my backyard. :) Then again, Im the enemy- a nuclear engineer.

  • Joel Carlinsky

    That at least SOME species of wildlife can do well in an area contaminated with radioactivity, at least for a time, is of course, not evidence that ALL species will do well in such an area on a much longer time scale. The worst single factor in destabilizing ecosystems is the presence of a human population. Remove that and the ecosystem will start to recover. But if that ecosystem is contaminated with radioactivity, the recovery will be slower and some species, more sensitive to radiation than others, will not be included in the recovery.

    That the area around Chernobyl is doing as well as it is is heartening, but it would probably be doing a lot better if the region had been abandoned for some other reason and was not contaminated by radioactivity. The recovery of a few highly visible species is not all that matters. It would be good to do a full inventory of the biodiversity of the area and compare that to the biodiversity of other areas where humans have departed because of wars, epidemics, political or economic reasons, and other factors that do not involve radioactivity.

    The long-term ecological impact of radioactive contamination by an incident like the one at Chernobyl is far more than can be discovered by merely examining the local populations of a few species of mammals. For example, besides the direct biological effects on individual organisms, there are long-range meteorological effects that can have results in distant parts of the world, not only near the reactor. I have written extensively on this topic on my blog, and suggest anyone really interested should take a look at some of the articles posted there.

    Joel Carlinsky

  • MadOne

    Sceptical about the effects of radiation from fallout??

    Go here ( a reasonably respetable source)

  • MadOne

    Also here (make sure you click the link for “Continue to next page” to get the full story).

  • Jonathon Noha

    i thought this was very informative and cool. it makes me feel a little edgy to find out that humans are so obstructive that it is more preferable for animals to populate in radioactive zone but oh well

  • Arthur Killings

    Pretty amazing that animals and nature came back from the brink after humans left the radioactive. Thank you for showin us this PBS.

  • wolfy51868

    no you dont understand the reason they tell us every thing is all right with the wolves is so we dont get pissed of they like to hide the truth after all there just animals they can kill them if they want it dont hurt them so why should they care what happens to wild life , what they dont understand is if the wild life goes we go if our enviroment dies we die .

  • sofie
  • Sofie
  • Claire

    This was sort of a sad program. It’s a shame that all those people had to leave their homes and farms and have to make a brand new life for themselves in a strange place. Still, I am glad that there is a safe place for our wildlife to flourish, which is also important. I hope that those people were able to get safe homes and good jobs. Thanks again, PBS.

  • Misala

    Maude Post & Harvey Reading,

    Thank you Maude & Harvey, and I AGREE. Now I’ll have to watch it, in memory of our own money pit,…Marble Hill.
    Sell your big screen TV people, buy a solar panel ( …and I do not mean those ridiculous solar path lights that result in our precious silicone ending up in a landfill).

  • Nameless

    Pretty sure all of you Pro-Rad commenters are missing the main idea of this whole episode.

  • Kathie

    A fascinating program, but one that studiously avoided the obvious question of how native animal populations are thriving in an area poisoned by radiation levels that would kill human beings. Needs a sequel.

  • Bill

    Those giant catfish are coldblooded; are coldblooded creatures effected differently than warmblooded birds and mammals? Also, even if younger catfish are damaged by radiation, is it possible that some number of catfish can avoid problems so they become giants . . . while radiation is damaging most of the younger ones? Also, if there are damaged young catfish in a large number, is it possible the bigger ones grew so big faster because of feeding on a ready supply of smaller radiation-disabled fish that are easy to catch? Have they checked this? Or is there already scientific research that answers this?

    The falcons . . . how many generations have been there before producing those youngies? Are the “thriving” falcons second and third and fourth generation that have been in the radiation area? Or, do the babies grown there get unhealthy and then new adults come in from nonradiation surrounding areas? After all, the surrounding areas could have an overflow of healthy birds who move into the danger area. So, if you have young apparently normal babies, how many in-radiation generations gave rise to them? Have they dealt with this, there or elsewhere?

  • Frank

    For those who think this is all just lovely, brace yourselves and then Google “Chernobyl mutations.” Then read “First Debris, Possibly Radioactive, Reaches West Coast From Japan”

  • Hope

    If it benefits animals in any way, I’m all for it. If it causes humans to suffer, then I couldn’t care less. Actually, I’d rejoice in it. The only way I’m against this is if it hurts the environment and its animals.

  • Lisa

    I enjoyed this episode as I enjoy all Nature programs. It was interesting to see what they are discovering about the after effects of a nuclear disaster. Those involved with the current events with the plant disaster in Japan will do good to take notes. Long live nature as it does it’s best to reclaim itself despite the ignorance of human beings.

  • Catherine H

    I just watched a replay of this magnificent episode “Radioactive Wolves” on PBS ch 16 in my area–and I STILL find it as amazing as the first time I watched it!~ Now that all the info + images have “had a chance to sink in”, I could sit back and watch the images of all the wildlife species–and just ENJOY seeing them in my living room!

  • Dave

    Average life expectancy of wolves in the wild is 8 years. Cancer development, after exposure to radiation, can take as much as 20 years in humans, depending on the isotope, and the intensity. What is the gestation period for cancer in exposed wolves?

    Although early in the piece researchers were wearing masks to prevent breathing in radiated hair, later the researcher named Vadim was not wearing a mask when handling wolves in the zone. We should check back with him in 20 years to see how he’s doing.

    I didn’t like the condescending tone of the narrator “the paw caught in the trap appears to be fine…”
    I would have preferred not to have seen the footage of the drugged semi-conscious wolf with it’s tongue hanging out.

  • Dan

    This program shows explicitly that Life is tenacious. The things scientists used to do to each other as jokes. I don’t won’t 100% safety. Nature is beautiful.

  • Glenn

    Why is this suprising that mother nature thrives? I live 20 miles from an equally contaminated site. Only the contamination is from nerve gas chemicals and precursors and will never be fit for man to occupy. Trophy deer, bald eagles, migratory water fowl thrive here. With no ground disturbing activitiesthese poisons are sequestered same as Chernobyl. The name of the place here in Denver is called the Rocky Mountain Aresenal. and these chemicals are not like gasoline leaking from a buried tank. They are every bit the most toxic and stable every made by man. 20 miles from this sitethere may be similarly lightly sequestered plutonium that might make Chernobyl look like a good place to live. Oh, this site is called Rocky Flats. Nature is more resilient than we humans can comprehend. We’ve not controlled our environment only managed to hold it at bay. It will kick our butts back to the stone age. Just a matter of time.

  • kirolos

    this was a very good episode im going to recomend it to all my friends

  • Karol

    Amazing Episode.

  • Jen

    They tried to squeeze too much information into a small amount of time without leaving room for explanations to tie finding together or back their conclusions sufficiently, thus,the study seems inconclusive.

  • John

    One of Benjamin Franklins more famous quotes was, ” We re all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid, ”

    The subjective comments that are left by some are unreconcilable.

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