Your favorite unexpected wildlife observations

As in, it was so unexpected that you didn’t have a camera/weren’t able to make any official iNat observation or you were just otherwise engaged in some other activity, but it was a memorable species or moment. Last night I saw a coyote while driving to my art class that’s 5 minutes from my house. It was very large and healthy looking and stood in the road while I stopped. It turned and headed back into a little patch of woods after a few seconds. I live in a very suburban area so my few coyote sightings are always really memorable.

My other very memorable coyote observation was at the end of a very long barrier beach where I was beachcombing last year. It didn’t notice me and my fiancé at first but when she did we locked eyes for a few seconds before she turned and slowly trotted away. Every time I’m down there I think about that coyote and hope I get to see another, I find them fascinating and beautiful and a little mysterious.

So what’s your favorite encounter with wildlife that didn’t necessarily become an iNat observation?

The grizzly I saw while backpacking the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park. Too surprised/amazed to think to snap a photo.

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It was back in uni, around 2009-2010, I was sitting down, taking a break on the path between Canterbury and Whitstable. I had a sandwich in hand and I wasn’t paying attention. All of a sudden I feel a tug, a fox was stealing a slice of meat off my sandwich. It stared at me for a solid 20 seconds with a surprised look then scampered off with my precious proteins.

I didn’t really realise it at the time, but Kent is an absolute paradise for mammals, meanwhile in Northern France I consider myself lucky if I even spot some in the distance.


A tapir swimming through a river right on front of our boat. Did not expect to.see.any large mammal on that trio and I am still amazed by that moment


In Oxford (UK), a deer sprinting past me, in front of Westgate shopping centre in the middle of town

I was startled

unusual for a deer to wander into town proper, unlike N America


I’ve often thought about getting a really good dashcam for the car just so I can add observations from that.
Last weekend I was walking along the river looking at plants mostly. I had my camera fitted with the longer lens just in case there were any good birds about but it was so quiet that I’d put it away in my backpack. Then walking along one stretch I saw an otter swimming upstream only a few yards in front of me and it was so unexpected that I just failed to react properly. I’ve never seen signs of them up there and it’s a very fast and bare stretch of river that doesn’t seem like it would attract them. I crouched low while trying to get my camera out but there’s no cover there and I only managed one photo of its back as it dived to swam away. There was a guy approaching with his dogs so it might have seen him rather than me but it disappeared and didn’t show itself again.

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On a trip to Washington (state) this year I had forgotten my phone in the car to just stop for a restroom break. This just happened to be when a group of wild turkeys with 3 adults and like 15 babies decided to prance outta the woods next to the stop!!
I still think about the missed baby turkey photos :{


Reminds me of moving to eastern Washington state for university (2005) and during my first week there I encountered an adult quail followed by several juveniles in our neighborhood near campus. I had gotten a point-and-shoot camera (Canon Powershot A520) a little before then but never thought to carry it around with me. Also missed out on getting photos of a rattlesnake a year later for the same reason.

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Wow that’s quite an encounter! I love seeing foxes but it’s always such fleeting glimpses.

I’ve long wanted to see both a quail and a rattlesnake! I actually have a list of places timber rattlesnakes have been spotted with the intention of hiking a few of them to try to see one. My partner is much less enthused about joining me on those hikes…

I always hike now with my camera on my shoulder so if I see something I want a photo of I can get a quick shot and keep moving so as not to bother them too much.

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It’s very location-specific, I think. In Canterbury they used to tip over bins and ransack through them in search of food and apparently it’s a somewhat common problem in the UK (1, 2). I also remember seeing a badger foraging in the dumpster once on campus. They get used to human contact and lose their fear, which isn’t ideal but at least makes them easier to see. From what I gather it’s fairly similar to what happens with possums and raccoons in the US.

Driving on a major interstate highway behind a construction vehicle, and a mouse was running back and forth on the truck’s back bumper


Seeing a dipper in a stream in Pakistan. I had thought dippers were limited to North America. I pointed it out to my Pakistani coworkers and they were amazed. Their response was, “How can anyone see this and not believe in Allah?” I kept my mouth shut. That little bird did bring a moment of peace though. For one brief moment, the wonder of nature blotted out the chaos, fear, and hate.


Well there’s this one:

One of them… The Carolina Wren that just hopped all over me, scolding busily the entire time. He seemed totally okay with interpreting me as another bush to investigate, despite the fact that he had probably never seen me there before.

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