Humans have enjoyed having animals as pets for centuries. Ever since wolves got close to humans, and eventually evolved into the dogs that you know today, people have domesticated and loved animals.
Dogs in particular seem to hold an emotional attachment with humans, and there are some heartwarming and heartbreaking stories involving these four-legged friends. Not so long ago, there was the tear-jerking story of the woman who spent all night in a shelter holding a dying dog so that they had company at the end.
There are fortunately many happier stories involving pets, and sometimes wild animals too. However, if you decided to go exploring into woods and forests, you are less likely to come across a friendly terrier, and could even find something rather unusual.
Woods around the world can be home to the strangest and very unusual animals. Some strikingly beautiful, some bizarre-looking, and others quite dangerous.
The link between humans, animals, and forests. Forest and wooded land have always been human to thousands of species of insects and animals. In the past humans have sheltered in forests, and also used them to hunt for food.
People’s attitude to animals has changed over the years, and hunting is not viewed as kindly by many people anymore. Animals have been domesticated, and are even used for emotional support and to help improve patients’ lives.
Now, cow cuddling has become one of the latest wellness trends and it appears to improve mental health. Perhaps soon you will be seeing people in fields trying to hug cows instead of in the woods hunting birds.
However, there are other ways to enjoy wildlife than cuddling up close or hunting them down. Woods and forests are teeming with common and unusual creatures that you can safely go and search for. Although, there are perhaps some that you should keep your distance from.
Searching for wildlife in the woods
Any excuse to explore the countryside and get fresh air while being involved in physical activity such as walking or hiking should be commended. Coming off the back of the pandemic and its numerous lockdowns, people are searching for any reason to travel and enjoy the outdoors. Nature lovers can explore meadows, fields, parks, and of course, forests. There are one or two things to take on board before heading off to try spotting wild pigs or owls though. Check the land you are looking to explore is not private or protected under law. Penalties for trespassing can be fines going into thousands of dollars in some cases. Then there are the risks to the environment that you pose. Do not touch nests, don’t take eggs, and take all your garbage with you. Encompassing a ‘leave no trace’ ethos is to be recommended. You can read more about meadows wildlife here, and the best ways to enjoy the outdoors without causing any harm to any animals living there. Now you are ready to head into the forests, what are you likely to see that is unusual.
In the US there are the northern and the southern flying squirrel species. You may think there are no prizes for guessing which parts of the country you will find these species in. Actually, though, the southern flying squirrel is mostly found to the east of the US, from north to south. The more common northern flying squirrel is indeed found in the north and in Canada.
This amazing rodent is best spotted at night when they come out and start to become active. In fact, it is unlikely you will see one during daylight hours. The unusual thing about flying squirrels, as you can probably guess, is that they can travel through the air.
Using membranes that spread from front legs to their rear ones, flying squirrels can glide from one tree to another, and sometimes for incredible distances. Some species of flying squirrels can travel up to 500 meters at a time.
To witness the sight of a tree kangaroo you will have to travel to woods a bit further afield than the US. Papua New Guinea and Australia are home to these strange tree-dwelling animals. They are macropods which means that they are a marsupial and a member of the same family as kangaroos and wallabies. Unlike regular kangaroos, they have longer forearms which allow them to bound along on all four feet.
One of the wonderful things about painted buntings is that they are still fairly common in some parts of the US. To find them you can visit the edges of woodland or search for clearings in woods or forests. You won’t have any difficulty recognizing one when you see it. They are possibly the brightest and most colorful birds you are likely to see. These beautiful birds get their names from the fact that they look like someone has thrown paint at them. Blues, yellows, reds, greens, and browns adorn the male of the species.
Ok, so you might have to search very hard in the states to find a jaguar, but apparently, they are living in the country. Once in the past, jaguars lived happily in some parts of the US, but there have been some sightings recently that suggest they are moving back. Arizona has been noted as one place that jaguars may be roaming again, so perhaps a camping trip to Tonto or Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest might give you a rare chance to see one. But not too close hopefully.
Incredibly, around 7.5 percent of all the world’s forests are in the USA, so there is no shortage of places to explore. However, if you wish to go further afield, central and south America are home to the sloth. These strange-looking animals love rain forests and wooded areas and can be found in Peru and Brazil and other countries. One strange fact about sloths is that without their ancestors, there would be no avocados. Giant ground sloths were the only mammals able to swallow avocado seeds, and thus distribute them across the land.
The pine marten is related to the honey badger and wolverines and is becoming an increasingly rare sight. They like to live, as their name suggests, in pine forests and are skillful at climbing and hunting. They are unusual creatures, not because of anything they do but just because it is unlikely you will see one without some effort and some luck in some countries. Victorian gamekeepers were adept at keeping down the rodent population, and in England, this meant that the animals were hunted until there were hardly any left. Fortunately, some areas in Europe still have reasonably stable populations.
Depending on where you live, and what type of forest you visit, you could see some very unusual animals. The electric eel inhabits the rainforests of the Amazon, and bats can be found in woodland in the US. In the past, there was a much richer ecosystem, and woods in countries such as Malaysia would have been home to tigers and other wildlife that has sadly disappeared. Fortunately, though, there are still plenty of beautiful and odd-looking animals for you to discover on your trips to the woods.
Speaks from heart, always too passionate and driven by emotions. Spins the words with kindness & sharpness, intriguing your ever-inscrutable minds.