Thanks to the work of Louis Theroux and other fearless documentarians, we know that America is home to the occasional eccentric human. But what about the world of animals? Surely there are some stateside critters with equally unusual ways of life? You bet. There are all kinds of bizarre animals living in the deserts, rivers and prairies of the United States. Hop aboard our safari of strange, as we uncover some of the oddest animals in America.
These cute creatures aren’t really cats: they’re members of the raccoon family. ‘Ring-tailed dog’ would have arguably been a better name, as the desert-based mammals are known for their loud barking.
The gila monster (pronounced ‘heela’ monster) is one of the only venomous lizards in the world. The reptile’s distinctive markings are a warning of its potent poison, although the sluggish lizards pose little threat to humans.
Named after their pink colouration and distinctive spoon-shaped bills, these wading birds use their utensil-like beaks to sift through the mud while searching for crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and small fish to feed on.
Also known as the lion’s mane nudibranch, these translucent sea slugs have a spectral, otherworldly appearance. They use their oral hoods like nets, trapping smaller animals and forcing them into their mouths.
Alligator snapping turtle
A formidable prehistoric-looking giant that dwells at the bottom of rivers and ponds in the southeastern United States, the alligator snapping turtle lies with its crushing jaws agape, wiggling its wormlike tongue to attract fish before chomping down on the unsuspecting swimmers.
Giant African land snail
As their name suggests, giant African land snails aren’t native to America. These ginormous gastropods were originally imported to be kept as exotic pets, but their numbers exploded after a few individuals were let loose. They are now considered one of the world’s most invasive pests.
The poor ghost-faced bat won’t be winning any beauty contests. With prominent foreheads that rise abruptly from their underdeveloped noses and large, round ears that join across the skull, these flying critters are among the ugliest mammals in the world.
Another oddly named animal: the narrow-mouthed toad is actually a frog. Unlike the large and gregarious bullfrog that most Americans are familiar with, these small, squat amphibians spend most of their time on land, hiding themselves away in shady habitats.
If a regular mole’s nose exploded, this is what it might look like. Star-nosed moles use the 22 super-sensitive fleshy appendages on their snouts to find their way around underground.
Calleta silkmoth caterpillar
Caterpillars come in a wide variety of shapes and colours, but this funky-looking fella has to be one of the strangest. Calleta silkmoth caterpillars warn predators away with their bright colours and barb-covered bodies.