Rarest animal you've seen in the wild?

What is the rarest animal that you’ve seen in the wild?

Back in around 1993, I was hiking around Santa Cruz Island off of the southern California coast and saw a Channel Island Kit Fox. They’re pretty gregarious animals and cute as all get out. They are tiny, this one was the size of a big kitten. It came running up to me within 30 feet or so, just like a puppy. I think the Santa Cruz Island Kit Fox subspecies currently has a population of around 125. They keep on getting gobbled up by Golden Eagles who replaced the native Bald Eagle population that died off due to DDT. There is hope though, 2 bald eagles just hatched on Catalina island, the first ones since the 1940’s!

I was lucky enough to be able to on a hike to see the largest family group of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanic National Park. In 1999, 8 tourists were slaughtered by rebel guerillas (not gorillas) so when I was there in 2002 each tourist was accompanied by two armed guards toting AK-47’s. I saw 28 of the 32 members of the family group. At the time there were estimated to be about 650 mountain gorillas, so I’ve seen about 4% of all of them existing in the wild.

It’s pretty easy to see West Indian Manatees at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge next to Cape Canaveral in Florida. I saw a bunch of them at the Haulover Bridge there. The 2001 manatee population count was 3276, but they are notoriously difficult to count.

I’ve seen a black rhino in Matopos National Park in Zimbabwe. I think there’s about 3600 left in the wild.

I’ve seen a few yellow eyed penguins on the South Island of New Zealand. I think there’s about 2000 breeding pairs.

I’m hoping to see a California Condor pretty soon. A friend is doing some construction in Ventura on a remote farm and he says he sees them everytime he’s out there. There was 127 in the wild as of December 1, 2005.

I’m not sure how rare they are, but we often see Bald Eagles at Lake Anna in VA. Very majestic birds.

In these parts we see the not exactly rare, but hard to see ‘saw whet owls’.

Hot female engineers.

Couldn’t think of any until you mentioned the condors. When we were at Grand Canyon a few years back there were a whole “flock” of them - probably 10 or so, hanging out and flying around the S rim, right outside one of the lodges. They all had numbers on their wings, so I’m not sure how “wild” that classifies them as. I thought it was cool, drinking my morning coffee, and checking out so many of these birds I had only read about. Took a pic or 2.

It was only later that I appreciated how few of these birds there really were.

I heard they were only bred in captivity. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve seen Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo. There’s a whole lot of 'em there.

Saw a California Condor, back in the 70’s before the collected up the last few to up the population. Big bugger flew right over our car, musta had a 6+ foot wingspan :eek: .

Saw several Blue whales in the Santa Barbara channel islands. Not only did I see
Blue Whales, but I saw Blue Whale POOP! How many people can say that?!

I was raised in NYC and live in Atlanta (this is to give a little perspective to what I consider rare).

I saw armadillos in Florida! I’m still excited about it.

A Pine Marten is probably the rarest I’ve seen, but that was in a nature reserve and the guide was the one who spotted it otherwise we’d have been oblivious to the thing.

I’ve seen a badger in daylight which is pretty unusual.

Oh, and the Loch Ness monster, of course.


But seriously, during a cruise I saw three Beluga Whales pacing the chip for like an hour. Somewhere between Cuba and Bahamas.

Sometimes, when I am really lucky (about 3 times per year) I see a European kingfisher in a woodsy area near my house.


I’ve seen Pine Martens in the wild. They’re not endangered here, I don’t think, just sort of rare and very shy.

My site contains the protected species of Kit Foxes and Burrowing Owls, and I’ve seen them both, as well as Grey Fox in both Grey and Red phases.

Bald Eagles are pretty common around here. I saw some last week.

Most of the ones I’ll mention are more secretive than rare, although a few are endangered.

Eastern indigo snake
Gopher tortoise
Bog turtle
Wood turtle
Hellbender salamander
Rosy rat snake
Green salamander

I’ve seen 3 or 4 (it was hard to tell) Moray Firth dolphins, out of a population of about 130.

I was hiking in Utah with a guide, and he claimed that the bird circling above was a California Condor.

It was so far off, that I can’t tell. It had some white under it’s wings, though.

I once saw an ermine outside the window of my friends’ house near Bancroft. It was cool. :cool:

Probably Mexican spotted owl. Federally listed as “threatened.”

Also, Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake (state-threatened in New Mexico)

Came across a Triton’s trumpet (large marine mollusc) while on a dive. Not endangered but fairly scarce.

The elegant trogon, while not particularly rare elsewhere is rarely seen in the U.S. (in the most southestern corner of Arizona). I followed a pair for an hour, getting glimpses but could jot get a photo. (You certainly hear this bird before you see it!)

Saw (and caught) a pygmy rattlesnake once. It’s an uncommon snake, and according to this site shouldn’t have been in my part of the state at all. Guess nobody told him.

Occasionaly saw an alligator snapping turtle when I was a kid. My dad’s buddy used trot lines to catch them and then used the turtles to make soup (which I now report with great regret, given the threatened status of the species; I didn’t know that at the time).

(And yes, I know the difference between a common snapping turtle and an alligator snapper.)

The Cayman iguana. Actually, I saw four or five of them in one day. It was pretty amazing.

I envy those world travelers who get to see all kinds of cool critters! Us local yokels just have to make do with the nearby…

Bald eagles are plentiful in Florida-- more breeding bald eagles than any US state except Alaska. We handle them commonly here. I can look out my window right now and see the four presently on site. But they remain rare in many other places.

West Indian Manatees are commonly seen nearby too. We don’t handle them here, but we occasionally help with rescues.

Neither do we handle sea turtles, though several rare species nest on our beaches. Leatherbacks are the rarest of these. Occasionally we’ll get a baby, rescued by some bather, but we turn them over to sea turtle specialists.

We also have Audubon’s (Crested) Caracaras- total population perhaps 450 or so, in the grass prairies surrounding Lake Okeechobee. They are a “disjunct population”-- you won’t find them again until you travel all the way around the Gulf to the Texas / Mexico border.

Last week we led a tour group into Everglades National Park, where we found (observed) American crocodiles. I guess those are the rarest species nearby.

Once, back in the late 1970’s, I followed an Ivory Billed Woodpecker around the Big Cypress Swamp for about an hour. I had both binoculars and a 35mm camera with 200mm lens, but alas not a speck of film. I would have double-exposed any already used film for such shots. The bird, a male, flew casually from tree to tree, occasionally drumming. I followed, covering perhaps a mile during the encounter. Several times I was within 50 feet of the bird. There was no mistaking its identity. The only similar bird is the Pileated Woodpecker, and I’m quite familiar with them. Finally, I just got bored following the bird. I made my way out to my car, drove like a maniac a dozen miles to a gas station/tourist dive, grabbed a roll of film, threw some bills on the counter, and drove even more maniacally back. Of course, the bird was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps relevant to this thread is the book Last Chance to See, coauthored by Douglas Adams, best known for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It chronicles observations of some of the world’s rarest creatures.