Is an African Lion Roaming the City Streets?


Is an African lion roaming the streets of Norwalk, CA?  Security cameras captured footage of what seems to be a large cat. The footage is of course grainy, so it's hard to tell exactly what it is.  

In my experience as a Naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation, I can say that most people are just not that good at identifying wildlife, so I'm never too quick to believe the media hype over this kind of thing without further investigation or commentary from an actual wildlife expert. When you're looking at such grainy footage, it's even easy for experts to be stumped or even make misidentifications. So take what you're hearing and reading in the media with a grain of salt. 

So with that said, check out this report from Good Morning America.  Get my take on what I think the video shows below.

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In my opinion, the animal in the video definitely moves like a large cat rather than a dog, including wild dogs such as coyotes and foxes. Often, domestic cats are mistaken for big cats in grainy or dark videos like this one, but this animal definitely looks more massive than a domestic cat to me. Bobcats and mountain lions are native to the area, but the head is much larger and thicker than that of a mountain lion and the animal's long, thin tail rules out a bobcat. I don't see spots or stripes, which would rule out leopard, jaguar or tiger, cheetah or other big cat species.

Here's my appearance on Inside Edition about this odd animal sighting:


So, based on this limited video, it does seem to me like the animal is an African lion, probably a female or a young male due to lack of a visible mane.


Photo by Tambako the Jaguar from Flickr Creative Commons. 

If that is indeed the case, the questions of where it came from and where it currently is need to be answered. It can be surprisingly easy for unqualified individuals to obtain a big cat as a pet--which is an exceedingly stupid thing to do. It's possible this animal was in the care of a private exotic animal collector and escaped.

If it is an African lion, let's hope that it is safely re-captured and brought to live in facility where it will be kept in a secure enclosure and given the proper care.

Symbolically Adopt a Lion with the National Wildlife Federation.  

Is Sundance Creature Real?


I came across this video recently shot in Sundance, Utah. It's footage of dark woods along a roadside taken by some people who claim they saw something standing in the trees as they drove by, so they turned around to see if they could catch whatever it was on camera.

This is what they saw:


Looks like just about every other "Bigfoot" video you've seen, right? (Except the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, of course.) It's blurry, quick, non-conclusive. Clearly this video is a hoax, right?  It's got better than average actors, but the rest seems all-too-convenient: it's dark and spooky out, and the creature is still just standing on the side of the road even though if it was real it would clearly have seen their car coming. Why would such a purportedly elusive creature just stand on the side of a road?

Then I watched this analysis done by a guy who goes by the name ThinkerThunker on Youtube:

Pretty interesting, right? The probablity of some undescribed giant primate existing in North America is pretty slim, but the ThinkerThunker video does a good job at showing the significant difference in mass and size of the creature in the video when compared to a human. That's pretty hard to fake using a costume, at least one that moves. CGI is a possiblity, but these kinds of things tend to be pounced on by people with better video analysis skills than me, and I haven't seen anything online saying that this is clearly CGI (which doesn't mean it isn't).

Perhaps the monster geek in me is getting the better of the naturalist part of me, but I think the questions this kind of thing raises are fascinating. What do you think?   

Sundance Creature

Learn more about sightings on Finding Bigfoot


Heron Swallows Gopher Whole


Great blue herons are beautiful, large birds that typically hunt along the edges of wetlands like lakes, ponds and marshes. Their long legs help them wade through the shallows on the hunt for fish, frogs, snakes and other aquatic or semi-aquatic prey.

14147775894_9339cc476f_zPhoto by Theodore Scott via Flickr Creative Commons.

But that's not all they eat. Check out this video of a heron stalking, killing and eating a gopher that it plucked out of the rodent's underground burrow. I have actually witnessed this exact same behavior while I was in Arizona last year to keynote the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival. Each morning as I headed over to the festival, I saw a heron positioned like a statue right next to a gopher colony just waiting to snatch up a furry little mouthful.

Warning, the video shows a graphic act of predation, so if you're squeamish, don't watch.



This Moth Looks Like Bird Poop


Mother Nature is pretty awesome, especially when she has the sense of humor of a ten year old boy. 

You might be aware that the caterpillars of the giant swallowtail butterfly have evolved to look like bird droppings as way to avoid being eaten by predators. Most predators don't enjoy eating bird poop, so this strategy ensures that many giant swallowtail caterpillars will survive long enough to pupate and emerge as winged adults, which will in turn mate and lay eggs and keep the species going.

Well, giant swallowtails aren't alone in using this strategy. My National Wildlife Federation colleague Dani Tinker took some pics of an awesome moth in Great Falls, Virginia last weekend that also looks just like a pile of fresh bird poop.  

Meet the pearly wood nymph:

Pearly Wood Nymph 2


Doesn't look very appetizing, does it?

Pearly wood nymphs are found across eastern North America and lay their eggs on wild grapes, hibiscus, and evening primrose, so if you plant these in your garden, you might just be able to attract this cool moth to you own backyard. 

Submit your own photos to National Wildlife Photo Contest! 

Pearly Wood Nymph

Photos by Dani Tinker.

Protect Wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation. 

Wild Fox Leaves Gruesome Gifts for Humans


My friend Jeff, a fellow board member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, sent me a question about a strange and interesting wildlife encounter he and his family had at their home in Virginia, wondering what my thoughts were about it as a Naturalist.

From Jeff:

"My family has been watching a fox family that has been denning in our backyard by the stream for several months now. A Vixen and two kits. For a long time we would see them every morning and most evenings. We even watched the vixen catch and eat a squirrel one morning right in the middle of our yard.

We haven't seen them for several weeks, so we assumed they had moved onto a new home. Then early this morning I saw one bolt of the foxes around the side of the house and to the stream, so I was happy to learn that they were still living here. 

And to my surprise when I went out the front door, I saw that it had left me a dead bird and a dead baby rabbit right by my front porch, perfectly laid out and placed side by side. 

We don't have any stray or feral cats or dogs in the neighborhood, and our cat has never been outdoors.  I know domestic cats sometimes leave 'offerings' of dead animals for their owners."  

Here's a picture of the fox's offering (warning: this photo will be gruesome for some, but keep in mind that foxes and other predators have to kill to eat and this is a normal part of nature):


Photo by Jeff Flocken.

Jeff was wondering if it really could have been the fox that left the "gifts" of the rabbit and bird. I was doubtful of that when I first heard the story, because I've never heard of a wild fox doing anything like this. My first thought was a domestic cat, but as Jeff points about above, his cat stays indoors and there are no strays visiting his yard. It's possible that the fox was leaving food out for her kits, or that it was caching food for later--but if either of those were  the case, leaving the food out in the open near the front porch of a human house is a really odd place for her to choose. 

But, I'm stumped for an alternate explanation. Maybe this really is just a fox with a special love for Jeff and his family? Given all Jeff does to protect wildlife, maybe there's some good karma happening?

What do you think? Have you ever heard of a wild animal doing this? 

Protect wildlife with the National Wildlife Federation. 

David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >







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