Strange Hybrid Spotted In Western America Is Frightening Scientists Around The World

If you think back to your first days of school, many of your lessons probably involved memorizing all the different types of animals. It’s a basic part of early education, plus kids love the topic. Maybe because of this kindergarten focus, we underestimate just how complicated the animal world can really be.

For instance, you might not want the job of a zoologist studying these unusual desert critters. While they do tug at your heartstrings, these creatures are strange enough to defy categorization. Nevertheless, they’ve been captivating us for generations.

Smart hikers in the Arizona desert know to keep their eyes peeled. There’s all kinds of dangerous wildlife to watch out for, from diamondback rattlesnakes to cholla cacti. However, even the most seasoned adventurers might be missing this desert curiosity.

Fresh Off The Grid

It’s hard to catch a glimpse of the Bassariscus astutus. These nocturnal creatures are hard to spot even at night, as they move quickly and avoid strangers. But they are definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Cool Green Science

They’re commonly known as ringtail cats, and they inhabit the Southwestern United States as well as large areas of Mexico. Once you come across one of these adorable animals, you’ll have a tough time getting it out of your head.

Though we’ve known about them for hundreds of years, we’re only learning more about them now. For one thing, it turns out that the name “ringtail cat” is a pretty massive misnomer.

YouTube / DesertMuseum

Don’t let those fluffy tails and pointy ears fool you. While they look like felines, ringtails aren’t actually cats at all! They hail from a very different section of the animal kingdom.

People

Ringtail cats are technically procyonids, which makes them close relatives of raccoons! The resemblance is pretty clear once you make that connection, not to mention the fact that both are night-dwellers.

Word of the lovable ringtails has spread far and wide across social media. People went nuts for every sighting out in nature, but they couldn’t help but wonder: could these animals be kept as pets?

Instagram / Casey Smart Photo

Surprisingly, there is a long-standing tradition of pet ringtail cats. Back in the 19th century, copper miners in Arizona took a liking to the tiny creatures and started taking care of them. Of course, it was a helpful relationship for everybody.

In return for a bit of food and a warm place to sleep, the ringtails kept the mining cabins vermin-free. Any mice that ventured out at night were no match for their exceptional night-vision and speed.

Cottage Life

But, not unlike actual cats, ringtails often seem to only domesticate themselves by choice. However, many believe the ringtails would be better off as pets, especially given the many threats they face in the wild.

Instagram / shutterbuggin65

Large desert predators, like mountain lions and bobcats, are constantly on the lookout for tasty ringtails. Fortunately, the small mammals — sometimes measuring just a foot long — usually evade the big cats. Though there are more effective hunters out there…

The National Wildlife Federation Blog

The great horned owl is the most dangerous nemesis of the ringtail cat. Adept at swooping in from the shadows, this fast-flying predator can counter the mammal’s quickness and elusiveness.

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Do our big-eared friends even stand a chance? It seems like ringtails are tailor-made for Instagram, not outrunning desert carnivores. Still, these tiny critters have a couple tricks up their sleeves when danger comes knocking.

Despite their small size, ringtails can summon quite a powerful sound to scare off enemies. They emit a eardrum shattering scream to ward off predators, though there is one more tactic they use if this screech fails.

GIPHY

Much like a skunk, the ringtail cat can spray a noxious stink secretion at any other animals that get too close. Don’t believe Looney Tunes; you wouldn’t want to use this stuff as perfume!

Naturally, these critters try to not place themselves in compromising situations. With retractable claws and long tails for balance, they make skilled climbers. They scurry up any surface if a nasty beast comes near, whether in the air or on foot.

Ringtail cats, for better or worse, are growing more trusting of humans, however. After just a few handfuls of nuts, berries, and even some people snacks, they have started to see us as giant meal tickets.

Although they can be cute and friendly, adventurers do have to remember that most ringtails are wild animals. Looking at their formidable teeth and claws, you wouldn’t want to get on their bad side.

There’s still much to learn about the ringtails, but more people are learning the basics. At the very least, they’ll be a little more prepared for the next strange animal they come across. These situations can become more complicated than you’d expect.

National Park Service

The people of Colts Neck, New Jersey, were fed up with deer in 2018. The animals popped up everywhere, and they seemed to multiply every day. It only a matter of time until the deer invaded their homes and businesses.

The area even encouraged hunters to come in and help tamp down on the deer population. That April, however, the trigger-happy town drastically reversed its attitude.

Houston Safari Club Foundation

It all started when one Colts Neck resident glanced at his backyard one morning. He did a double-take, as he could barely believe his eyes. By all appearances, a never-before-discovered creature was prowling through his bushes!

Freepik

Sure, the thing looked like it had the body, legs, and tail of an ordinary deer. But a giant globe surrounded its head, giving the curious onlooker the fright of his life.

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

He couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The sphere obviously wasn’t part of the creature. It almost resembled an astronaut helmet. But unless New Jersey was assembling some kind of animal space patrol, this critter looked to be in serious trouble.

The man rang the local chapter of the SPCA — the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He told them about the situation in his backyard. They didn’t know quite what to expect with the mystery creature.

The Source

But they knew they had to act, or nobody would. The SPCA sent a team over, and they put the pedal to the metal. If their suspicions were correct, then time was of the essence.

YouTube / County San Diego

Arriving on the scene, the rescuers sized up the situation. The alien creature was, in fact, a regular deer with a glass globe stuck on its head. None of the animal pros had ever seen anything like it.

Patch

They couldn’t say where the object came from, but the SPCA figured that it scared off the deer’s family. While these creatures normally travel in a herd, they will abandon one of their own if it’s perceived as different.

Wikimedia Commons

Before piecing together this mystery, the team had to remove the globe from the deer. It would likely panic the moment they approached, so they all agreed they would have to sedate the animal.

Quartz

The SPCA pros administered the sedative and helped the deer lie down gently, careful not to shatter the glass around his head. The animal looked like it had seen better days. Scrapes covered its body, and quite a few ribs were visible.

Facebook / Monmouth County SPCA

They surmised that the globe prevented the deer from eating for multiple days and obscured its vision. The SPCA could only hope the effects of starvation wouldn’t be too great. With a mighty tug, they pulled at the glass.

Facebook / Monmouth County SPCA

Fortunately, the globe popped off without much resistance. That just left the matter of a weakened, lonely deer. The animal controllers wanted it to return to its herd but feared the task might be asking too much.

While the deer barely responded to the rescuers at first, they gradually got it to accept some fluids and food. That was a good sign, though the SPCA didn’t want to interfere any further.

Learning From Dogs

They moved away from the deer and watched from a distance. After a while, it found the energy to pick itself up and walk out of the backyard. Now, the SPCA turned their attention to the cause of all this distress.

They consulted some authorities in the area about where the giant glass globe could’ve come from. Taking a closer look, they couldn’t help but feel surprised by its size and weight. It wasn’t any kind of bowl or decoration designed for human use.

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Then it hit them. It was the cover for a highway street light! The globe must have fallen down, filled up with rainwater, and attracted the thirsty deer. When the animal bent down for a drink, the glass got stuck around its neck.

While it was an unusual accident, the SPCA was just relieved that somebody noticed the deer before it was too late. They feared it wouldn’t rejoin the herd, but luckily, there were no reports of a lone deer wandering through the region.

S. Olga Linville

The deer’s close call also taught the town of Colts Neck a lesson or two. While they once saw the creatures as pests, they now celebrated the SPCA for helping out an animal in need. They were fortunate to save the deer, as other rescues have gotten far dicier.

As the founder of the Surrey-based charity Wildlife Aid, Simon Cowell (not the famous one) had faced just about any danger nature could offer while rescuing a host of different species. Yet one rescue would stick with him far longer than the others…

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

It was December 2015 when an unnamed driver spotted a wounded deer lying motionless on a stretch of road flanked by dense forest. Worried, the driver phoned Wildlife Aid, and Simon himself responded to the call.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

One car had stopped ahead of the deer and another behind to help prevent traffic from getting too close to the frightened animal. When Simon arrived at the scene, he expected it would be another day at the office — but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Simon pulled over and approached the deer, whispering to her in a soothing tone. “All right darling,” he said. “All right sweetheart. What’s the matter, hey?” Then, he knelt down beside the deer and examined the damage…

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Clearly the victim of a speeding car, the poor deer was shaken, scared, and she sported a nasty gash above her eye. Simon silently noted that a veterinarian would need to stitch it closed.

The deer pressed her snout to Simon’s knee, leaving a crimson streak right on his jeans. She’d need all the help Wildlife Aid had to offer, and she needed it quick—or else she wouldn’t survive her injuries.

With his bare hands and all his strength, Simon scooped up the deer into his arms and held her close to his chest like a parent might hold their frightened child. Besides her injuries, there was another reason why Simon needed to act so quickly…

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

“Deer are very nervous and don’t cope well with being handled,” Simon said before adding that “all wild animals can suffer from capture myopathy.” That was a stress-related disease that killed muscle tissue with lactic acid buildup. With no time to waste, Simon rushed the deer to his rescue facility.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Gently placing a towel over the deer’s head so she wouldn’t be spooked by unfamiliar surroundings, Wildlife Aid’s veterinarian Dr. Emma Lloret set down the hurting creature on a hay-padded floor and patched up the poor thing.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

The deer might’ve been on the mend, but would she be able to return to her life of frolicking and grazing? Simon brought her right back to where he’d first found her with the hopes that, after her nerves settled down, the deer would bound straight for her family.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

“We just have to pray that she’ll stand for us,” Simon said as he and another rescue worker brought the deer into the woods alongside the road. He pet her softly and whispered some words of encouragement. “Listen to me,” he said. “It’s all over.”

However, Simon couldn’t just leave the deer in some shrubs and call it a job well done. “If she puts her head back,” he said, “this is a sign she’s giving up on life.” So, before he could leave, he anxiously waited for the deer’s signal…

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

In a heartbreaking moment, the deer’s head flopped backward. That was it—she’d given up. The trauma and pain of the car crash was too much for her to fight on. Simon’s rescue, it appeared, had all been for nothing… or had it?

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Simon wasn’t the type to give up on any animal. “Putting her head forward,” he said as he tried to help the poor deer stand up, “hopefully will refocus her effort to live.” But would Simon’s coaxing work?

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

The deer stumbled and staggered as Simon lifted her to her feet. It seemed like he was so determined to see this deer live, he’d have spent his own life carrying her if he needed to. “I know you’re hurt, I know you’re bruised,” he told her. “But you can do it.”

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Finally, after plenty of coaxing, the deer stood on four wobbly legs. “It was heartbreaking watching her struggling to stay up,” Simon said. “This is the most worrying time for us because we never know if we’ve done the right thing or the wrong thing.”

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

“I’m just convinced that after years and years of doing this, this is the right thing for this deer,” said Simon. “She’s right on the verge of making it or collapsing.” Sadly, once more, the deer collapsed.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Perhaps a less stubborn rescue worker would have admitted defeat right then and there. Perhaps he or she would have brought the deer back to the facilities or left her to fate in the woods. But not Simon. Instead, he picked her up and carried her deeper into the woods…

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

“She needed more time to pull her thoughts together,” Simon said. “She probably had a massive headache from her collision with the car.” Deeper in the woods, he guided the deer, supporting her steps. Would this be enough to get her out on her own?

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

Finally, the deer’s ears perked up. She was alert and standing on her own! The sight brought Simon to tears. “Go on sweetheart,” he called after her. “Go on. Go away.” You could hear the pained joy in his voice. After all that work, the deer stood a chance!

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

For some time, Simon watched the little deer disappear into the dense woods. “It wrecked me,” Simon said, his eyes wet with tears. “You never know whether you’ve done the right thing or the wrong thing. It’s beautiful and horrible.”

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

In his lifetime, Simon had his arm bitten by a hedgehog, his throat nearly sliced by a buck’s antler, and his scalp shredded by owl talons. But perhaps nothing would affect him as deeply as the wounded deer who decided life was worth living.

Wildlife Aide / YouTube

You can see firsthand just how passionate Simon was about this random highway deer. If we all cared about and fought for animals the way he did for her, there’s no doubt the world would be a better place!

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