“Nemesis Mammal”

Yesterday a mammal watcher on Twitter (Roland Kays @RolandKays) started a discussion on “nemesis mammals.” Roland defines this as “A species you haven’t been able to find despite much searching.”

You can read the twitter answers at #NemesisMammal. I thought it would be an interesting question for the blog as well. So, what’s yours?

I’d say pygmy rabbit or mountain lion for me. Both found near my home, and both so far have eluded me…


  • tembo10

    Mine has to be the Ground Pangolin. I’ve never seen one in the wild despite living in an area of suitable habitat for 20+ years. Many of my (simple minded) research colleagues find this fact vastly amusing and never tire of bringing it up in conversation. I once met some a couple who visited Tarangire NP for 2 days and had one walk across the road in front of them. Needless to say they’re not on my Christmas card list….


    • vdinets

      Charles, a great place for ground pangolin is Mamili in Caprivi Strip. When the area is flooded (around September), the pangolins concentrate in remaining dry patches. I wish I knew such a place for giant pangolin…

      • tembo10

        Thanks Vladimir, I’ll give Mamili a shot some time. We did some camera trapping in Mahale NP in western Tanzania a few years back and had a high camera hit rate for Giant pangolins, suggesting they’re pretty common in the area. Unlike Ground pangolins, they follow animal paths. Typically you can’t walk in the park at night, although I’ve heard that if you stay at the Park huts the rangers will sometimes help people spotlight for galagos so they might let you stay up to monitor a trail.


  • John Fox

    Probably Kit Fox, since about everyone who goes to Carrizo Plains sees it. I’ve dipped on it three times.

  • vnsankar

    Mountain Lion for me. I’ve been searching for them for around 6 years in central CA and have nothing to show for it. I tried in Torres too in 2012 for several days (night driving, hiking – the usual) in the with a local guide (not Jose – he wasn’t available) who knew the right areas and failed there too.

    I’ve also been looking for Long Tailed Weasel now for around 4 yrs in Pt Reyes and various places in Central CA and haven’t even come close.

    Btw, regarding Kit Fox, you may want to try Panoche Valley – I have a decent track record for those (seen 3 out of 5 trips) despite not putting in too much effort in the best areas. Also a good place for SJ Antelope Squirrel, Bobcat, Giant Kangaroo Rat, and American Badger as well; Dipodomys venustus nearby too.

    • John Fox

      I’m going to do that Panoche Valley trip some day. I looked up all those roads mentioned in a report some years ago. The CA coastal range is one of the great places.

  • PandaSmith

    Mountain lion for me too. They routinely came by my house and left tracks, half deer, etc etc all the time in Washington but I never was able to see one with my own eyes!!! But I have also attempted spotting Red Panda at least on six different trips but have failed to see on. Missed several by minutes but never seen one….

  • Andy Holman

    For me it is maned wolf for which I have made 3 trips to Emas National Park to see (and I dont care to see baited species so that leaves out Caraca). I have seen feces at other parts of Brazil but no animal. I have been lucky to see mountain lion cross the road in Paraguay but as fitting with nemesis mammals it is often the one we most want to see that seems to know and eludes our view.

  • Alan

    Well, it’s good to know I am not alone. I am 0 for 5 with Long-tailed Weasel at Pt Reyes, 0 for 1 with Kit Fox at Carrizo Plain, and 0 for a ton with Mountain Lions/Pumas. The latter would be be my official nemesis I guess.

  • Don Roberson

    Mountain Lion for me, too. I have lived all my life where they are, and many friends and my sister have seen one, but not me. Maybe tomorrow . .

    • vdinets

      Don: have you tried Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. in Los Padres NF? I talked to people at Mission St. Antonio de Padua yesterday, and they said there’s been numerous sightings in recent weeks along that road, between Ft. Legget gate and the pass leading to Hwy 1.

  • tembo10

    I visited Jasper NP a couple of years ago, and the first animal I saw – 5 minutes from the entrance gate – was a Mountain Lion sitting 30 yards from the road under a bush. Watched it for 45 minutes. Guess I should take myself off my Christmas card list….


  • Bob Berghaier

    For me it is a clear look at a bobcat. In the 70’s I heard one in the Allegheny State Park in New York. Probably saw one crossing a road on the west side of Okeefonkee in mid 80’s. It was either a bobcat or a lean dog with a bobed tail. Stopped car
    I was driving, found fresh cat tracks on side of road.

  • Jon Hall

    Mustelids and me donโ€™t seem to get along. Despite missing dozens of them as a kid (always looking the wrong way), I was 40 before I saw my first Least Weasel. I must be the only mammal watcher in the USA who has never seen a Long-tailed Weasel and despite 10 or more trips to the Neotropics Iโ€™ve never seen a Tayra.


  • Israel

    slow loris for me. The problem with nemesis animals is that they know when you are coming for them!!

  • Cantonucci

    Blue whale for me. No matter how many times I have done boat trips off Monterey and other “hotspots” off the coast of California, off Mexico and Sri Lanka, I can not manage to see one. I mean I know they have to exist with all the photos I see…..

    • Alan

      This has been a really fun thread to read.

      Bob, go to Pt Reyes in winter for bobcat. We had 6 great sightings last week (trip report on the way). Hopefully, Jason will have luck in April.

      Cantonucci, we saw Blue Whales daily in the sea of cortez off the coast of Loreto Mexico. If course, that was 6 years ago but the experience was awesome (had a mega dolphin pod too).

      I will need to add tayra to my list as well as long as a snarling fleeting glimpse doesn’t count. All I got was a blurry picture and that’s not good enough for me…

  • morganchurchill

    Given my interest in birding…I have pretty strict requirements on what I would consider a nemesis critter. It has to be something relatively common enough that I would be expected to see it, or something I have consistently made an effort to see, but still missed. So while I have lived in Mountain lion territory for the last 9 years or so, I wouldn’t consider it a nemesis mammal, due to just how difficult they are to see.

    With that caveat out of the way, mine would be River Otter. I have technically seen one, but it was in third grade, and long before I kept a consistent list. I have made deliberate efforts to look for them locally, at Yellowstone National Park, in the Everglades, and no doubt many other places I can’t think of right now. But even though they are probably one of the easiest true mustelids to see in North America, I keep coming up empty.

    I also keep missing American Marten, but that’s a bit harder so I don’t feel as bad.

    Bobcat has also been kind of problematic…so far I have seen one, but it was the backend. hardly a great view.

    At least I have done good on my weasels as compensation. I have managed to see Short-tailed (twice) and Long-tailed (thrice), all good views, and Least/Common in Britain.

  • vdinets

    My nemesis species (actually, two related species) is so common and widespread that I’m too embarrassed to name it. I’ve spent a lot of time in optimal habitat, and still haven’t seen it.

    • mattinidaho

      Hmmm. Vladimir, coming from you, I’m not sure how to translate this. Does it mean you haven’t seen a pygmy hippo despite personally swimming down several of their home rivers while being chased by armed bandits? Or have you really not seen a white-tailed deer???

      • vdinets

        Well, the animal is locally common in many parts of North America… let’s play it this way: whoever guesses it correctly, will get a signed copy of Mammal Watching in North America at a discount price (once the book comes out).

  • Farnborough John

    I got part way up Great Britain trying to twitch a Walrus on Orkney before hearing it had gone. So far, just another dip. Only a few weeks later I was in Norway on a trip for Musk Ox. After my return I and my friend Jos discovered that on our last day, filling in time till our flights home, we had been within 6 km of the same individual. Now that’s a Nemesis mammal!

  • Curtis Hart

    I was having trouble seeing Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, I was out regularly off Texas, and my friend who owns the boat saw them roften, but I did finally see some of Panama City, Florida.
    Star-nosed Moles live in my yard, and I’ve yet to see one. I lived in the range of ermine for most of my life and have yet to get a sure sighting.

  • phil telfer

    3 for me. Have had several close misses with Tayra and Jaguarundi.
    Any suggestions for Jaguarundi?

    • vdinets

      In some years they are regular at one or another of numerous private fincas around Monteverde. I would try writing to a few guides working there and asking for updates. Or just try baiting with large carrion anywhere in lowland rainforest – worked for me on Rio Chajul on Chiapas-Guatemala border.

      • phil telfer

        Thanks Vladimir. Annoyingly i was in Monteverde last May, not sure when i’ll be back there again.
        I’ll take a guess at your mammal – Harbour porpoise. Probably wildly out but it just popped into my head.


      • vdinets

        Harbour porpoise is a good guess; they can be amazingly elusive. There are a few good places to see them (you can even snorkel with them sometimes in Karadag Nature Reserve in Crimea), but none is 100% certain. I’ve recently had 50% success rate at the N end of Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
        The correct answer is below.

  • vdinets

    No ๐Ÿ™‚ Moose was the first large wild mammal I ever saw, almost 40 years ago near Moscow, Russia.

  • vdinets

    No. Not seeing a beaver in 16 years in North America would have required a lot of effort…

  • vdinets

    Hopefully sometime this year.
    OK, a little hint: my nemesis mammal can be found in both E and W North America, but is much more common in the East. And it is larger than beaver.

  • Andy Holman

    2 more guesses–

    White tailed deer
    North american porcupine

    • vdinets

      Come on, not seeing a w-t deer in 16 years would probably require being blind. Woodchuck and porcupine are not larger than beaver. Think out of the box ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • vdinets

      yes ๐Ÿ™
      remind me about the book when it’s out.

      • morganchurchill

        Both species, or a specific one?

        Honestly I don’t really see how that is that embarassing…you have to access pelagic waters to have much a chance at seeing them.

        Have you tried Patteson Pelagics? I managed Short-finned Pilot whales while on a birding pelagic with them a few years back in Late May. I think they are pretty regular on their summer trips.

        Still have no idea where in NA to really reliably get Long-finned.

      • vdinets

        Both. I’ve spent so much time in areas where they are common, sometimes occurring in thousands… and never seen as much as a dorsal fin.

  • Richard Webb

    Clouded Leopard, 6 trips 3 countries with a seventh dip probably coming up in 3 weeks time. Happy days. Richard

  • Jurek

    Long-finned pilot whale is certain midsummer on Faroes, when they are hunted. Short-finned is certain in Tenerife, from the ferry to La Gomera, or, equal price, from the watching boat. Sometimes from the shore, too. I have some mammals which Vlad had not seen – amazing!

    You must return to Europe once ๐Ÿ˜‰

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