A report on the unknown animal species that tree photographer Richard Higgins has found in the woods of New England over the last several years. Remarkably, none of the creatures are found in the scientific literature, Higgins found, so he named them "to the best of my ability." Fourteen woods creatures are presented here, with photographs and brief descriptions by the author. While hardly "On the Origin of Species," this zoologically ground-breaking provides a fascinating, and credible, look at animals that exist in the woods that remain unknown to those who live near them. The proceeds of any donations made through PayPal on the author's site will go to the Foundation for Woods Creatures, a 501C3. A fundraising benefit, The Concert for the Woods Animals, is being planned for spring 2015 in London. Details to be announced. All material herein is the property of the author. © Richard Higgins 2014. All rights reserved.
- 1. Woods CreaturesSpecies I have discoveredUNKNOWN ANIMALS in the woods? Yes,amazingly, there still are creatures in theNorth American woods that no one hasidentified. Science has not classified them.No one has written about them. Yet a walkin the woods with a discerning eye easilyconfirms the existence of these exoticspecies. Ive been pursuing them for yearsand have discovered many animals in thewoods of Massachusetts, New Hampshire,Rhode Island and even Quebec.Each species is different, but I can offer afew generalizations about them as a group. They are almost always found in woodedareas, or at least near or among trees. They can suddenly appear to melt into thesurrounding woods, almost like a cham-eleon,a trait that probably evolved as a wayto hide from predators and photographers.Richard Higgins
2. Id be pleased to hear from anyone whosheard of any of these animals. But if theyare indeed unknown, as I believe, I wouldlike to introduce 14 of them here.As a novice at classification, I can onlyhope the scientific names I propose will beratified and accepted. Im not even sure ifa few of them belong to the kingdom Ani-maliaor Vegetabilia. They have qualitiesof both. Most appear to be a hybrid of atall woody plant and a mammal, whileothers suggest a mix of a woody plant anda bird or reptile.But I can at least prove the existence ofthese species with my photographs. Illalso say a little of what Ive gleaned abouttheir appearance, habitats or diet.Turn your head the slightest, and theyvanish into the woods. Turn it back, andyou lock eyes with them. They become still upon being approach-edas motionless as a tree. I used to thinkI could wait them out and capture video ofthem as soon as they moved. But my cam-erainvariably became too heavy to hold,and I gave up with a nod to their patience. They are grey, brown or black in colorand tend to have rough, furrowed skin,often with rutted or wavy lines. They are not carnivorous, or at least Ihave never been attacked by them.Ive caught sight of these arresting crittersto my delight in the woodsbut never in ascientific text, botanical or zoological. 3. About these imagesAnyone would be justified in our Photoshop age to suspectthese photos are fake. Indeed, Ive almost wondered as muchmyself at times, although I took them and know that theyare not. Every critter here is as I found it in the woods.If it werent for natural decay (some photos are 8 yearsold) you could see these animals as they are here. I adopt-edthis rule when I first started noticing them. I saw arotting log, the end of which looked vaguely like a cowshead. Before taking a photo (not included here!) I artfullyput a piece of bark on it to improve the similarity. I wasimmediately disappointed with myself and felt reproved bythe very trees around me. As a lover of trees, I knew, andthey knew that I knew, that their magic and power extendsbeyond any human trickery, whether physical or digital. Iresolved to follow one rule: I could bend, duck or revolvearound a creature until it looked just right, but I couldnever touch it. And I have not. Ive edited the photos fornormal, sensible reasons (lighting, contrast, color, sharp-ness)but have not changed the basic image the camera re-corded.This rule has made my creature-hunting a fun gamefor me and kept it fascinating for so long.Send comments to [email protected] photographs is this report are by the author. Richard Higgins 2014. All rights reserved. 4. 1. Dog With Strange BarkThis is Caninus Cum Alienum Barca ( Dog With Strange Bark), which I found in Walden Woods. 5. 2. Walden DragonI spotted this scaly-skinned, reptile-like thing near the dog. Initially I worried that it was headedtoward it, but I later found that it subsists on a diet of fallen branches, which it is seen eating here. 6. 3. Sylvan SlithererSpotted, oddly, at Harvards Arnold Arboretum in Boston, not far from the main research facility,in which scores of botanists and naturalists looked at screens to identify things. Ive wanted to askone of them if it is related to the Walden Dragon, but I havent wished to embarrass anyone. 7. 4. Red-ThroatedPine PeckerEmerging from a hiddennest after feeding itsyoung regurgitated pinenuts and worms. It wasalso spotted in WaldenWoods, and had its sharpeye on the dragon and thedogpossibly to see ifthere would be any scraps. 8. 5. North AmericanWood OwlSpotted owl in a pine woodsof Concord. This guy reallytested my classificationskills. As a type of bird, itshould not be placed in theclass Mammalia. But thatface makes me wonder. 9. 6. Canadian WoodhorseI logged this fellow at Owls Head in Quebec. The ski area chairlift in seen middle left. 10. 7. Agni ConcideruntSpotted on beach in Little Compton, R.I. Fortunately, the zoologist Lewis Shari was on the beachthat day. At his suggestion, I named this sand-dweller Agni Conciderunt, or Lamb Chop. 11. 8. White-tailed Hornbranch (skeleton)I came across the skull of this cud-chewing ruminant in Thornton, New Hampshire. Im including thiscreature on my lifetime checklist for now, but I admit there is some possibility that it is extinct. 12. 9. Rootfoot Gargoyle SnagThis is a sad one. Saw this poor thing at the bottom of rock steps while descending Dickey Mtn. in N.H.Coming face-to-stump with this hideous creature in the wild is terrifying, but I wasnt worried becauseit was asleep. Or so I thought. Poked it with a stick, and it was dead. Fell? Pushed? Jumped? 13. 10. Dancing BirchlingWith a zoom lens, I managed to catch this graceful creature doing a one-trunk conga dance in theArnold Arboretum. This was one time I wish I hadnt given up on carrying a video camera! 14. 11. Atlantic Drift SharkSpotted on a Rhode Island beach. It was in a predicament, but there was little I could do other thansplash water on it. There were reports of shark attacks that July, and I didnt want to take a chance. 15. 12. White Boled RhinoSpotted in Thornton, N.H., after I overhead periodic loud snorting in the woods. It was good to knowthat, unlike the Rootfoot Snag, this deciduous denizen of the forest was just resting. 16. 13. Bigtooth HorntrunkSpotted in the King Phillips Woods in Lincoln, Mass. This guy is a real invasive. It attacks trees,sinks its powerful mandibles into their xylum and sucks out the sap through its trunk. 17. 14. Druid SlothSpotted at Owls Head, in Quebec. This shot was a lucky one for me, as the druid sloth typically hiber-natesthe entire winter in a tree. It was aroused after snow-making machines splattered it with snow.