Looking like it walked off the set of Pan’s Labyrinth, the star-nosed mole is famous for its fleshy nasal “star”: twenty-two tentacles that encircle its nostrils. The mole’s star—it contains 13,000 nerve endings—is sensitive enough to make up for the fact that the mole is practically blind. A mole can ID a piece of food (usually a bug) in eight milliseconds, and gobble hundreds of pieces of food in one minute.
If you see it paddling on the lake, the coot looks and moves like any other duck species. Except that it’s not a duck. This waterbird has a plump, chicken-like body and long, green feet. The feet are oversized and the toes are lobed. Even though they don’t look as useful as webbed feet, the palmate toes help the bird push efficiently through water. When the bird is walking on land, the different toe sections can fold back. This allows the coot to travel easily over mud or even ice.
Eastern Canada’s only lizard has a detachable tail—a handy feature for escaping from bird or snake predators. The appendage breaks off and continues to move on its own. The fact that the tail is electric blue (and, you know, writhing around) distracts the skink predator so the lizard can escape. A clean break barely bleeds, and a new tail can grow back at a rate of up to two millimetres per week.
Unlike the rest of cottage country turtles, this species has a soft, flexible shell. A spiny softshell can grow as large as a snapping turtle, and, if you can spot the species—it’s federally endangered—you can’t miss the leathery carapace and long snout. The species used to be distributed all over the country; now there are only two populations, one in Ontario and one in Quebec.
This species has the distinction of being the only venomous mammal in North America. The mouse-sized critter can paralyze its unfortunate prey—everything from earthworms and slugs to small reptiles and baby hares—by injecting it with a neurotoxin secreted from glands in the lower jaw.
Canada’s only marsupial is no beauty queen, with that rodent face and long, prehensile tail. Stranger still is this animal’s super-short gestation period: 13 days. This is because teeny-tiny newborns travel from the mother’s birth canal into her pouch, where, like baby kangaroos, they live, nursing until they’re developed enough to climb out.
This bird’s adorableness masks a grim truth: the carnivorous little creature kills its prey by impaling it on barbed wire fences or razor sharp sticks, earning it the nickname “Butcher Bird.” If you see a mouse corpse dangling from a tree, that’s probably the handiwork of a shrike.
Even though it’s commonly called a horny toad, this prairie province lizard is, of course, a lizard. It does have horns, multiple short ones all over its body. This, and its dull, sandy skin colour help it to camouflage, plus give it the prehistoric look of a tiny dinosaur. But the truly bizarre thing about the short-horned lizard is its defence strategy. A threatened lizard shoots blood out of its eye sockets. This is usually a last resort (for obvious reasons). A short-horn would rather run away.