Wildlife Chucklers


Hands in the air
“Hands in the air! Keep them up.” A brown bear seems to follow an unspoken police command at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Photo: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS)

Go ahead. Laugh.

With some wildlife photos, it’s hard to resist.

When we shared a collection of amusing wildlife photos back in August, we allowed that animals don’t set out to be funny. Still, we admitted, sometimes it’s hard not to see them that way. Judging by your response, you agree. So we’re sharing a new group of chucklers.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most were taken on national wildlife refuges. Where better than refuges to spot so many birds and animals in the wild?  

A parrotfish
Move over, Dory. This friendly-looking swimmer is for real. A parrotfish flashes a wide one at Looe Key Reef, a few miles south of National Key Deer Refuge, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Kristie Killam/USFWS)

At Key Deer Refuge in Florida, ranger Kristie Killam shoots a lot of underwater video. When she reviews the footage she captured, she sometimes encounters surprises. Like this “smiling” parrotfish, pausing from nibbling on Sargassum weed among corals at Looe Key Reef, south of the refuge.

“I thought this ‘smile’ was a great pic for a fun Facebook post,” says Killam.

a tricolored heron
Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, a tricolored heron executes what looks like a really advanced yoga move while shaking off sea water. (Photo: Copyright Mia McPherson)

Now that’s a really twisted bird. A tricolored heron gives its neck a double turn and shake after getting soaked by a wave.
See tricolored herons at Florida’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and many other coastal refuges.

A bison grazes
“Funny” is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder. A bison grazes at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. (Photo: USFWS)

Head too heavy for its body? Says who? Maybe to this bison, we look out of proportion, too.

Fungal growths on a tree limb align curiously
Fungal growths on a tree limb align curiously at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in west-central Minnesota. (Photo: Morgan Gantz)

Sometimes – perhaps when you’re enjoying a walk in the woods and hearing the crunch of leaves under foot – you just feel in sync with nature.

Morgan Gantz, a 2014-15 Refuge System Wilderness Fellow, felt something like that when she led visitors on a photo safari through the wilderness at Tamarac Refuge.  Noted Gantz, “The forest even smiled at us!”

little puffin paces
A worried-looking little puffin paces. (Photo: Lewisham Park)

What’s this little guy up to? And why does the photo make you smile? You tell us.

Wish we knew more about the source of this photo, which we found online; we suspect it’s tied to accounts of a wayward puffin rescued in London in 2015. But you can find puffins in the wild at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and many refuges in Alaska. Get a load of puffin action on this live puffin cam from Maine.

great blue heron
A great blue heron displays a splendid dancing figure at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. (Photo: Jim Leonard)

Hear that orchestra? It’s struck up a waltz — or something equally regal. And this proud bird’s ready to step out, head up, shoulders back, feathers trailing.

A Kodiak brown sow and cub lean in close
A Kodiak brown sow and cub lean in close at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

Hurry. Sign these guys up for an audition with “America’s Got Talent.”

Hearing this fine, strapping pair harmonize could be fun — from a safe distance. (How far is that?)

Kodiak brown bears are a distinct subspecies that can weigh up to 1,400 pounds.

trumpeter swan prepares to land
A trumpeter swan prepares to land at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

“This is Traffic Control … Big Foot, you’re cleared for landing on Runway 3.”

When trumpeter swans approach for a landing, the large birds (adult males can weigh 20 to 40 pounds) need to slow down to reduce impact and prevent injury. One way they do that: by sticking their feet out in the air to create drag. With their feet fully extended, they look like they have two frying pans hanging below them.

Here are some cool facts about trumpeter swans.  

Two black bears join paws
Two black bears join paws at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. (Photo: Jackie Orsulak/USFWS)

The photographer snuck up on these black bears having a quiet spin at Pocosin Lakes Refuge. Pardon us. Sorry for intruding. The dance floor is all yours.

Pocosin Lakes Refuge’s large size and dense vegetation makes it a haven for species like the black bear that generally avoid humans.

snowy egret perches on a rail
A snowy egret perches on a rail at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. (Photo: N. Christensen/USFWS)

Does this shot make my legs look longer? Hey, I can’t help it. It’s just the way I’m built. 

Snowy egrets are showy birds, particularly in breeding season. Their long, white, filmy plumage once made the birds targets for bounty hunters. More about snowy egrets.  

Thanks for laughing with us. Do YOU have a funny wildlife photo to share? Earn a spot in our next wildlife humor photo gallery. Send your photo to susan_morse@fws.gov.
Tell us WHO took the shot and WHERE. Bonus points for photos taken on national wildlife refuges. Or share your photos on our Facebook page

Link to our earlier collection of funny wildlife photos: “Try Not to Laugh.”  

Compiled by Susan_Morse@fws.gov, February 8, 2017