Show-Me Freaks of Nature
wildlife, picnic and discover nature with your family. Each entry includes recreation info, regulations, map and brochure.
When to look for cryptids
Our Natural Events Calendar is full of info about the best times and places to see Missouri’s native and migratory wildlife. Daily notes keep you posted on what's blooming or nesting. But don’t wait to get the 2013 calendar, which is disappearing faster than Momo’s footprints!
Want the facts? Check our online field guide
Identify and learn more about the Missouri wildlife you see (or think you see) in your neighborhood, park or conservation area. Browse our online field guide. An advanced search option lets you narrow your search by species group, key identifiers, color, size, habitats and status. Ever growing, the field guide includes nearly 1,000 entries on Missouri’s most commonly sighted species, including some, such as the chupacabra and swamp ape, that live only in people’s imaginations.
No kidding, lots of great outdoor events near you
Whether you’re looking for a little Halloween fun or serious hunter education, you’ll find lots of outdoor activities on our online events calendar. Programs on a variety of nature and outdoor topics are scheduled at MDC nature and outdoor education centers around the state.
Strange but true
Although the chupacabra and Momo are myths, Missouri is home to some bona fide freaks of nature that make a supernatural goat-sucking bristle-bear and a stinky, dog-eating swamp ape seem, well, boring.
Consider “rock snot,” aka didymo. This aquatic alien is a real alga that looks like big green booger. Its superpower? The ability to hitch rides on anglers’ gear and infest new trout waters, where it settles on stream bottoms and smothers trout eggs. Didymo hasn’t reached Missouri yet, and you can help keep it that way.
An alien invader that has appeared in Missouri is the emerald ash borer, a deceptively pretty green beetle that decimates ash trees. Learn how to identify and report it and other wildlife-killing, profit-sucking aliens at our Invasive Species page.
This Halloween, you might see make-believe zombies lumbering around pulling tricks and seeking treats. These costumed creatures won’t eat your flesh or hijack your brain—that only happens in scary, made-up movies. For some animals, though, zombies are all too real. Learn more about nature’s zombies, like braconid wasps and horsehair worms, at our Xplor website.
More Missouri freaks of nature
- Like vampires, chestnut lampreys latch onto passing fish, then consume their hosts’ body fluids.
- Dodder vine is the vampire of the plant world. It lives by sucking the juices of other plants.
- The giant red-headed centipede has venomous fangs to subdue prey and fight off attackers, including humans!
- The hellbender sounds ferocious, but this gentle giant is one of the world’s largest and rarest aquatic salamanders. Learn what we’re doing to restore this odd-looking endangered species to Missouri’s Ozark streams.
- The large, hairy (and scary-looking) Missouri tarantula is actually a shy creature, quick to evade humans.
Real wildlife sightings
Black bears—We find sightings of black bears way more exciting than reports of mythical beasts. Missouri is home to a growing population of these shy, powerful mammals. MDC is tracking the movements of individual bears. You can, too, by visiting Missouri’s Black Bear Project.
Mountain lions—Talk about exciting sightings! We have no evidence of a breeding population of these big cats in Missouri, but a handful of people have been lucky enough to see real, live mountain lions in our state. From what we know, the cougars are young males just passing through as they search for mates and territory. Mostly, they turn up on trail cameras. Our Mountain Lion Response Team looks into such reports. Many of these same images end up being from published sightings in other states. Some folks just can’t resist a hoax.
Learn more about Missouri’s commonly seen plants and animals in our Common Plants and Animals section.