2021 best animal stories include cicadas, ‘shark alien fish,’ hero dog

December 28, 2021
Cicadas are photographed in the studio during the emergence of Brood X 17-year cicadas in Indianapolis on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
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Through the good and the bad, animals across the planet continue to fascinate and captivate our attention. 2021 was no different.

Whether it was by land, air or water, some stories showed how animals and humans sometimes share unique bonds, while others demonstrated how scary nature truly can be.

At USA TODAY, we love our animal stories, and some of these animal encounters and discoveries were massive hits with readers, proving they, too, can’t get enough of these critter updates. From bears, snakes, sunfish and the emergence of millions, if not billions, of very noisy insects, here are some of the biggest animal storylines of the year, along with some of our favorite stories from 2021.

Cicadas came and went – but not quietly

If there was an award show for animals, cicadas would probably sweep all the major 2021 categories, along with breakthrough animal of the year. 

In the spring, a group of cicadas known as Brood X emerged for the first time in 17 years and appeared all over the East Coast, making sure their presence was known by emitting sounds between 80 and 100 decibels, or as loud as a low-flying airplane or a lawnmower.

As soon as they arrived, Brood X wreaked havoc. In a few short weeks, they messed with the National Weather Service’s radars, caused a car accident in Ohio, crawled on a CNN reporter during a live shot and infested a White House press plane, delaying it for over six hours. Not bad for an animal with a sexually transmitted fungus that rots away their body and essentially makes them zombies. 

Despite their annoyance, some people found a way to enjoy these critters on their dinner plate, with one Virginia restaurant serving up cicada tacos. However, they weren’t so great for dogs

Even though they won’t be back until 2038, the Brood X legacy will live on through art

Other menacing critters

Cicadas weren’t the only bugs wreaking havoc on the world. In Maine, the invasive browntail moth caterpillar was poisoning people and leaving them with painful rashes. In the Northeast, health officials were begging people to kill the invasive spotted lanternfly

Spiders also made headlines, including the massive ‘megaspider’ in Australia. But we also learned if you ever see one in your house, it’s really just looking to hook up

What lurks in the waters

We know relatively little of what really lies underneath the deep waters across the world, and but all these wild creatures washing ashore this past year have given up a glimpse into some of the lesser-seen aquatic beasts.

After all, what would you do if you found the terrifying football fish not once but twice, as well as a 100-pound rare deep ocean fish and a humongous “mutilated shark alien” fish off the Pacific coast? Also, don’t forget about the rare “cotton candy” color lobster“mysterious blob” or the man swallowed by a humpback whale in the Atlantic, as well as the Kansas man that caught the ancient alligator gar.

But know there is no need to dispose of pet fish in the water, especially your goldfish

Slithering surprises

Snakes also had a shocking 2021. A Georgia woman thought there was a piece of fuzz on her floor – until it turned out to be 18 snakes under her bed. In Australia, a 10-foot-long python was found perusing the spices in a grocery store.

Some encounters were with potential deadly snakes, like when a Mississippi woman saw the very rare blond timber rattlesnake. In Britain, a stonemasonry firm found one of the deadliest snakes in the world, a saw-scaled viper, in a shipper container sent from India. It also appears snakes celebrate Christmas, after South Africa’s most venomous snake, the boomslang, came out of a family’s Christmas tree.

Heroes save the day 

As cool as it sounds to come up meet wild animals, it doesn’t always pan out to be a pleasant experience. However, some people were lucky enough to have some brave individuals come to the rescue.

Look no further than some super moms who were not going to let their children be in danger, like one mom who punched a mountain lion to save her 5-year-old son or another mother that chased down a leopard that grabbed her son

Alligators are one of the most lethal animals in the world. Look no further than one eating one of its own. Yet, that didn’t stop Donnie Wiseman from tackling one that bit its handler at a petting zoo. Or when Eugene Bozzi saw an alligator near his kids and decided to trap it with a trash container.

Love also had no bounds when Happy Wade grabbed a rabid bobcat that attacked his wife, or when 17-year-old Hailey Morinico somehow pushed a bear away from her dogs it was swiping at. 

More animal stories people couldn’t get enough of 

Why is your dog tilting its head?: New study dives into the adorable habit

Tilly: Missing dog thrown in car crash found herding sheep on Idaho farm

Tapeworm: Massachusetts man came into the hospital with seizures. Doctors found a tapeworm in his brain.

The cassowary: Humans were raising the ‘most dangerous bird in the world’ 18,000 years ago, new study shows

Tasmanian devils: Tasmanian devils were given a safe, island home. Then the devils slaughtered 3K penguins.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.



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Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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