8 of the World's Most Solitary Animals

From platypuses to polar bears, these creatures keep to themselves.

world's most solitary animals including platypus and polar bear illustration

Treehugger / Hilary Allison

Although countless animals prefer company, traveling in groups and sticking together for safety and camaraderie, there are also plenty of loners in the animal world. These solitary animals prefer to eat, sleep, and hunt all by themselves. For the most part, they only get together when it's time to mate or raise their young.

From polar bears to desert tortoises, meet eight of the most solitary animals in the world.

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Platypus eating worm while swimming

JohnCarnemolla / Getty Images

One of Australia's native animals, the bizarre-looking platypus will grudgingly share the same body of water with other animals, never interacting with them except during breeding season.

When naturalist George Shaw described the platypus in his 1799 work, "The Naturalist's Miscellany," readers couldn't believe an animal with a duck's bill and feet combined with a beaver's tail and an otter's body existed.

Today, the platypus is listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

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Polar Bear

Polar bear walking alone under an orange sky

Sylvain / Getty Images

Although young polar bears like to play together, adults prefer to be left alone except during mating season and when raising their cubs. They spend about half their time hunting for food, and they will tolerate the company of others if they find food that is large enough to share, like the carcass of a whale.

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Snow Leopard

Snow leopard sitting on a rock

James L. Amos / Getty Images

Snow leopards are considered to be one of the most elusive animals in the world. These majestic cats like to perch on rocky outcrops and cliffs so they can watch for prey and spot interlopers while remaining unseen. They’re crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk. Like other big cats (except lions, which live in groups called prides), snow leopards mostly only interact with others when mating or raising their young.

Snow leopards don't only avoid confrontations with other cats. According to the Snow Leopard Trust, there’s never been a verified snow leopard attack on a human. Even if disturbed while eating, a snow leopard is more likely to run away than protect its dinner.

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Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper standing in water next to small plants
aaprophoto / Getty Images

Most shorebirds stick together and migrate in flocks, but the aptly named solitary sandpiper is an exception. This North American shorebird typically migrates alone and is usually found solo along the banks of shaded streams and ponds.

Unlike other sandpipers that nest on the ground, the solitary sandpiper prefers borrowing old songbird nests high in the trees. If they're approached, these shy birds bob nervously, make high-pitched, whistlelike cries, and eventually fly away. The sandpipers are usually only seen together when mating or when mothers are with their young.

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Moose standing in water up to its chest
Scott Suriano / Getty Images

The largest member of the deer family, a moose can stand six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Unlike most deer species, however, moose don’t travel in herds. Calves stay with their mothers until they are about one year old, then go off on their own. During the breeding season, males (called bulls) will occasionally be seen fighting each other over a mate, but the rest of their lives are solitary.

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Desert Tortoise

A desert tortoise stands on rocky terrain in Mojave National Preserve
Lynn Wegener / Design Pics / Getty Images

Unlike most other solitary animals that at least stick around to raise their young, female tortoises dig a hole in the ground to lay their eggs, then rarely return. The tiny hatchlings, no larger than a quarter, are on their own from birth. They must avoid predators and search for their own food. Their odds aren’t good, as less than 2% make it to sexual maturity. Tortoises spend most of their lives alone, only meeting up to mate and occasionally sharing a burrow during hibernation.

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Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk seal lying on its belly on the sand
YinYang / Getty Images

While most seals live in colonies, the Hawaiian monk seal prefers to live a mostly reclusive life. Found only in the Hawaiian islands, the seal is endangered. Only 632 mature individuals are left in the wild.

Hawaiian monk seals interact when mating and raising their young, and sometimes they lie next to each other in small groups. They are rarely close enough to make physical contact, though, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Chuckwalla Lizard

Black and red chuckwalla lizard sits on light brown rock

PhotoAlto / Jerome Gorin / Getty Images

Found in rocky desert areas, the chuckwalla lizard has a distinctive appearance, including a potbelly and lots of loose folds of skin on its body and neck. The lizard spends its days alone, basking in the sun for warmth in the early mornings before hunting for food. It likes to perch in elevated spots so it can keep watch on its territory.

Males can be territorial, staying in sunny, elevated spots so they can keep watch on their land. If another male encroaches, they’ll fight to protect their property. The only time they interact with others is to mate.

What Are the Advantages of Being a Solitary Animal?

Humans, being a social species, sometimes have a hard time wrapping their minds around the concept of a solitary lifestyle. For certain animals, the loner life benefits them more than a social life would. They don't need cooperation from others to survive and thrive (with one or two exceptions, such as mating and rearing young). Here are some advantages solitary animals have.

  • Economic defensibility: Exclusive access to a territory makes that territory worth defending instead of sharing.
  • Access to limited resources: Some animals have access to so few resources that only one adult animal can survive in a given territory at once.
  • Less hunting: Cooperative hunting has its advantages, but solo hunting means the animal has to gather only enough food to feed itself (and maybe its young), not a whole community.
View Article Sources
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  2. Hall, Brian K. "The Paradoxical Platypus". Bioscience, vol 49, no. 3, 1999, pp. 211-218. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.2307/1313511

  3. Woinarski, J., and A.A. Burbidge. "Ornithorhynchus anatinus.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T40488A21964009. Accessed on 06 June 2022.

  4. "Snow Leopard Facts." Snow Leopard Trust.

  5. "Moose | National Wildlife Federation". National Wildlife Federation.

  6. Brost, Bob. Living With Desert Tortoises. University Of Arizona, 2010.

  7. Littnan, C., A. Harting, and J. Baker. "Neomonachus schauinslandi." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T13654A45227978. Accessed on 06 June 2022.

  8. "Hawaiian Monk Seal." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.