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

Lots of animals love company. They travel in groups and stick together for safety and camaraderie. However, there are also plenty of loners in the animal world.

From polar bears to desert tortoises, 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.

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Platypus diving through water
When the platypus was first described, people thought it wasn't real. Robin Smith / Getty Images

One of Australia's native animals, the interesting-looking platypus prefers to keep to itself. The platypus will grudgingly share the same body of water with other animals, but won’t interact unless it’s breeding season or if a mother is taking care of her young.

When naturalist George Shaw described the platypus in his 1799 work "The Naturalist's Miscellany," readers didn't believe him. With its unusual combination of parts – a duck's bill and feet, a beaver's tail, and an otter's body and fur – the platypus is, understandably, one of the more baffling creatures in the animal kingdom. 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
United States, Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Kaktovik, polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

Sylvain / Getty Images

These iconic Arctic dwellers enjoy solo life. Young polar bears like to play together, but adults are loners, preferring to be left alone except during mating season and when raising their cubs. Adult polar bears 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 in a snow storm
Snow leopards avoid confrontations with other cats and people. abzerit / Getty Images

Snow leopards are considered 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, meaning they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Like other big cats (except lions, which live in groups called prides), snow leopards live solitary lives, mostly only interacting with others when mating or raising their young.

Snow leopards don't only avoid confrontations with other cats – they also avoid humans. 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
The solitary sandpiper is often found alone along the banks of a shady pond or creek. aaprophoto / Getty Images

Most shorebirds stick together and migrate in flocks. The aptly named solitary sandpiper, however, is an exception. This North American shorebird typically migrates alone and is usually found solo along the banks of a shaded stream or pond, according to Audubon.

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, whistle-like cries, and 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 a body of water
The independent moose can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Scott Suriano / Getty Images

The largest member of the deer family, the impressive moose can stand 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms), according to the National Wildlife Federation. But unlike most deer species, 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
Desert tortoises are on their own from the moment they hatch. Lynn Wegener / Design Pics / Getty Images

When female tortoises lay their eggs, they dig a hole in the sand, deposit the eggs, and 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
Hawaiian monk seals are found only on the shores and waters of Hawaii. 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 Hawaiian monk seal is critically endangered with an estimated 1,400 seals or fewer 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, but they are rarely close enough to make physical contact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Chuckwalla Lizard

A black and red chuckwalla lizard sits on a light brown rock
The chuckwalla lizard likes to perch in elevated spots so it can keep watch on its territory.

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 solitary lizard spends its days alone: basking in the sun for warmth in the early mornings, then hunting for food. The chuckwalla lizard likes to perch in elevated spots so it can keep watch on its territory.

They are mostly found by themselves except when it’s time to find a mate. 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.

View Article Sources
  1. Hall, Brian K. "The Paradoxical Platypus". Bioscience, vol 49, no. 3, 1999, pp. 211-218. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.2307/1313511

  2. Woinarski, John, and Andrew Burbidge. "IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species: Ornithorhynchus Anatinus". IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species.

  3. "Moose | National Wildlife Federation". National Wildlife Federation.

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

  5. "Hawaiian Monk Seal". NOAA.