Wertzels are fairly common in Pennsylvania forests. You can hear them calling at dusk, especially in the fall. Almost everyone has heard them but no one remembers seeing one. There are no photos or video. It took scientists a long time to figure this out.

It turns out wertzels have a unique and effective defense mechanism. Whenever a potential predator gets anywhere near them, they release a hormone that causes short term memory loss. If you go searching for one and get close, you’ll forget what you are doing. You’ll find yourself standing in the middle of the woods wondering, why am here?

You’ll retrace your steps to see if you can remember, but you won’t until hours or days later, maybe when you are driving your car or watching TV.

Many researchers have tried to set up camera traps to snag images of them, but they’d forget to turn on the camera or take off the lens cap. Most of the time they simple forget where they set the camera up. A lot of cameras have gone missing this way.

Often when I hear a wertzel, I go looking for it with a flashlight, but always end up wondering why I’m standing in the woods holding a flashlight.

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