Mysterious Gollum-Like Creature Found at Washington Rest Stop

It may look like Gollum escaped from J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe through space and time, but this isn’t fiction. A kinkajou was climbing on a wooden sign post at a Washington State rest stop, and that is not where this animal is supposed to be. Maybe that’s why it looked so disturbed when someone took pictures of the creature peering at them.

This week, the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) posted photos of the mysterious Washington kinkajou on X with the witty caption: “This is how your email finds me.” (Making a jab at the kinkajou’s Gollum-y vibe in the photo.)

In reality, kinkajous are adorable. This photo definitely doesn’t do the cute animal justice. But here’s the rub: Kinkajous live in tropical rainforests. Their natural range is from southern Mexico through Brazil—in other words, way, way far away from Washington State.

In a follow-up reply to its initial X post, the Washington State DOT said: “Hello from our friendly Kinkajou! What’s that you say? It’s a nocturnal rainforest animal. Why was it at our east Selah Creek Rest Area over the wknd? We have no idea, but our friends with Dept. of Fish & Wildlife rescued him. We don’t know if it was dropped off or escaped.”

About Kinkajous

In the wild, kinkajous are nocturnal, arboreal animals. They have slightly webbed hands and small claws, dense fur, and a long, prehensile tail. Kinkajous also have long tongues they use to drink nectar from flowers and steal honey from beehives. Raccoons are their closest relatives that live in North America.