The Great Pyramids… The Taj Mahal… Two of the Seven Wonders of the World. I’m on board with “Animals in America” being added to that list.
The US has an impressive array of mammals, birds, reptiles, and more that mesmerize us in a way nothing else can. (Have you ever seen an eagle catch a fish mid-flight?)
We share our country with some of the most spectacular animals in the world. America is home to dangerous, rare, native, and endangered animals you just can’t find anywhere else.
Let’s get into the juicy details about caribou, killer bees, and great white sharks. Did you know all pigs have tusks? They just never cease to amaze…
Now let’s talk about the animals of the United States – the furry, finned, feathered, and scaled.
Overview of Wildlife in America
I’ve been an animal person since I came out of the womb, so knowing the particulars about them is kind of a thing with me. Hummingbirds, whales, and wolves have always taken my breath away.
What would the United States even be without animals? I never want to know. We domesticate them, train them, and gawk at them just to be as close to them as possible.
There are animals we’re deathly afraid of, goofy-looking ones and breathtaking ones, and all of them have something in common… They’re as remarkable as the human animal.
Let’s talk about mice teeth, the dam-builders, and the wolverine. There’s oh-so-much to learn, so let’s get going.
National Animals of the United States
Did you know the USA has TWO national animals? Most of us know the Bald Eagle is our national animal, but in 2016, the bison joined the eagle. The reason why…
“…they’re a symbol of our American identity and one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time.” (US Department of the Interior)
Bison and buffalo are two unique animals. Although it’s easy to see the resemblance, Encyclopedia Britannica says…
“There are two kinds of bison, the American bison and the European bison, and two forms of buffalo, water buffalo, and Cape buffalo.”
Plains Bison evolved during the time they were slaughtered, nearly to extinction, by our ancestors in the 1900s as well as experiencing climate change.
Specialists/Researchers have discovered that the bison we know and love today isn’t the bison of yesterday.
It’s okay. We’ll take our bison any way they want to be!
The Bald Eagle
Since 1782, this regal bird has represented the US and appears on countless official documents and currency.
When worries began that it might become extinct, John F. Kennedy wrote to the Audobon Society, “…we shall fail our trust if we permit the eagle to disappear.”
The United States is home to a wide variety of fascinating animals, both native and introduced. Let’s have a look at them:
You can be sure a horse will be honest with you since they’re not afraid to show their temperaments and personalities. I was once riding when my horse decided to lie down on its side and then quickly stand up.
He was probably communicating he’d rather be eating hay. Thank goodness for saddles. Note: I was okay. A bit surprised(!), but fine.
You might already know pigs are as smart, if not smarter than dogs. But did you know all pigs have tusks? (Yes, I researched the heck out of this.) Not just wild boars.
Their tusks are normally cut off so as not to harm other pigs or people in a farm setting, but pigs need them for rooting (digging for roots and bulbs), so keep the tusks in place. It’s the humane thing to do.
Many Americans would starve without them since not all of us are vegetarians like me. Females are cows, males are bulls or steers, and heifers are females who haven’t given birth. A surprising fact is that they’re really good swimmers.
Canines, fiercely loyal, and our best friends are just a few definitions of our 4-legged loves. They live in the moment, and we can learn from them by watching. The American Kennel Club has close to 200 dog species listed.
What would we do without the cool cat’s nonchalance or watching them spring from the ground to a branch? The closest animal to cheetahs and other cats, felines were made to be graceful and stealthy. And Garfield can attest to that.!
It’s a scientific fact that mice are sentient animals along with every other animal – They can feel emotions. These primarily nocturnal species’ teeth never stop growing, and it’s why they gnaw on, well, everything.
The white-tailed deer is a thing of beauty. Those legs, those tails, those eyes! I’m fortunate enough to gaze upon them in the wild as I work for about three days a week. (I’m in TN, where they’re plentiful.)
Deer eat food with low fiber and high protein, like young grasses, herbs, aquatic plants, woody shoots, and fruit. No wonder they’re so gorgeous!
Depending on the state, only certain turtles can be legally owned as pets. Poaching and road accidents are two things that make turtle conservation important, so educate yourself on these magnificent reptiles.
Rabbits are true herbivores (plant-based eaters), and their holes, warrens, can be up to 9 feet deep. They live in large groups or colonies.
The Eastern cottontail rabbit is the most common species in America, and if you find a baby, called a kitten or a kit, check out your next move before doing anything.
No, the plural is not “Meese.” These spectacular animals weigh more than 1,000 lbs. and are the largest members of the deer family. Since females lack antlers, they use their powerful kicks instead to fight, which is generally to protect their young.
USA Wild Animals
The United States is a treasure trove of incredible wildlife, ranging from massive grizzly bears and noble elk to tiny hummingbirds and dazzling butterflies. Let’s read about the most popular ones:
In 2016, the National Bison Legacy Act was signed into law. This great beast became the national mammal of the United States.
- Bison now roam across all 50 states, spanning Tribal territories, protected wildlife areas, national parks, and private lands.
This bird mates for life and discovered nests have been seen that span 10 ft. across and weigh up to 2,000 lbs. In 2007, it was removed from the endangered and threatened species list.
- 75% in Alaska and British Columbia
- Mid-Atlantic region
- West Virginia
Beavers are incredibly intelligent beyond our understanding. Besides humans, this species changes the landscape the most with their dam-building. Check them out as they display their powers.
- Throughout the US except for the Alaskan tundra, South Carolina, some areas of the Midwest, and the Florida peninsula.
In a single meal, adult wolves can eat 20 lbs. of meat. They need it for a reserve between hunts.
- Alaska, northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, western Montana, northern Idaho, northeast Oregon, and the Yellowstone area of Wyoming.
According to the Humane Society of the US, a cougar has the ability to jump as high as a 2-story building. They’re regularly seen in roadside zoos, which is a tragedy, and hunted as trophies.
- Western US
- Southern FL
American Black Bear
There has been confusion among specialists regarding a black bear’s long period of rest. It has been called hibernation torpor, winter sleep, and dormancy. Leading physiologists now simply call it “hibernation.” Semantics.
- Found in almost all 50 states.
Like so many animals, humans are the number one predator of the bobcat. These solitary cats emit a “yell” that can be heard for miles.
- They’re found in every state except for Delaware.
Gila (HEE-Luh) Monster
These beautiful creatures are the largest lizard in the US and can grow to be 22 inches long.
- Arizona and Mexico
- New Mexico
This stately sheep has horns that can weigh up to 30 lbs. In a group, they face different directions to be able to see predators more readily. Smarty-pants!
- Find them in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
These doe-eyed animals can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes and dive more than 1,800 feet. They’re mostly solitary and don’t live in colonies like sea lions, and other seals do.
So their faces might be ones only a mother could love, but these birds can fly like the wind, up to 200 miles a day. They strictly eat dead things, so no need to be afraid of them.
- Baja California (which is in Mexico)
Native North American Animals
Whether you’re an avid nature lover or simply enjoy learning about animals, North America’s native wildlife is sure to captivate your imagination.
Nope, we’re not talking about Hugh Jackman, but the brave animal that’s only hunted by humans (boo) to keep them away from livestock. They love snow-covered areas due to the plentiful food supply of carcasses and rodents.
Not pests but beauties; these omnivores are the mascot of the National Wildlife Federation. His name is Ranger Rick!
- Throughout the continental US
Hawaiian Monk Seal
These seals are the official state mammal of Hawaii. They’re unique in that they live in a tropical climate, unlike other seal species that live in frigid temperatures.
Although they’re also called prairie or brush wolves, they’re smaller. When they can’t find prey, they eat large amounts of berries and fruits.
- In all US states except for Hawaii
Elk are social animals and live in groups of 10-20 individuals. They’re highly adaptable, and herds of them, called “gangs,” are divided by sex and can sometimes number in the hundreds.
- Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada
This bear is a fiercely protective and loving parent – the females, that is, who sometimes need to protect them from males of their species. Their black skin helps to absorb heat.
Newborn cubs are less than 15 inches long and weigh a little more than a pound. They’re so cute you could just put them in your pocket. But don’t!
This antelope’s horns are a cross between horns and antlers and have qualities of both. They’re the only animals in the world that have forked horns that shed every year.
- Great Plains, Wyoming, Montana, California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico
These lovely birds are known for the way they dance to lure a mate by stretching their wings, pumping their heads, and leaping. (Which is not so far off from a human’s ritual.)
- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Mississippi.
Their mating competitions are quite the spectacle, with two rams running toward each other at up to 40 mph and clashing their horns together. This crash can be heard up to a mile away.
- Find them in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona
These pale-green wonders live in some hardwood forests. They are also known as the American Moon Moth. Since they have no mouths or digestive systems, they don’t eat and live for about a week. Tough life!
- From Maine to Florida and from Texas to North Dakota
With a rounded snout, unlike a crocodile’s V-shaped one, these reptiles are safe from predators, except humans, from the time they’re 4 feet long. They dig “gator holes” along waterways to brumate, not hibernate when there are extreme temperatures.
- From North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas.
The Most Dangerous Animals in the US
While the United States is known for its diverse and fascinating wildlife, it’s also home to several species that can be dangerous to humans.
The average human bite force is 120-160 psi (pounds per square inch). A grizzly bear’s psi is 1,000. They weigh up to 700 lbs. and can eat moose, elk, caribou, and deer. Respect them a little more now?
All the hype over killer bees is basically true. The hybrid of an aggressive African relative and a European honey bee they were recorded as having reached Texas in 1990 from South and Central America.
They only kill in swarms when they think their colony is in danger. Tip: Leave them alone!
- Killer bees, or Africanized honey bees, are found in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, western Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and central and southern Florida.
These misunderstood animals are pit vipers, with heat-sensing organs in pits near the eyes but will steer clear of you if you don’t bother them. If a rattlesnake bite is left untreated, it can result in severe medical problems or even death.
- Prevalent, especially in the Southwest and almost every other state in the US except for Hawaii, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Maine.
Black Widow Spider
Being raised in TN, I was sometimes warned by my mother, “Watch for black widows.” The poison they can inject is said to be 15 times stronger than rattlesnake venom. Ouch!
- These spiders are found in all 50 states and are prevalent in Southern and Western states.
Rarest Animals Found in the US
Many of these species face threats such as habitat loss, climate change, and poaching, making their protection and preservation critical for the health of our planet.
Unfortunately, the red wolf only resides in Eastern North Carolina.
In July 2021, the US Fish & Wildlife Service organized a new Red Wolf Recovery Team to update the current Red Wolf Recovery Plan, last revised in 1990. This conservation project will be completed by September 2023.
Due to their slow movements, this lover of marine mammals is often killed by boats when they’re close to the surface of the water. These are curious, docile, and gentle creatures.
They live as far west as TX and as far north as MA in the summer, but when temperatures drop, they live solely in FL.
The state animal of Florida, this carnivore, has had genetic malformations like kinked tails in the past due to inbreeding. (Their numbers were so small, it was inevitable.) Today, they only live in the southwestern tip of FL.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Unlike freshwater turtles and tortoises, sea turtles cannot draw their head or flippers into their shells. They nest primarily on the Atlantic coast of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina and along the Florida and Alabama coasts in the Gulf of Mexico.
Disease, drought, declining genetic fitness, including increased inbreeding, and prairie dog poisoning and shooting are the main threats this rare, incredible species faces. It is the only ferret species native to the Americas.
Since these noble animals are generally located in steep, mountainous terrain, they’re rarely seen. They are found in Idaho and Washington.
Mississippi Gopher Frog (Now Known As the Dusky Gopher Frog)
This little critter spends most of its time in stump holes and burrows that have been abandoned. Researchers discovered that one had traveled nearly a mile from his pond. This amphibian is on the move. They’re found only in Florida.
The Largest US Animals
Great White Shark
The largest predatory fish on Earth, they’re massively feared (Quick note: Don’t get in a cage, get immersed, and throw it some meat) and can weigh 1,500-2,400 lbs. and measure up to 20 feet long.
They can vary greatly in size, with adult females typically weighing around 800 pounds while large adult males can weigh up to 1,600 pounds. These magnificent creatures can also stand at an impressive height of nearly 6 feet tall. (Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game)
These birds have a wingspan of 9.5 feet and weigh up to 23 lbs. Their greatest threat is lead poisoning… I’ll make this simple. Humans shoot animals. Condors eat dead things, and if bullets are inside… ‘Nuff said.
Well also, hunting has far-reaching effects on animals. They also eat pieces of glass and metal, and feed them to their young, that humans have dropped. Now ‘nuff said.
They can grow to be more than 12 feet long and weigh as much as 1,000 lbs. Alligators are cold-blooded and depend on the sun and the temperature to provide them with warmth. Bet you didn’t know they can climb trees!
These whales can grow to be 110 feet long and weigh 290,000–330,000 lbs. (Maybe they should eat some lettuce?)
Endangered Species in the US
“There are over 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States today.” (US Environmental Protection Agency)
There are around 200 left in the wild. The reason why it got this bad? Hunting.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
They live on the coasts of Florida, and rapid societal development has been their downfall.
It has been endangered since 1973. Boat strikes and climate change are the main reasons why.
One of the most endangered mammals in North America, they are the only ferret species native to the US. There are now only about 370 of them in the wild.
There are less than 20 in the wild. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a Recovery Plan expected to be finalized in 2023.
Mississippi Gopher Frog
In 2012, this frog was identified as one of the top 100 most endangered species in the world by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is regarded as the rarest amphibian in North America.
Endangered since 1984, its home is in WA and ID. Deforestation and climate change have almost obliterated them.
This species is the only federally protected crayfish in Tennessee. (Being from Nashville, this wonderful crustacean was especially important to me.)
Wildlife Tourism in the US
According to UNWTO, wildlife tourism entails exploration and engagement with indigenous flora and fauna, thriving within their untouched natural habitats.
Yellowstone National Park
This wondrous location is arguably the number one US national park for wildlife watching.
- Everglades National Park – Birds, alligators/crocodiles, white-tailed deer, snakes, and much more
- Ten Thousand Islands – Miami – Diverse birdlife, manatees, dolphins, alligators
- Shell Island (near Panama City Beach) – Dolphins, armadillos, and alligators
- Dry Tortugas – Key West – “America’s most inaccessible national park.” It’s necessary to fly over and hover to see schools of sharks (and more) which can be arranged.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Orlando – Habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals.
- Alaska Peninsula Wildlife Refuge – Bald eagles, puffins, cormorants, emperor geese, swans, and many other species of seabirds, shorebirds, raptors, and waterfowl
- Kenai Fjords National Park – Black bear, brown bear, beaver, coyote, mountain goat, river otter, mink, and moose
- Denali National Park and Preserve – Grizzly and black bears, wolves, caribou, moose, and Dall’s sheep
- Katmai National Park and Preserve – Brown bears, moose, caribou, red fox, wolf, lynx, wolverine, river otter, mink, marten, weasel
- Chugach State Park – More than 45 species of mammals live in Chugach State Park, including nearly all the terrestrial mammals found in Alaska.
- Glacier Bay National Park – Marine, bears, moose, wolves, Sitka blacktail deer, mountain goats, and bald eagles
- Crater Lake National Park – Deer, birds, elk, bobcats
- Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge – Seabird colonies, sea lions
- Fort Stevens State Park – Mule deer, coyotes, raccoons, elk, and gray whales
- Ecola State Park – Whales, Bald Eagles
- Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area – Beaver, muskrat, Canada geese, and waterfowl
How Can I Help Protect American Wildlife?
- Become vegan or vegetarian for one day a week – Plant-based or vegan eaters live longer, have a 32 percent lower risk of heart disease, and a 25 percent lower risk of premature death from any cause. It’s estimated one vegetarian/vegan saves one animal per week.
- Picking up trash along coastlines is immensely valuable.
- Write to your federal and state elected officials, encouraging them to support policies that protect wildlife.
- Enhance your yard’s ecological value by planting native flowers, trees, and bushes. These provide essential food, shelter, and nesting areas for wild animals.
- Visit a farm to see the inner workings and get to know the animals up close and personal.
- Avoid wearing leather, feathers, or any other animal coverings. Don’t buy products made of these whenever possible.I’m a vegetarian with a vegan lifestyle which means I don’t eat meat, and I only wear materials that are not made from animals. I also use only cruelty-free (Leaping Bunny) products.
- Respect wildlife by not approaching them and not removing them from their environment.
Are There Any Animals Unique to Certain Regions of the US?
Yes, these species are called “Endemic.” This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it covers some interesting species.
- American alligators – According to the National Wildlife Federation, they are located in the coastal wetlands of the U.S. Southeast, as far north as North Carolina and as far west as eastern Texas. Their range extends down to southern Florida and includes the Everglades.
- Giant kangaroo rat – This species lives in grassland areas, mostly along the western edge of California’s San Joaquin Valley.
- Gopher tortoise – It lives in the southeastern Coastal Plain from southeastern Louisiana east to southern South Carolina and south to Florida.
- American bison – The Nature Conservancy says it lives on twelve native grassland preserves in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
- Hawaiian monk seal – They’re located in the Hawaiian archipelago, which includes both the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and rarely at Johnston Atoll, which is close to Hawaii.
What Animals Are Extinct in the US?
Scientists estimate there are 539 species that have become extinct in the United States in the past 200 years. Here are a few of them:
- Cascade Mountains Wolf Pacific Northwest 1940
- Florida black wolf Eastern US 1920
- Atlantic gray whale North Atlantic 1760
- Ivory-billed woodpecker Arizona 1967
- Caribbean monk seal Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico 1952
- Gull Island vole Great Gull Island, NY 1900
What Are the Most Venomous Animals in the US?
- Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
- Eastern coral snake
- Copperhead snake
- Cottonmouth snake(also called “Water moccasin”)Cottonmouths bite more people than any other snake species.
- Mojave rattlesnake (also called “Mojave green”)
You can find them in the Southwestern United States and Northern to Central Mexico.
- Bark scorpion
- Gila monster
- Recluse spider
There are many more venomous animals in the US that couldn’t be included. Sweet dreams!
From the range to the sky and the pastures to the water, America is overflowing with incomparable animals. Farm animals, wild animals, and pet animals, we’ve got ‘em all.
So the next time you go for a hike, or you visit Uncle Rudy on his farm, take a good look around. There’s “magic” in every animal just waiting for you. Don’t miss it!