A Guide to Animals in the U.S.

The United States are home to some of the world’s most unique and interesting animals, making it an ideal destination for wildlife lovers of all sorts. Wolves, alligators and coyotes wander the American wilderness freely here, and clever and inquisitive creatures like squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs can be spotted right across the country in the unlikeliest of places.

Being prepared for wildlife encounters is a must for RV rental travel in the US. So we have developed this simple and easy-to-use guide to the animals of America. Including information about the best places to spot them, population sizes and just how dangerous some of them can be, this guide is your one-stop-shop to all things wildlife in the US.

So what are you waiting for? Start discovering the incredible wildlife of the US today!

Danger Ratings:



Alligator (American)


Commonly referred to as a “gator”, the American Alligator has a large rounded body with thick limbs, a massive tail and a broad, killer head. They can reach up to 19-feet in length and any animal living in water or coming to water is potential prey.

Population Size:

Alligators are spread out across South Eastern states of the US, with a population of 1.5 million found in Florida and Louisiana each.

Best Seen:

Mostly found in the South Eastern region of the US, gators are primarily freshwater creatures and live in wetlands. They are very common in Florida and Louisiana.




American Copperhead


As far as snakes go, the American Copperhead would have to be one of the sneakiest. It waits for its prey before attacking, but is generally non-aggressive. Although venomous, a copperhead bite to a human is not fatal.

Population Size:

Due to their wide distribution there is a large, unknown population of these creatures.

Best Seen:

American Copperheads roam deciduous forest and mixed woodlands in the following states: TX, OK, KS, MO, AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, FL, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV, IL, OH, IA, PA, MD, NJ, DE, NY, CT and MA



Armadillo (Nine-banded)


Armadillos are known for their leathery armor shells and average 30 inches in length, including their tail.  They are prolific diggers with sharp claws and mainly survive on grubs. They have a habit of running under cars and consequently have come to be known as a “Hillbilly Speed Bump”

Population Size:

The Armadillo is a threatened species.

Best Seen:

Armadillos are common in the central southern most states, especially in Texas.



Badger


Badgers are short-legged, heavy-set omnivores that live in burrows either in clans or by themselves. They are most easily identified by the white stripe that runs from their nose to the backs of their head, and sometimes down their entire back.

Population Size:

Badger numbers are declining, but they are still spread across the US.

Best Seen:

Badgers are spread right across North America but are nocturnal creatures and therefore, not often spotted.



Bat (Little Brown)


A total of 45 species of bat can be found in the United States, with the most common of these being the little brown bat. These creatures survive primarily off bugs, insects and beetles.

Population Size:

Little brown bats are not endangered.

Best Seen:

Little brown bats live in temperate zones across the US, Mexico and Canada.



Beaver (North American)


The North American Beaver is the only species of beaver in the US, and also the country’s largest rodent. This semi-aquatic creature can weigh up to 77 lbs, are avid dam creators and are mostly active at night.

Population Size:

The North American Beaver is not endangered, with an estimated population of up to 15 million.

Best Seen:

Beavers live in streams, rivers, marshes, ponds and shorelines throughout the US.



Bighorn Sheep


This is a North American species of sheep with big horns that can weigh up to 30 pounds. They typically live in large flocks and exceptionally good swimmers, mountain climbers and jumpers.

Population Size:

Big Horn Sheep are not endangered.

Best Seen:

Bighorn Sheep are frequently spotted in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.



Bison (American)


Also commonly known as the American Buffalo, the Bison has a shaggy, long dark brown winter coat and can grow up to 6 foot, 6 inches in height, making it the largest land animal in North America. Once a male bison has produced offspring with a female, he will go off to another herd of “bachelor males”.

Population Size:

There are approximately 500,000 captive commercial bison in captive commercial populations.

Best Seen:

Bison can be spotted throughout parks and reserves across the United States.



Black Bear


It might be America’s smallest and most common species of bear, but if you come across one of these you will still probably shake in your boots. These bears hibernate for 7 months out of the year, resorting to their dens in October and November.

Population Size:

Black Bears are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Black bears tend to predominate in moist areas such as New England, New York, Tennessee, Michigan and western Washington. They are also commonly found in Yosemite National Park.



Black-Tailed Prairie Dog


Not like your typical dog, the black-tailed prairie dog wanders the United States from the USA-Canada border, all the way down to the USA-Mexican border.

This tan creature has a light-colored belly and is sometimes kept as an exotic pet.

Population Size:

The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog is not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

These creatures are scattered all across the United States.



Bobcat


A prominent member of the cat family, the Bobcat has a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears. In appearance it closely resembles the Lynx, but it is one of the smaller “big cat” species.

Population Size:

There are between 700,000 and 1,500,000 bobcats located in the US.

Best Seen:

The Bobcat can be found in most of North America’s continental range, from both the Canadian and Mexican borders. They may also commonly be found in the humid swamps of Florida and the desert lands of Texas.



Chipmunk


These small, striped animals are similar in looks to the squirrel and are known for their habits at the beginning of autumn when begin to stockpile goods into their burrows for winter. They were also made famous by the 1958 group, “Alvin and the Chipmunks”.

Population Size:

Chipmunks are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Ranging from Canada to Mexico, they are generally seen scampering through the undergrowth of a variety of environments from alpine forests to shrubby deserts.



Cottontail Rabbit


Cottontail rabbits range from reddish brown to gray and all feature a distinctive cotton white tail. Known as a pest these creatures can be problematic for farmers and are also a popular game animal.

Population Size:

Cottontail rabbits are widely spread across North America and are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Cottontail rabbits seek out habitat on the fringes of open spaces including fields, meadows and farms. They can be found across the entire US.



Cougar


The cougar (also commonly referred to as a puma, mountain lion or panther) is a large solitary cat with a slender and agile body that can weigh up to 220 lbs. These animals will basically eat anything they can catch, with human attacks rare.

Population Size:

The cougar has the largest range of any wild animal in the Americas and is not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

The cougar prefers regions with dense underbrush but also lives in open areas with little vegetation. They are also known to frequent canyons, escarpments, rim rocks and dense bush.



Coyote


Also known as the American Jackal and Prairie wolf, the coyote is often mistaken for a wolf, who is actually its cousin. Growing up to 34 inches in length and weighing up to 46 lbs, these animals can get quite aggressive if approached.

Population Size:

Coyotes inhabit nearly every state in the US and are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Coyotes typically wander forests and mountains and have been colonized in cities like Los Angeles.



Deer (white-tailed)

Also known as the Virginia deer, the white-tailed deer is characterized by the white underside of its tail and can reach a staggering 300 pounds in weight. The males have prominent antlers and compete for the opportunity to breed with the females. Motor vehicle collisions are a serious problem with these animals.

Population Size:

The white-tailed deer is not an endangered species in the US.

Best Seen:

This species is most common east of the Rocky Mountains and cannot be found in any of the Western states of the US.



Eagle (Bald)

The eagle is one of the world’s largest and most powerful birds. They have a broad wingspan and very keen eyesight, and build their nests in tall trees and high cliffs. The Bald Eagle is the national bird of America, making it an important icon here.

Population Size:

Bald eagles are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Bald eagles can be found in every state except Hawaii, and are prominent in Florida, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Oregon and Michigan.



Elk

The elk is one of the largest species of deer in the world, along with one of North America’s largest mammals. Similar to the red deer, elk range in forest and forest edge habitats feeding on grasses, plants, leaves and bark.

Population Size:

Approximately 20,000 elk roam in the US

Best Seen:

One of the most popular places to view Elk is the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.




Ferret (Black-footed)

These nocturnal creatures should not be confused with their close relative, the domesticated ferret, as they are actually an endangered species in North America. They only grow up to 24 inches in length and weigh in at just 2.2 lbs.

Population Size:

The Black-footed ferret is an endangered species in the US. There are only approximately 750 left.

Best Seen:

These animals can be found in the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Kansas and New Mexico. They usually live in Prairie Dog colonies.



Flamingo (American)

These gregarious wading birds are known for their pink color and incredibly long necks. They often stand on one leg with the other tucked beneath their body.

Population Size:

Flamingoes are more common in Galapagos Islands, coastal Colombia, and Venezuela and in Mexico.

Best Seen:

These creatures can generally only be sighted in Southern Florida and Everglades National Park.



Fox (Red)


The Red Fox is the largest of the true foxes and is a social animal that is commonly hunted for its fur. They primarily feed on rodents but they have been known to attack humans.

Population Size:

The red fox has a large and wide-spread population.

Best Seen:

Red foxes can be found in the northern and eastern states of the US.



Giant Kangaroo Rat

The Giant Kangaroo Rat is an endangered species endemic to California, measuring 6-12inches in length. It was named a Kangaroo rat because of its tendency to move by jumping on its hind legs. This creature is mostly active at night.

Population Size:

This creature is largely endangered, with very few now found in the state of California.

Best Seen:

The Giant Kangaroo Rat can now only be found in the San Joaquin Valley of California.



Gopher (Plains Pocket)

Commonly referred to as a “pocket gopher”, these creatures have short brown or black fur, with whitish furs on top of their feet.

Population Size:

Pocket Gophers are not an endangered species in the US.

Best Seen:

Pocket Gophers are found throughout the Great Plains of North America, ranging from New Mexico to Texas.



Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears are normally solitary, active animals, weighing up to 990 lbs. Their fur varies from black to brown and they are carnivorous animals that typically hunt moose, deer, sheep, elk and bison.

Population Size:

There are approximately 1000-1200 grizzly bears in the US.

Best Seen:

The grizzly bear population of the US can be found in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, extending as far south as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.



Groundhog

Also known as a woodchuck, the groundhog is considered a large ground squirrel, measuring up to 26 inches in length. These animals are well adapted for digging and are mostly herbivorous.

Population Size:

Groundhogs are not an endangered species of the US.

Best Seen:

The groundhog can commonly be found in the north eastern and central states of the US.



Harbor Seal

Also known as a common seal, the Harbor Seal can be found along the temperate coastlines of the western state of California. Growing up to 73 inches in length, these seals can usually be found lazing about on the rocks, just off the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Population Size:

Approximately 25,000 harbor seals call California home.

Best Seen:

harbor seals can be found just off the shores of the Pacific Ocean, in the New England region and even in New York Harbor.




Hare

Hares are fast-moving, rabbit-like creatures that live solitary and can reach speeds of up to 46 miles per hour. These shy animals will usually run away once spotting human contact and generally pose no threat.

Population Size:

The hare is not an endangered species in the US.

Best Seen:

The hare can be found in grassy meadows throughout most states of the US.



Jackrabbit (Black-tailed)

Also known as the desert hare, the Jackrabbit is a common animal in the US that is characterized by its black tail and distinctive long ears. Reaching a length of 2 feet, this creature is the third-largest North American hare.

Population Size:

The Black-tailed jack rabbit is the most widely distributed jack rabbit in North America

Best Seen:

Native black-tailed jackrabbit populations occur from central Washington east to Missouri and south to Baja California Sur and Zacatecas



Jaguar

Largely resembling the leopard, the jaguar is slightly larger, and boasts the behavioral characteristics of a tiger. The jaguar typically hangs around in either forested or open terrain.

Population Size:

The jaguar is a near threatened species, with number across the world declining.

Best Seen:

There are occasional sightings of the jaguar in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.




Lynx (Canada)

Lynx have short tails and characteristic tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears. They also have large padded paws for walking on the snow and long whiskers; a trademark of felines.

Population Size:

In the contiguous US, lynx populations occur at naturally low densities.

Best Seen:

The lynx can be seen in 14 states of the US, with more common sightings in Montana, Washington and Maine.



Marmot

Marmots are generally large ground squirrels that frequent mountainous areas in the United States.           These highly sociable creatures hibernate in the winter and mainly survive off grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots and flowers.

Population Size:

Marmots are not an endangered species in the US.

Best Seen:

Marmots can be spotted in the Rockies, the Black Hills, the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada in North America.



Mink


The mink’s slender body is covered in thick, dark brown fur with a white patch under the chin. They have short legs and partially webbed feet and are also excellent swimmers.

Population Size:

Mink can be found across the entire US, Alaska and Canada.

Best Seen:

The mink can be seen throughout most of the US.




Mole (Star-nosed)

The star-nosed mole is easily identifiable by its eleven pairs of fleshy appendages that rise out of its stout. These are used as a touch organ, with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors allowing them to feel their way around.

Population Size:

The star-nosed mole has a large population in Canada and can also be found in the US.

Best Seen:

The star-nosed mole can best be spotted around the north eastern states of the US.




Moose

The moose is the largest member of the deer family and is distinguished by its large antlers. These animals are herbivores and consume many types of plants and fruits.

Population Size:

Moose are not an endangered species, with a strong population in Eurasia, Canada and the US.

Best Seen:

Moose in the US can be found in northern New England, some parts of New York, the upper Rocky Mountains, northeastern Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the Isle Royale in Lake Superior.



Mountain Goat

Also known as the Rocky Mountain goat, this large hoofed mammal can only be found in North America. These animals generally stay at high elevations, resting on rocky cliffs so that predators cannot reach them.

Population Size:

The mountain goat is not an endangered species of the US.

Best Seen:

The mountain goat can be found in the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range regions of the US, and from northern Washington, Idaho and Montana, through British Columbia and Alberta.



Muskrat

Native to North America, the Muskrat is a medium-sized rodent that reaches up to 24 inches in length and is covered with short, thick fur. Muskrats spend most of their time in the water and can swim underwater for an impressive 12 to 17 minutes.

Population Size:

The Muskrat has a large distribution across the US and is not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Muskrats are found throughout most of the US and mainly inhabit wetlands, areas in or near salt and freshwater marshlands, rivers, lakes or ponds.



Opossum (Virginia)

Opossums are the largest order of marsupials in the western hemisphere and are the only one found in North America, north of Mexico. Frequently just called a possum, the opossum has a grayish brown coat, and a white face.

Population Size:

Originally native to the eastern United States, the opossum can now also be found along the Pacific coast.

Best Seen:

Opossums are nocturnal creatures and are best seen at night, ravaging through rubbish.



Otter (Sea)



The Sea Otter is native to the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean and are one of the smallest marine mammals. They can weigh up to 99 lbs and although they can walk on land, they live primarily in the ocean.

Population Size:

California has over 3,000 seat otters, while the odd one can be spotted just off the coast of Oregon as well.

Best Seen:

The principle sea otter range in California is just south of San Francisco to Santa Barbara County



Porpoise (harbor)



The harbor Porpoise is one of the smallest marine mammals and boasts a face that resembles a pig’s snout. Often mistaken for dolphins, the porpoise grows up to 75 inches in length, with dark gray flippers, speckled sides and a whiter underside.

Population Size:

The porpoise is not an endangered species and is widespread in cooler coastal waters of the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Black Sea.

Best Seen:

The porpoise can best be spotted off the eastern seaboard of the United States.



Pronghorn



Also commonly referred to as antelope, the pronghorn is characterized by its prominent set of horns, which are made up of an outer sheath of hair-like substance.

Population Size:

There is a very large population size in Wyoming and parts of Colorado.

Best Seen:

One of the best places to spot Pronghorn is in Yellowstone National Park.



Porcupine

The porcupine is a rodent with a coat of sharp spines that they use to defend themselves against predators. Weighing up to 35.2 lbs, these creatures are rounded, large and very slow, and will give you a nasty prick if you come into contact with one.

Population Size:

There are approximately 6,000 porcupines in North America.

Best Seen:

Porcupines can typically be seen in forests, deserts, rocky outcrops, hillsides and grasslands.



Rabbit



The rabbit is one of the world’s most common creatures and can be found in several parts of the world; half of this is concentrated in the US. Rabbits have long ears that can be more than 4 inches in length and which are specifically used for detecting predators.

Population Size:

More than half the world’s rabbit population resides in North America.

Best Seen:

Rabbits can usually be found in meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.



Raccoon



The North American Raccoon is a medium-sized mammal native to this part of the world. Its two most distinctive features are its dexterous front paws and facial mask.

Population Size:

Raccoons are not an endangered species of the US.

Best Seen:

Raccoons are often spotted in the mountain ranges of the Western Rocky Mountains, prairies and coastal marshes. They are also common throughout Wisconsin.



Rattlesnake



The rattlesnake is distinctive from other snakes because of its rattle that is located at the top of its tail.  This is used as a warning device for when the snake feels threatened.

Rattlesnakes will only bite humans when they are provoked or startled. They are quite venomous.

Population Size:

Rattlesnakes can be found in several states of the US and are not an endangered species.

Best Seen:

Arizona has the most known species of rattlesnake than any other state, while 4 species can be found east of the Mississippi River as well.



Red Wolf



The Red Wolf has a brownish and cinnamon pelt, with gray and black shading on its back and tail. Similar to the Coyote, its ears are largely out of proportion, but its head is a lot broader and longer.

Population Size:

The red wolf is highly endangered, with approximately only 100 animals remaining in the state of North Carolina.

Best Seen:

The red wolf can best be seen in forests, swamps and coastal prairies in North Carolina.



River Otter (North American)



This semi-aquatic mammal is endemic to North America and can be found along many of its waterways and coasts.

These creatures can weigh up to 30.8 lbs and boast a muscular neck so smaller than the head, and an elongated body that is broadest at the hips.

Population Size:

There are approximately 100,000 river otters inhabiting the world.

Best Seen:

These creatures can be found in both freshwater and coastal habitats including lakes, rivers, inland wetlands, coastal shorelines and marshes and estuaries.



Scorpion



Scorpions have 8 legs and are easily recognized by the pair of grasping claws and their narrow, segmented tail, carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger.

25 Species of these are venomous enough to kill a human being so avoid these at all costs.

Population Size:

The distribution of scorpions in the US extends to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Best Seen:

Scorpions can be found in virtually every habitat, including high elevation mountain tops, caves and intertidal zones.



Sea Lion (California)



These intelligent little creatures are mainly found in the waters off California and can often be found lazing about on sandy beaches. At night, or on cool days, they often move inland or up coastal slopes.

Population Size:

There are approximately 188,000 Californian Sea Lions off North America’s west coast.

Best Seen:

These animals can generally be spotted in the shallow waters off California. Outside of breeding season they often gather at marinas and wharves.


 


Skunk (Striped)



These mammals are best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul odor. The most easily recognized of these is the striped skunk, with its black and white coat easy to identify.

Population Size:

The skunk is not an endangered species of North America.

Best Seen:

Skunks inhabit the Americas from Canada to South America.



Squirrel (Southern Flying)



The Southern Flying Squirrel has large dark eyes and a flattened tail, and a patagium which they use to glide through the air.

Population Size:

Some species are considered endangered, but there is a large population in West Virginia.

Best Seen:

The Southern Flying Squirrel can be found in the deciduous and mixed woods in the eastern half of North America, from Southeastern Canada, to Florida.



Turtle



Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in the US: green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley.

Population Size:

Many of the turtle species found in the US are endangered, with conservation efforts working to save them.

Best Seen:

The best place to spot green turtles is in Florida and Mexico’s Pacific coast breeding colonies. The loggerhead turtle can be found in the Mediterranean Sea North Indian, North Pacific and South Pacific Oceans, while the olive ridley turtle can also be found in Mexico’s Pacific Coast breeding colonies.



Vole



This small rodent very closely resembles a mouse, with a slightly rounder head, smaller ears and eyes and differently formed molars. Commonly referred to as a meadow mouse, these creatures only grow up to 3 inches in length and commonly use burrows.

Population Size:

The vole can be found throughout North America.

Best Seen:

The primary habitats of the vole are meadows, heath lands and fallow land.



Weasel (Long-tailed)



The long-tailed weasel is your typical weasel with a long slender body, short legs and a bushy tail that is almost as long as the rest of its body.

These creatures are mostly active at night but are sometimes seen throughout the day.

Population Size:

The long-tailed weasel is not an endangered species and is widely spread across the US.

Best Seen:

The long-tailed weasel is generally found in open or semi-open habitats near water.



Whale (Killer)



Commonly referred to as an orca, the killer whale is characterized by its black and white color and was made famous by the movie, “Free Willy”.

Found in most of the world’s oceans, these whales can weigh up to 10 tons and are one of the indisputable giants of the ocean.

Population Size:

Worldwide estimates predict that there are a minimum of 50,000 killer whales roaming the oceans.

Best Seen:

Killer whales are considered common in the eastern Pacific, along the coastlines of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

Danger Rating :


Wolverine



Closely resembling a small bear, the wolverine is a stocky and muscular carnivore that is known for its ferocity. These animals can weigh up to 68.2 lbs and have been known to go up against bears in fights for prey.

Population Size:

The population of wolverines across the US is unknown, but there is a known population between 28 and 52 in the Rocky Mountains.

Best Seen:

The wolverine is best seen in the Tahoe National Forest in California and in the Rocky Mountains in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.