Animals in Iowa

Updated: December 23, 2022
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Iowa is a midwestern state famous for its corn and its yearly state fair. More than 85% of Iowa’s land is dedicated to agriculture. It borders Minnesota to the north, Wisconsin, and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, and Nebraska to the west. Its major rivers are the Mississippi, Big Sioux, and Missouri.

Although much of Iowa is flat farmland, it has some gently rolling hills. Iowa’s weather is continental, which means it gets harsh, cold winters and hot, humid summers. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are common events in Iowa.

Wild Animals in Iowa

Iowa has over 1,100 species of fish and wildlife. The state’s forested areas are home to many common forest animals, including white-tail deer, gray foxes, red foxes, coyotes and bobcats. Its native small mammals include opossums, otters, muskrats and the strange but adorable eastern mole.

Iowa has many lakes, rivers and streams. It is the only U.S. state completely bordered by two major rivers.  Its river shorelines and lakes contain walleye, catfish and crappies. You will find river otters, turtles, bullfrogs, ospreys and swans. Iowa is home to several species of waterfowl, including blue-winged teals, mallards and cranes.

One of Iowa’s famous birds is the bobolink. This grassland prairie bird has striking black and white coloring. It is the only North American land bird with this plumage color, and it is one of the rarest birds in the country.

The state’s chief predators are bobcats, foxes and coyotes.  Although mountain lions and moose have been seen in many parts of Iowa, they are not resident species. Biologists say they cross over from neighboring states.

Iowa’s native rodents include the eastern chipmunk, white-footed mouse, eastern squirrel and deer mouse. Its small mammals include the northern short-tailed shrew and the prairie vole. The state has nine bat species, including the little brown bat, which is one of the rarest bat species in the U.S.

The Official State Animal of Iowa

Iowa’s state animal is the American goldfinch (Spinus tristis). This lovely, bright yellow bird lives in open woods, orchards, suburban areas and marshy areas. The goldfinch nests in the late summer. It eats seeds and insects.

The state flower is the wild rose, and the state tree is the burr oak.

Where To Find the Top Wild Animals in Iowa

  • Pike’s Peak State Park: Iowa’s first state park is a hiking and wildlife viewing area situated where the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers meet. With spectacular river views, it is an ideal place to see fish, waterfowl and wildlife.
  • Manawa Lake State Park: This park protects one of Iowa’s largest lakes. It is an excellent location to see pelicans, ducks and geese. The lake is also a favorite nesting site for bald eagles.
  • Goose Lake Wildlife Area: This public park is a 1,300-acre public park that is an ideal location for birders and wildlife watchers. Among the birds you’ll see are sandhill cranes, wild turkeys and pheasants. You can also spot rodentss and small mammals, including muskrats, otters and opossums.
  • Wapsi Flats Wildlife Area: Like other midwestern states, Iowa has focused on turning unused cropland into tallgrass prairie ecosystems. These ecosystems once covered most of the midwestern states. Now, only a small percentage remains. Wapsi Flats is a protected tallgrass prairie that is home to pheasants, eastern meadowlarks, bobolinks, northern harriers, grasshopper sparrows, partridges and wild turkeys.

The Most Dangerous Animals in Iowa

Although it has several native predators, these animals rarely attack humans.

Iowa has four species of venomous snake. Like the predators, they almost never attack humans.

  • Timber rattlesnake: This large pit viper can reach 4 feet. The bite of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) can be fatal if it’s left untreated. Timber rattlesnakes live in forests and marshy areas.
  • Copperhead: The most common snake in the U.S., the copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) lives near streams and waterways. Its venom is not strong enough to kill an adult human, but it can cause intense pain.
  • Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake: This small, secretive snake has strong venom, but attacks are extremely rare. This snake is endangered.
  • Prairie Rattlesnake: This snake (Crotalus viridis) has the largest range of any rattlesnake species in the U.S. Like the eastern massasauga, it is threatened by habitat loss.

Iowa’s most dangerous animals are ticks and mosquitoes, which are prevalent throughout the state. These insects cause more deaths and illnesses than venomous spiders and snakes combined.

Endangered Animals in Iowa

  • Trumpeter Swan: These swans (Cygnus buccinator) were once common on Iowa lakes, but hunting and wetlands drainage wiped them out in 1883. In 1993, a program to reintroduce these swans began with just one nesting pair. There are now more than 100 nesting pairs of trumpeter swans in Iowa, and conservation efforts continue.
  • Osprey: These water raptors (Pandion haliaetus) were once prevalent in Iowa, and they were of great cultural importance to the Omaha Nation. Ospreys were greatly harmed by pesticides in the 1950s. With the banning of certain pesticides, their numbers have improved. In recent years, conservation groups have reintroduced ospreys to Iowa’s waterways.
  • Bald Eagle: Like ospreys, bald eagles suffered population losses from pesticides and illegal hunting. In 1995, the bald eagle was moved from endangered to threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, the Mississippi River is home to the country’s highest concentration of bald eagle nests. The giant birds spend the winters hunting on the river.
  • Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake: This small snake lives in wet prairies, grasslands and wetlands. This rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) is considered an indicator species because its health depends on the health of its primary ecosystem. The eastern massasauga is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.

Wolves, bears, mountain lions and elk once roamed freely in Iowa, but these animals no longer have resident populations there.

Snakes in Iowa

Iowa is home to 28 different snake species. While the vast majority are non-venomous, four different snakes in Iowa have venom and deserve more attention. The venomous snakes in Iowa are copperheads and three species of rattlesnakes. The rattlesnakes include prairie rattlesnakes, massasauga rattlesnakes, and timber rattlesnakes. Non-venomous snakes that are common in Iowa include brown snakes, western fox snakes, and common garter snakes.

Native Plants in Iowa

Iowa is well known for its humid eastern and northern parts, with the western regions enjoying more of the sun and heat. This has led to Iowa’s vast diversity of plant life. Popular examples of plants found in the state include the butterfly milkweed and the prairie lily.

The Coldest Place in Iowa

The coldest place in Iowa is Dubuque. It is located on the Mississippi River at the junction of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Dubuque has an average annual temperature of 47.2°F.

Read about:

Iowan Animals

American Eel

Don't eat raw eel! Their blood is poisonous to humans when consumed raw.


They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Blue Racer

Some blue racers have smooth scales that are solid electric blue while others are grayish or brownish.


In spring, the male bobolink is the only North American bird who is dark below and light colored above. This makes identification easy.

Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat stays close to the ground and uses stealth to survive!

De Kay’s Brown Snake

They have specialized jaws for removing snails from shells.

Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern hognose snakes are venomous, but only to frogs and toads.


Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Fox Snakes

In some areas, fox snakes and gopher snakes have crossbred in the wild.

Fox Squirrel

Although it is a tree squirrel, it spends most of its time on the ground.

Groundhog (Woodchuck)

They whistle to each other to warn of approaching danger!

Kentucky Warbler

The Kentucky Warbler appears to wear bright yellow cat-eye glasses!

King Snake

King Snakes eat other types of snakes.


The name “Massasauga” comes from the Chippewa language, meaning “Great River Mouth”.


They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.


Mockingbirds are incredible mimics that can learn hundreds of songs!

Mourning Warbler

The Mourning Warbler was named for its gray head, which resembles a mourning veil!

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males


The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.

Queen snake

Queen snakes have armor-like scales on the top of their head

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers will often steal the nests of other birds.


Will mate with the entire flock!

Short-Faced Bear

The modern Spectacled Bear, which lives in South America, is related to the Short-Faced Bear!

Smallmouth Bass

A fierce fighter!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Smooth Earthsnake

Valeria Biddle Blaney (1828-1900) collected the first specimen in Maryland.

Southern Black Racer

These snakes live underground, beneath piles of leaf litter or in thickets, and they are expert swimmers.

Western Rat Snake

Western rat snakes have special scales on their belly that help them climb up trees.

White-Eyed Vireo

During courtship, males put on exciting displays by fluffing their plumage, spreading their tails, and letting out a whining call.

Iowan Animals List

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Animals in Iowa FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What animals are only found in Iowa?

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) is a strange but beautiful squirrel with a striped coat. It lives only in grasslands and prairies.
These unusual rodents are also known as striped gophers or leopard ground squirrels.

They are not the only rodents unique to Iowa. The state is also home to some of the rarest rodents in the U.S., including the plains pocket gopher, meadow jumping mouse and southern flying squirrel.

A strange insect native to Iowa is the common conehead. This member of the locust family is fond of eating crops like corn and wheat.

What animal is Iowa known for?

Iowa is known for the Butter Cow, a life-sized butter sculpture that is a yearly feature of its famous state fair. More than 1 million people visit the Iowa State Fair each year, and the Butter Cow has appeared there for over 70 years. It takes 600 pounds of butter to make the Butter Cow.

Does Iowa have dangerous animals?

Iowa does not have many animals that are dangerous to humans. It has large predators, including foxes and bobcats, but there are no reported attacks on humans from these animals. Its most dangerous animals are wood ticks and mosquitoes.

What animals live in lakes in Iowa?

Iowa’s lakes and rivers are home to many fish, including popular game fish. They are also home to beavers, otters, muskrats, turtles, ducks, frogs and geese.

What spiders live in Iowa?

Some spiders you may find in Iowa include:

  • Tuft-legged orb weaver
  • Southern black widow
  • Barn funnel weaver
  • Dark fishing spider
  • Carolina wolf spider
  • Common house spider
  • Red-spotted ant mimic