The state of Mississippi is made up of many different landscapes including forests, wetlands, barrier islands, prairies, and coastal dunes. With so many diverse environments, it’s not surprising to learn that Mississippi is home to many different types of wildlife. This southern state is home to over 84 species of reptiles and 426 plus species of bird. In addition, more than 120 species of fish live in the Mississippi River.
The Official Animal of Mississippi
Mississippi with its diverse collection of wildlife has a few animals that officially represent the state.
Official state bird of Mississippi: Northern Mockingbird
The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) became the official state bird of Mississippi in 1944. This bird is known for its ability to mimic the sounds of other animals especially other birds. It can also mimic unique and strange sounds in the environment such as a squeaky porch door, a truck engine, or a cellphone’s ringtone. This bird with its gray and white feathers is a familiar sight (and sound) all around Mississippi.
Official State Land Mammal: White-Tailed Deer
In 1974, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) became the official land mammal of Mississippi. People who hunt for white-tailed deer add over a hundred million dollars to the economy of this state each year. These deer are plentiful in Mississippi. With a population of 1.75 million deer, these mammals are certainly a common sight in the state.
Official State Water Mammal: Bottlenose Dolphin
The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) became the official state water mammal in 1974. These mammals have a grayish-blue upper body and a white belly. They can grow to be 12 feet in length and are commonly seen off the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. These playful creatures are social and very curious about humans.
Official Fish of Mississippi: Largemouth Bass
The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) was made the official fish of the state of Mississippi in 1974. This Mississippi native has green scales on the upper part of its body paired with white scales on its belly. It is sometimes called the Black bass because some of them have scales that are dark green or even black. They are a common sight in the Mississippi River.
Where to Find the Top Wild Animals in Mississippi
Touring the various landscapes in Mississippi gives visitors the opportunity to see different types of wild animals.
The wetlands of Mississippi are home to many unique wild animals. Some of the reptiles include the Mississippi green water snake, Mississippi mud turtle, American alligator, and the eastern mud turtle. Birds such as the wood stork and reddish egret as well as the swallow-tailed kite with its strange split or forked tail also reside in the wetlands of Mississippi. Rodents such as the marsh rice rat and nutria live in the wetlands as well. Red foxes, wild hogs and swamp rabbits are also found in this habitat. Don’t forget the blue dasher or eastern Amberwing dragonflies!
In the forests of Mississippi visitors are likely to find mammals such as the southern flying squirrel, white-tailed deer, raccoons, beavers, and skunks. The northern mocking bird, the red-bellied woodpecker, chipping sparrow, indigo bunting, and the white-breasted nuthatch are just a few of the birds that make their home in the forests of this state. When it comes to bats in Mississippi’s forests, visitors may observe the big brown bat, the Brazilian free-tailed bat, the gray bat, and the Seminole bat to name a few.
Though prairies make up a small percentage of the landscape of Mississippi, they are still home to a variety of animals. Some of those include wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, rabbits, and prairie warblers.
Recommended places to see wildlife:
- Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge
- Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge
- Great River Road State Park
- Greenville Cypress Preserve
- Clark Creek State Park
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- Holly Springs National Forest
Locations of Zoos in Mississippi
The zoos in Mississippi are excellent places to visit in order to learn about native wildlife and animals from elsewhere in the world. Some of them include:
The Most Dangerous Animals in Mississippi Today
Out of the many animals native to Mississippi there are some that are considered dangerous. Of course, it’s always a good idea to respect all animals as well as their habitat. Some of the most dangerous animals in Mississippi include:
The cottonmouth snake is one of the most dangerous reptiles in Mississippi. These snakes are venomous and can be two to four feet in length. It’s called a cottonmouth because the inside of its mouth is a pure, glaring white. These reptiles open their mouths to reveal the bright white in an effort to scare threats away. This snake’s venom is potent and can indeed be deadly to a human. Though these particular reptiles are responsible for less than one percent of all snakebite deaths in the United States, medical attention is needed for any cottonmouth snakebite.
The timber rattlesnake is another dangerous animal in Mississippi. This snake is known to expel a lot of venom in its bite. Another aspect that makes them dangerous is their size. These reptiles can grow to a length of five feet! A timber rattlesnake uses the rattle on its tail to warn predators and other threats to stay away. Their venom is powerful enough to kill a human and not just the rodents it eats. However, these snakes are known to be non-aggressive and will give ample warnings before biting a person. In the past ten years, there were fewer than five deaths attributed to timber rattlesnakes in the United States.
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the biggest venomous snake in all of North America. They usually grow to a length of five and a half feet. But the record length of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake is eight feet! This snake becomes aggressive when it feels trapped and will bite to protect itself. It releases a large amount of venom in its bite and that venom has the potential to kill a human. But death occurs only in the rarest of circumstances due to the abundance of available antivenin for this snake’s bite. In short, medical attention is needed for an eastern diamondback rattlesnake bite.
Endangered Animals in Mississippi
Endangered animals in Mississippi include:
- Ivory-billed woodpecker – These birds are listed as Critically Endangered, and biologists estimate their population between one and 49 individuals. Unfortunately, this bird is one of the rarest sights in Mississippi and has been written off as Extinct by some biologists.
- Bachman’s warbler – This bird’s habitat is the wetlands. It is bright yellow paired with a cap of black feathers. This warbler has a conservation status of Critically Endangered. Its very low population (between one and 49 individuals) is due to habitat loss and poaching activity. Their bright feathers were once widely used in decorating hats and other clothing.
- Green turtle – This turtle is named for the greenish tinge of its feet and head. They live on the Gulf Coast. These reptiles can grow to be 47 inches long and weigh 400 pounds! They are Endangered due to poaching activity and loss of habitat. Furthermore, they can become trapped in commercial fishing nets and die as a result. Their population is unknown.
- Kemp’s Ridley – This sea turtle holds the title of being the smallest in the world at 30 inches long weighing 100 pounds or less. They are categorized as Critically Endangered and one of the rarest sights along the Gulf Coast. They are threatened by habitat loss and are vulnerable to becoming tangled in commercial fishing nets.
- Bayou darter – The habitat of this fish includes the Bayou Pierre and some fast-flowing creeks in Mississippi such as Foster and Turkey Creek. Bayou darters measure just two and a half inches long and have brownish green scales. This fish is categorized as Endangered with an unknown population. Habitat loss is the main threat to this tiny fish.
Mississippian Animals List
Animals in Mississippi FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What kind of animals live in Mississippi?
All kinds of animals live in Mississippi including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Some examples include the common white-tailed deer, American alligators, southern flying squirrels, coyotes, bison, Brazilian free-tailed bats, and northern mockingbirds. Don’t forget the many rodents that are native to the state including the southeastern shrew, the marsh rice rat, and the oldfield mouse.
What is the most dangerous animal in Mississippi?
The most dangerous animals in this state are all reptiles. The cottonmouth snake, timber rattlesnake and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake are all venomous reptiles.
What are some predators in Mississippi?
Some notable predators in the Magnolia state include coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. Even the feral hog with its strange, thick coat of bristly hair is one of Mississippi’s predators. Feral hogs eat plants, leaves, fruit, and seeds. However, they also hunt fish, birds, reptiles and sometimes eat deer fawns.
Are there wolves in Mississippi?
Yes. Some red wolves live in zoos and in wolf sanctuaries in Mississippi. There are also a very small number of these wolves that have been introduced back into the wild.
Though these wolves are considered Critically Endangered, there are conservation efforts now being made on behalf of red wolves.