Animals in Missouri

Updated: October 26, 2022
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A southern/midwestern state, Missouri’s geography and climate, which is humid continental in the north and humid subtropical in the rest of the state, allow it to have an abundance of wildlife. Wild animals are also helped by Missouri’s many bodies of water, public forests, and wilderness areas, including the famous Mark Twain National Forest. Read on for more information about Missouri’s splendorous wildlife:

The Official Animal of Missouri

Missouri doesn’t have an official overall animal, but its official mammal is the Missouri mule. This doughty creature has been invaluable to farmers since the 1820s and was even used in the two World Wars to move the troops and their supplies. For many years, Missouri was the source for the best mules.

Official state bird: Eastern bluebird

This little ambush predator thrush with the cheerful song is the official bird of several states, including Missouri.

Official state fish: Channel catfish

This is a popular and abundant catfish and makes for good eating. It adapts so well to bodies of water that it’s considered invasive in some countries where it’s been introduced.

Official state insect: Western honeybee

The honeybee, which lives in colonies that revolve around a queen, is an indispensable pollinator.

Official state amphibian: American bullfrog

This large and rather aggressive frog gets its name because its call sounds like the bellowing of a bull.

Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in Missouri

Places to find the top wild creatures in Missouri include the 3,068,800 acre Mark Twain National Forest, found in the southern part of the state. Some wilderness areas in the park are the Devils Backbone, Bell Mountain, Paddy Creek and Piney Creek. In these areas, visitors can fish and catch glimpses of skunks, white-tailed deer, foxes and coyotes. Other state parks are Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Roaring River State Park and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. Visitors can hunt, fish and birdwatch in Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Animals that you might see in these protected places include:

Mammals

Mammals in Missouri range from herbivores to predators, to the tiny least shrew to the American bison.

Rodents found in Missouri include several species of mice and rats, including the golden mouse and the fulvous harvest mouse. Other rodents are voles and woodrats, the southern bog lemming, the eastern gray squirrel, flying squirrels, the eastern chipmunk, the groundhog and the pocket gopher. Larger rodents are the beaver and the nutria which isn’t native to Missouri and is now considered invasive in many places.

Though shrews resemble mice, they are not rodents but belong to the Soricidae family. Ones that live in Missouri are the northern and southern short-tailed shrew, Elliot’s short-tailed shrew and the common shrew. Their somewhat distant relative, the eastern mole can also be found in Missouri.

The American bison was reintroduced into Missouri after being nearly hunted to extinction. This huge herbivore can now be found in Prairie State Park in Barton County. Other large mammals are white-tailed deer and elk, including the Rocky Mountain elk, which was introduced into the state. Mule deer are seen but are considered vagrants. Wild boar are also not native to Missouri but are favorite game animals.

Since wolves were extirpated from Missouri, the top canine predator is now the coyote, followed by the gray and the red foxes. Another of the predators is the bobcat. The cougar has been known to wander in and out of the state, even though it’s considered extirpated. The black bear is the largest of the mammalian predators in Missouri, even though it mostly eats plant material.

Other mammals are the opossum, the American mink, types of weasels, the North American river otter and the striped and eastern spotted skunk. There are many species of bat, including the Mexican free-tailed bat which is one of the most common chiropterans. Rabbits are also found in Missouri, and the nine-banded armadillo has also made its way into the state.

Birds

Missouri, with its freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and rivers is a haven for birds. Among them are swans, ducks, geese and wading birds such as herons and egrets. Gulls and the American and brown pelican are also found in Missouri as are cormorants, the roseate spoonbill with its lovely flamingo-pink feathers. The common loon has a strange, haunting call and can barely walk on land because its legs are too far back on its body. Even birds normally found at sea such as the northern storm petrel and frigatebirds visit landlocked Missouri.

Besides the eastern bluebird, songbirds found in Missouri include vireos, wood peewees, flycatchers, kingbirds, bluejays, crows, chickadees, larks, swallows, nuthatches, wrens, thrashers and mockingbirds. Finches, buntings and sparrows make their home in Missouri as do warblers and tanagers. Woodpeckers are numerous in Missouri, and their number may include the rarest woodpecker, the ivory-billed. Indeed, this woodpecker may already be extinct.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The climate of the southern part of the state and the prevalence of bodies of water make Missouri a good place for reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles include the Texas horned lizard and several species of skink, the glass lizard and many species of snakes and turtles, including the huge alligator snapping turtle. Most snakes in Missouri are non-venomous, but people should be wary of the venomous cottonmouth, copperhead, and at least three species of rattlesnake. Read here to learn about the venomous snakes in Missouri.

Amphibians include the common mudpuppy and other species of salamander including the grotto salamander and the central newt. Frogs and toads besides the bullfrog include the common toad, the eastern narrow-mouthed toad, the striped chorus frog and the crawfish frog, named because it lives in crawfish burrows most of the time.

Insects

Insects are the most common animals found in Missouri. These creatures are usually winged and have six legs, and much of how they are classified is based on their mouthparts. Among the great variety of insects of Missouri are ants, bees, wasps, butterflies, roaches, dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, beetles and true bugs. Among the true bugs is a strange creature called the masked hunter, a type of assassin bug whose nymph tries to camouflage itself under layers of dust and dirt. It eats bedbugs but can deliver a nasty bite to a human, so it’s not really a solution to a bedbug infestation.

Blister beetles release a chemical that can, as its name says, raise blisters on skin. The blue death-feigning beetle can roll over and play dead for hours and can be kept as a pet. The American ermine moth has wings like the ermine on a monarch’s robes, pure white with black spots. The glue-eating silverfish is also considered an insect, even though it lacks wings.

Other Arthropods

Spiders found in Missouri are American house spiders, crab spiders, orb web weavers, wolf spiders and jumping spiders. The brown recluse and black widow are also found in the state, and though they are pretty docile their venom is powerful. The Missouri tarantula is the state’s only tarantula, but it is peaceable and its venom isn’t life-threatening. The Daddy long legs is not really a spider, for it has neither fangs nor venom.

Other arthropods found in Missouri are centipedes, ticks, millipedes, crayfish, isopods and amphipods.

Fish

Missouri is a paradise for fish as well as the people who want to catch them. One of those fish is the lake sturgeon, which is endangered in Missouri due to overfishing. It’s found at the bottom of lakes or wide rivers. The bowfin, which is native to Missouri, is often mistaken for the snakehead, which is not. Both fish can breathe air. Other fish are suckers, quillbacks and buffalos which are given their name because they have a hump. Other Missouri fish are redhorses, sunfish, darters and bluegill, different species of bass, walleye, sauger and crappie. Species of carp were introduced or escaped from fish farms and are now invasive.

Missouri has chubs and minnows, pikes, pickerel, muskellunge and different species of catfish, including bullheads and madtoms. There are also gars, including the alligator gar and the longnose gar. Rainbow and brown trout can be found in lakes, rivers and streams, and the rainbow trout can be found beneath dams.

Freshwater Mollusks

Missouri has many species of freshwater mollusks, especially freshwater mussels. They include the elktoe and the snuffbox, which are both endangered, the spectaclecase, the white heelsplitter and the paper pondshell, which can be both male and female at the same time. Other mussels are the monkeyface, the wartyback and the pimpleback.

The Asiatic clam, which comes from eastern Asia, has also found its way into the Missouri waters, most likely through the release of ballast water from boats that had gone out to sea.

Zoos in Missouri

People who don’t want to travel to wild spaces or who want to see more exotic beasts can visit Missouri’s many zoos. These zoos include the Kansas City Zoo, the Butterfly House in Clayton, the St. Louis Zoo, the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck and the Lazy L Safari Park in Cape Girardeau.

Wild Animals in Missouri

Along with the wildlife mentioned, Missouri is also home to the badger, a medium-sized, fossorial cousin of the weasel. The northern pike is a fish that usually grows to around 22 inches long but can grow nearly 5 feet in length. It’s an aggressive and territorial fish that will cannibalize its conspecifics if there’s no other food around. It usually eats other, smaller fish, but larger ones will eat meadow jumping mice that wind up in the water.

The broad-headed sharpshooter is a leafhopper that gets its name because it fires a stream of liquid offal at would-be predators to dissuade them. The ovenbird, which breeds in Missouri and winters in Central America and the Caribbean, gets its name for the shape of its nest, which has a side entrance.

Often found in cave pools, crayfish are necessary to the health of Missouri’s bodies of water.

The Most Dangerous Animals In Missouri Today

Most truly dangerous animals have been extirpated from Missouri, but there are some to be respectful of. They are:

  • Bison – These beasts can be short-tempered during the rut and can attack with little provocation.
  • American black bear – These bears should be watched at a safe distance, for some have come at humans. Mother bears are especially protective of cubs.
  • White-tailed deer – The timid white-tail deer have been known to cause car wrecks when they try to run across highways or roads. A driver should keep an eye out for them, especially during the fall rut.
  • Alligator snapping turtle – This carnivorous turtle, the largest freshwater turtle of North America is not as aggressive as its name suggests. Some people keep the beast as a pet. Yet, it has a bite powerful enough to amputate fingers if it’s provoked.

Endangered Animals In Missouri

  • Grotto sculpin – This fish is now only found in Perry County’s Bois Brule drainage and is endangered.
  • Pink mucket – The pink mucket is one of the rarest of the freshwater mussels. It is endangered throughout the country and not just in Missouri.
  • Ozark hellbender – This strange salamander with its flat head and frilled sides is classified as endangered.
  • Pallid sturgeon – The pallid sturgeon is one of the rarest of the sturgeons and is rarely seen in the wild. It is in danger of extinction due to habitat destruction.

Read about:

Missourian Animals

American Eel

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

Armyworm

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

Blue Catfish

It's a strong fighter when caught on a fishing line

Coachwhip Snake

Coachwhip snakes pose little danger to people

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 Fence Lizard

Females are usually larger than males.

Eastern Hognose Snake

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

Eastern Woodrat

The eastern woodrat mating ritual involves a potentially deadly fight between the male and female before reproduction begins!

Flea

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.

Giant Desert Centipede

They are the largest centipede in North America

Gopher Snake

Gopher snakes can reach up to 9 feet long.

Ground Snake

It’s sometimes called a miter snake due to the marking on its head that looks like a bishop’s miter

Groundhog (Woodchuck)

They whistle to each other to warn of approaching danger!

King Snake

King Snakes eat other types of snakes.

Massasauga

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

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Owl

The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawks reuse the same nesting area each year.

Rooster

Will mate with the entire flock!

Rough Earth Snake

It has a pointed snout that is uses to burrow into moist soil.

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Smooth Earthsnake

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

Western Rat Snake

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

Missourian 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 Missouri FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does Missouri have dangerous animals?

Missouri has a few dangerous animals, but none of them are exceptionally aggressive.

What animal is Missouri known for?

Missouri is most likely known for the Missouri mule, its state mammal.

What is Missouri's state mammal?

The state mammal is the Missouri mule.

What is the top predator in Missouri?

The top predator in Missouri is probably the bobcat. American black bears are mostly herbivores, but the bobcat is an obligate carnivore. This medium-sized cat has been known to take prey as large as deer.

What are some of the best lakes in Missouri?

Missouri is home to a number of lakes and reservoirs. Some of the best lakes in Missouri include Table Rock Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, Norfolk Lake, Lake Wappapello, and Smithville Lake.