The state of New Jersey is in the northeastern United States. In the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a great deal of rapid suburbanization. Bordered by New York on the north and northeast, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Delaware Bay and Delaware on the southwest, and the Delaware River and Pennsylvania on the west, it has several different types of geography.
Northeastern New Jersey is closest to Manhattan, New York, and the Delaware Valley contains the southwestern counties which are in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. Northwestern New Jersey is mountainous, wooded, and rural, and the Jersey Shore in Central and South Jersey borders the Atlantic coast. Finally, the southern interior is the Pine Barrens region which has a lower population density and has mixed oak and pine forest.
There are also several major rivers, lakes, and fishing ponds. Two major climates dominate the state, which is humid subtropical in the northeast, central, and south, and humid continental in the northwest. 19% (916,000 acres) is a wetland with 67% being freshwater, and 45% being forest.
With such diverse geography, it is natural to find many kinds of wildlife, even though the state is the fifth smallest in the area and the most densely populated. 450 species of vertebrate wildlife exist, including rattlesnakes, 90 species of mammals, 485 birds, and 134 species of freshwater fish, while over 300 species of marine fish live off the marine coast, including 28 marine mammals and 336 marines finned fish which also live in the estuaries and bays.
The Official Animal of New Jersey
The official state animal of New Jersey is the horse, and there are many equine facilities and race tracks to go watch horses. Meadowlands Racetrack and Freehold Raceway are two popular race tracks, while the Horse Park of New Jersey is a common site for equine awards presentations. The horse symbolizes freedom, liberty, journeys, and the ability to ride in new directions. Not only is it very important to farming, especially for the early state settlers, but many people raise horses today. Included on the state seal, it was made the official animal in 1977 with the help of students Michael McCarthy and James Sweetman.
There are other official animals, too, with regard to specific wildlife. The black swallowtail was made the state’s official butterfly on January 11, 2016, and the bog turtle, the state’s smallest turtle, became the state’s official reptile on June 18, 2018. Both are very common animals, with the black swallowtail pollinating flowers across the state and the bog turtle living in wet meadows, bogs, and ferns state-wide. The official state bird is the Eastern Goldfinch, also called the American Goldfinch or Wild Canary, adopted on June 27, 1935.
Wild Animals in New Jersey
People are likely to encounter some different rodents, including mice and rats, especially in the city. House mice, deer mice, and white-footed mice, which are nocturnal mammals, are very common. Norway Rats and Roof Rats are other rodents that are pests and can be dangerous, while voles are mostly just a nuisance. Owls are nocturnal animals and are also common, as are songbirds.
In the suburbs, people can see small mammals such as chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs. The rarest sightings are nocturnal predators such as hawks, foxes, and coyotes which can be dangerous animals. Outdoors in the forests and mountains, people often encounter foxes, raccoons, beavers, white-tailed deer, groundhogs, and occasionally rattlesnakes, skunks, and black bears.
Read about some spider species that can be found in New Jersey.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in New Jersey
New Jersey boasts a wide variety of environments, ranging from urban centers to rural farmlands and forests. The state’s forests and wetlands offer ideal habitats for several wild animals, including deer, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats, which are primarily found in wooded areas, state parks, and wildlife reserves.
Furthermore, the state’s coastal regions and barrier islands are home to numerous marine creatures and shorebirds. However, it is essential to maintain the sanctity of these environments and refrain from disturbing the wildlife or their habitats by observing them from a safe distance.
Several species of wildlife in New Jersey can be seen in people’s own backyards, but also in parks, forests, and waterways, especially small mammals and waterfowl. Rattlesnakes can be found in the southern Pineland forests and northern forests.
Zoos in New Jersey
- Cohansick Zoo began as New Jersey’s first zoo in 1934. Although it spans only 15 acres, it hosts almost 100 species with over 45 species from all over the world, and it’s also free.
- Cape May County Zoo has lions, cheetahs, zebras, bison, camels, giraffes, and reptiles.
- Space Farms Zoo & Museum is the largest private zoo of North American animals in the country. You can see over 500 animals there, including reptiles, monkeys, big cats, and bears. Visitors can participate in daily bottle feedings of nursery farm animals, too.
- Turtle Back Zoo features exhibits of animals including flamingos, African penguins, hyenas, lions, reptiles, giraffes, wallabies, and kangaroos.
- Bergen County Zoo boasts common sightings of horses, monkeys, wolves, and mountain lions.
In addition to zoos, New Jersey is home to animal sanctuary parks, national reserves, wildlife refuges, and aquariums. With swamps, oak, and pine forests, Pinelands National Reserve is host to 39 species of mammals, 59 reptiles and amphibians, 91 fish and 299 birds. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge commonly has muskrats, river otters, coyotes, gray squirrels, red foxes, raccoons, white-tailed deer, and waterfowl.
Largest Animals Found in New Jersey
One of the largest animals found in New Jersey is the humpback whale. These massive marine mammals can grow up to 50 feet long and weigh as much as 40 tons.
Every year, humpback whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their winter breeding grounds in the warm waters off the coast of Florida.
During this migration, they can often be seen off the coast of New Jersey, breaching and slapping their tails on the surface of the water. In fact, sadly and more recently there have been sightings of beached whales off the coast of New Jersey.
Another large animal found in New Jersey is the black bear. While they may not be as massive as humpback whales, black bears are still impressive animals that can weigh up to 600 pounds.
In addition to whales and bears, New Jersey is also home to the largest species of deer in North America: the moose.
The Most Dangerous Wildlife In New Jersey Today
The Timber Rattler is one of two of the most venomous rattlesnakes in New Jersey, the other being the Northern Copperhead, whose habitat spans a wider distribution. The Blue-Ringed Octopus is in tidal areas and there is no antivenom available.
Besides venomous wildlife, there are other dangerous wildlife species in New Jersey that can attack people, pets, or livestock. Black bears and coyotes are dangerous predators people might encounter, especially while hiking or at night. Hawks and bobcats are dangerous in terms of attacking rabbits and small pets. Squirrels and nocturnal mammals including bobcats, raccoons, and squirrels may carry rabies, while white-tailed deer may rush onto incoming traffic. Ticks and mosquitos are dangerous because they can transmit diseases.
Native Wildlife in New Jersey
The most common native animals in New Jersey are squirrels, which are rodents. Eastern Chipmunks are also native rodents. Mammals including groundhogs, Virginia opossums, raccoons, skunks, and white-tailed deer are also native, as are gray foxes.
Here is a list of native New Jersey wildlife:
- Black bears
- White-tailed deer
- Red and Gray Foxes
- Hawks, Eagles, and other birds of prey
- Waterfowl such as ducks and geese
Endangered Wildlife in New Jersey
The timber rattlesnake is one of the most dangerous predators, but it is also one of the most endangered animals in the state. According to the IUCN Red List, its general population is decreasing and listed as Least Concern.
The bobcat is also endangered in the state, making both of them two of the rarest species seen around. According to the IUCN Red List, its general population is stable and listed as Least Concern. Habitat loss and hunting to collect them as trophies are the cause of their endangerment.
Here is a list of wildlife that is endangered in New Jersey:
- Indiana Bat
- Atlantic Sturgeon
- Bog Turtle
- Red Knot
- Piping Plover
- Northern Pine Snake
- Timber Rattlesnake
- Bald Eagle
- Short-Eared Owl
- Bobcat (listed as endangered in southern NJ)
- Allegheny Woodrat
- Golden-Winged Warbler
Rare Animals Found in New Jersey
One such animal is the bog turtle, one of the smallest and rarest turtles in North America. Found only in wetlands and bogs in the northeastern United States, bog turtles have been listed as endangered since 1997 due to habitat loss and poaching.
In New Jersey, they can be found in the southern part of the state, where conservation efforts are underway to protect their fragile habitat.
The Pine Barrens tree frog is another unique animal found only in certain parts of New Jersey. This small frog is known for its distinctive trill and can be found in the Atlantic coastal plain, including parts of the Pine Barrens.
Furthermore, another rare animal found in New Jersey is the red knot, a shorebird that migrates from the Arctic to South America each year. During their stopover in New Jersey, the birds feed on horseshoe crab eggs, which are abundant along the state’s beaches.
Native Plants in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of the country’s leaders in agricultural production. The state is home to more than 2,000 plant species! Some native plants in New Jersey include sweet fern, New Jersey tea, and trumpet creeper, among others.
Here are a few native plants found in New Jersey:
- New Jersey Tea
- Wild Indigo
- Eastern Redbud
- Blackhaw Viburnum
- Beach Plum
- Swamp Azalea
- Cardinal Flower
- Butterfly Weed
- American Holly
- Red Oak
- Sweet Bay Magnolia
- Pitch Pine
The Flag of New Jersey
The flag of New Jersey was designed with a buff-colored background with blue as the dominant color in the coat of arms at its center. Both are the state’s colors and pay tribute to George Washington who chose these same colors for the coats worn by soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
The coat of arms at the center of the flag holds many symbols representing New Jersey.
The horse head at the top of the coat of arms represents New Jersey’s state animal signifying strength, loyalty, and freedom. The female figures are Lady Liberty and the Roman Goddess of Agriculture Ceres supporting the meaning of the words underneath of liberty and prosperity.
In the center of the coat of arms are three ploughs emphasizing the importance of agriculture to the state.
New Jerseyan Animals
New Jerseyan Animals List
- Admiral Butterfly
- Albino (Amelanistic) Corn Snake
- American Eel
- Arctic Char
- Atlantic Cod
- Bagworm Moth Caterpillar
- Beewolf wasp
- Blue Tang
- Brook Trout
- Clearnose Skate
- Common Yellowthroat
- Corn Snake
- De Kay’s Brown Snake
- Eastern Chipmunk
- Eastern Fence Lizard
- Eastern Hognose Snake
- Fox Squirrel
- Groundhog (Woodchuck)
- Jack Crevalle
- Kentucky Warbler
- Milk Snake
- Mourning Warbler
- Northern Water Snake
- Orb Weaver
- Pine Snake
- Polyphemus Moth
- Pompano Fish
- Quahog Clam
- Rat Snakes
- Red-Eared Slider
- Red-Shouldered Hawk
- Rough Green Snake
- Scarlet Kingsnake
- Short-Faced Bear
- Smallmouth Bass
- Smokybrown Cockroach
- Smooth Earth Snake
- Southeastern Blueberry Bee
- Striped Bass
- Swallowtail Butterfly
- Tiger Trout
- Tree Cricket
- Yellowish Cuckoo Bumblebee (formerly Fernald’s Cuckoo Bumblebee)
Animals in New Jersey FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the most dangerous animal in New Jersey?
The Timber Rattler, also called Timber Rattlesnake, Banded Rattlesnake, or Canebrake Rattlesnake.
What animal is NJ known for?
What animals can you have in NJ?
Here are the animals you can legally own in New Jersey with a permit:
- Red squirrels
- Flying squirrels
- Boa constrictors
Are there any poisonous animals in New Jersey?
Yes. The difference between venom and poison is how they’re delivered, although they’re both toxic substances. Venom comes from a sting or bite, while poison comes from ingestion. While a plant can be poisonous, an animal is usually venomous, although it can also be poisonous. The pufferfish‘s poison is fatal to humans, and one pufferfish species called the smooth puffer shows up in New Jersey’s bays and rivers during summer fishing. This strange fish, while cute, is a species of blowfish that has poison in its skin. Careful handling and prepping must be done by knowledgeable chefs in order to remove the risk of poisoning.