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 and 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% is forest.
With such diverse geography, it is natural to find many kinds of wildlife, even though the state is the fifth smallest in 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 marine 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 the early state’s settlers, but many people raise horses today. Included on the state seal, it was made the official animal 1977 with the help of students Michael McCarthy and James Sweetman.
There are other official animals, too, with regards 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.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in New Jersey
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.
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 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.
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.
New Jerseyan Animals
New Jerseyan Animals List
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.