Though New York State may be mostly known for the splendor of New York City, its native wildlife and their habitats of old-growth forests, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, hills, mountains, valleys and that bit of Atlantic Ocean the state shares with the eastern seaboard are just as splendid, if not more so. Here are some of the beautiful, wild, strange, common, and rare animals that call New York State home.
The Official Animal of New York State
The official state animal of New York State is the American beaver, whose luxurious and water-repellent fur made a lot of New Yorkers rich, including John Jacob Astor I. These large, semi-aquatic rodents are environmental engineers known for their ability to build lodges and dams on bodies of freshwater. Because of this, they are symbols of industriousness. Now fairly common, they were almost wiped out due to overhunting.
Official state bird: Eastern bluebird
This little bird, a symbol of happiness and a harbinger of spring, is known for its melodic song and the male’s mostly blue plumage. Because they have to compete with thuggish birds such as starlings and sparrows for nesting space, people often build nesting boxes just big enough to accommodate bluebirds. Unfortunately, bluebirds are still vulnerable to other New York predators such as raccoons, squirrels, blue jays, and hawks.
Official state freshwater fish: Brook trout
This speckled, dark green or brown fish can weigh up to 15 pounds and can be almost 3 feet long. It is found in the streams, ponds, creeks, and lakes in the Adirondacks.
Official state saltwater fish: Striped bass
Striped bass, which can also grow to about 3 feet long and weigh 20 pounds, are fished in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Official state reptile: Snapping turtle
The admittedly bad-tempered snapping turtle can live over a century and can weigh over 70 pounds, though they usually weigh much less. They’re found in shallow water and eat both plant material, carrion, and any live thing they can handle, including birds and small mammals. Though they can deliver a robust bite when they’re annoyed, snapping turtles aren’t that dangerous to humans and would rather hide in the muddy bottom of a creek than fight.
Official state insect: Ladybug
Both the adults and larvae of this sweet-looking beetle are voracious predators. Both are welcome in gardens for their ability to make short work of aphids and other pests.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in New York State
Native wild animals can be found in surprising places in New York. Do not rule out the cities, including New York City, to find wildlife! Wild animals can be found in urban parks such as Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, and Alley Pond Park, Cunningham Park, and the Jamaica Wildlife Reserve in Queens. Other places to see wildlife include Shelter Island on Long Island, Letchworth State Park in northwestern New York, Adirondack Park and Catskill Park of the New York Forest Preserve, Treman State Marine Park in the Finger Lakes, Allegheny State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Storm King State Park, Tallman Mountain State Park, and Sterling Forest Park.
Zoos in New York State
Some of the most famous zoos in the world are found in New York State. Indeed, three of the most famous, the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Aquarium are found in New York City. Also found in New York City are the lesser-known Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Staten Island Zoo.
Zoos outside of New York City include:
- Buffalo Zoo in Buffalo
- Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse
- Zoo New York in the Thousand Islands
- Aquarium of Niagara
- Long Island Aquarium
Wild Animals in New York State
Though the number of wild creatures in New York state defies listing, some of them are:
- Coyotes: This wild dog has adapted well to living around humans.
- Skunks: Skunks have been found in urban and state parks and often raid the trash cans of homeowners.
- Ghost crabs: These strange little crabs have eyestalks and huge corneas and get their name because they’re pale and come out at night. They’re found on the Atlantic beaches.
- Moon jellies: These transparent jellyfish are often washed up on beaches.
- Spruce Grouse: This grouse is mostly found in the Adirondack Mountain foothills in St Lawrence and Franklin Counties. The male looks rather like a strange but attractive rooster, and it is indeed nicknamed the “fool hen” because it lets people come close to it before it finally decides to fly away. Though its conservation status is of least concern, the spruce grouse is not common in New York because of the clearing of its spruce forests.
- White-tailed deer: This is another mammal that benefits from the presence of humans. More than one New York homeowner has woken up to find just about everything in their flower or vegetable gardens eaten by these deer, including plants that are said to be “deer resistant.”
- Black bear: There is a surprisingly robust population of black bears, between 6000 and 8000, in New York State. They are found in hunting areas of the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the central and western parts of the state.
- Fireflies: These insects do not produce fire nor are they flies. They are beetles. Their light is produced through chemicals and is cold. Its purpose is not to delight New Yorkers hanging out on their summer lawns at dusk, but to attract mates. Since some fireflies are predators, their light attracts prey as well.
- Barred Owl: This large owl, which is common in much of the northeastern United States, gets its name for the bars of gray and brown on its feathers. Some people find its huge black eyes set in a fluffy facial disk a bit unnerving. It’s also called the hoot owl because of its call.
The Most Dangerous Animals In New York State Today
Though New York State isn’t known for the deadliest animals on earth, there are still some that need to be treated with respect. They include the black bear, which has been known to attack humans. This is especially true if a person crosses the path of a mother and cubs.
The Great White and other dangerous sharks also visit the waters of the Atlantic close to the shoreline, and some species of jellyfish can deliver a nasty sting. Usually, signs on the beach will warn potential swimmers of hazards such as predatory sharks and swarms of jellyfish.
Humans should also give a coyote a wide berth if they see one. Small mammals such as skunks, raccoons, rats, mice, and bats shouldn’t be petted or handled, especially if they are behaving in a strange manner. Rabies, one of the deadliest diseases on earth, is rare in New York State, and there have been no cases of rabies in humans in New York City for over 50 years. However, rabies does occur in animals. Among them are skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons, rodents, rabbits, hares, and other wild creatures.
The massasauga is a rattlesnake and though it’s not the deadliest snake out there, it is still venomous. It is not a large snake, being only between 24 and 30 inches long, with keeled scales. Its body is gray or tan with a beautiful pattern of brown or black blotches. The endangered eastern massasauga is the subspecies found in New York.
Other snakes to respect in New York state are the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. Both are venomous.
Endangered Animals In New York State
Unfortunately, many animals in New York State are endangered. They include:
- The fin whale. This huge, sleek and beautiful baleen whale is considered vulnerable to extinction.
- The fat pocketbook. This is a freshwater pearl mussel that prefers big, free-flowing rivers and is now considered vulnerable in New York State.
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. This is one of the rarest, if not the rarest of the sea turtles and is critically endangered.
- Blanding’s turtle. This semi-aquatic turtle is endangered.
- Karner Blue Butterfly. This little blue butterfly with its black and orange eyespots on its hindwings uses only lupine plants as a host and nectar plant. It has become endangered as development has removed the lupines.
- Deepwater Sculpin. This strange little fish has only spines where its scales should be. It is found in the cold waters of Lake Ontario.
- Golden eagle. Though this bird of prey can be found in many places of the United States and is seen migrating over New York, it is rare in the state. No one really knows why since it has been protected since 1963.
- Chittenango ovate amber snail. This tiny snail is native to Chittenango Falls in Madison County. It is now part of a captive breeding program.
New Yorker Animals
New Yorker Animals List
Animals in New York State FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What kind of animals live in New York City?
A surprising number of wild creatures live in New York City, and not just in its zoos. Central Park, for example, is full of wild animals, especially birds. They not only include pigeons but robins, woodpeckers, cardinals, wood ducks, sparrows, starlings, types of hawks, including Cooper’s hawk, waterfowl and wading birds, including wood ducks, egrets, and herons, vireos, flycatchers, shrikes, thrashers, catbirds and mockingbirds and the state bird, the eastern bluebird.
Mammals found in New York City include rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice and rats. Other mammals are raccoons, opossums, whales, dolphins, skunks, white-tailed deer, foxes, harbor seals, coyotes, rabbits and bats.
Reptiles found in New York city include various species of turtle, including the rarest sea turtles and the snapping turtle, the state reptile. The massasauga, a type of rattlesnake, is found in New York, as are the harmless queen snake, garter snake, milk snake and ribbon snake. There are also skinks, wall lizards and fence lizards.
Amphibians in New York City include leopard frogs, tiny spring peeper frogs and salamanders. Besides the ubiquitous cockroach, insects include butterflies and moths, and unfortunately, the invasive Asian long-horned beetle. Other insects are dragonflies and damselflies, many species of bees including bumblebees and honeybees, grasshoppers, ladybugs and other beetles, cicadas, and the pretty but invasive lanternfly. Still others are ants, horseflies, houseflies, deerflies and mosquitoes. Spiders, including cellar spiders, black and yellow garden spiders, wolf spiders, crab spiders, and jumping spiders, are everywhere.
Aquatic life is found in New York City’s fresh and saltwater bodies of water include American eels, horseshoe crabs and many species of fish, including river herring. Oysters, which used to be so common that they were considered food for poor folk, are making a comeback in New York Harbor.
What is the state animal in New York?
The state animal of New York is the American beaver, the second largest of the rodents. It’s known for building dams and lodges on freshwater. Nearly driven to extinction because it was hunted for its meat, lush, double-coated pelt, and a substance called castoreum, it is now of least concern.
What is the largest animal in New York?
The largest animal found in New York State is probably the fin whale, which is found off the coast of Long Island and is the subject of whale watching expeditions. At nearly 90 feet long, the fin whale is the second largest whale in the world after the blue whale. The 98-foot long blue whale is also found in the Atlantic Ocean but doesn’t seem to reliably travel within New York State waters.
Are there wolverines in NY?
There are no wild wolverines in New York State. The closest wolverines live in Canada, Washington State, and the Rocky Mountains. There was a sighting of a wolverine in Michigan in 2004.