Pennsylvania is a large, populous state situated in the northeastern mid-Atlantic region. One of the 13 original colonies, it is nicknamed the keystone state for its important geographic position between the other states. Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia are located to the south. Ohio is to the west. New York, Lake Erie, and the Canadian province of Ontario are north. To the east, it is separated from New Jersey by the Delaware River, which runs into the Atlantic Ocean.
Pennsylvania is a land of diverse ecosystems. The Appalachian Mountains, which include the state’s highest point, Mount Davis, at 3,213 feet, run straight through the middle of the state. They are surrounded by dense forests, grasslands, hills, and wetlands. The Susquehanna River, which runs north to south from New York to the Chesapeake Bay, is the longest river located entirely within the state. Other important rivers include the Ohio and Allegheny. Together they account for much of the state’s diversity of freshwater wildlife.
The Official Animal of Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania is officially represented by several different types of native wildlife. The state bird is the ruffed grouse, a medium-sized fowl that proved to be an important food source for the early settlers. The state dog is the Great Dane, a large hunting and working breed, once owned by the state’s founder, William Penn. The state fish is the brook trout; it’s one of the most common freshwater fish throughout the 4,000 miles of rivers and streams. The state insect is the firefly, which lights up the night sky in the summer. The official amphibian is the eastern hellbender, the largest species of salamander in North America. Finally, the official state animal is the white-tailed deer, a popular game animal.
Where to Find the Top Wild Animals in Pennsylvania
The best places to find Pennsylvania’s most pristine and untouched wildlife are the numerous state and national parks and refuges dotted throughout the land. This list will cover the most popular destinations in the state.
- The Ohiopyle State Park, which covers some 19,000 acres in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, is a popular kayaking and water rafting destination. Amid the hiking trails and scenic waterfalls, visitors can expect to find plenty of deer, turkey, grouse, badgers, foxes, rodents, and other wildlife.
- The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which covers some 66,000 acres of the Pocono Mountains in the southeast, has some 100 miles of hiking trails, where one can find rabbits, deer, rodents, and possibly even the elusive black bear.
- The Cherry Springs State Park, located in Potter County of north central Pennsylvania, is a prime destination for campers, hikers, and stargazers. Deer, otters, fishers, ospreys, hawks, nightjars, eagles, badgers, and black bears are all found here.
- Pymatuning State Park, located in the northeast of the state near the town of Crawford, covers around 21,000 acres of a manmade lake. The waters are teeming with largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, carp, crappies, and other freshwater fish. It is open to fishing all year-round.
- Presque Isle State Park, situated on some 3,000 acres land around Lake Eerie, is a US National Natural Landmark. It’s also widely regarded as one of the best bird-watching sites in the state. Piping plovers, cerulean warblers, terns, sparrows, blackbirds, and gulls are all found here.
- Finally, Nockamixon State Park, located to the north of Philadelphia, is another good destination for bird-watching and freshwater fishing. More than 250 species of birds have been documented at the park, including orioles, warblers, swans, grebes, sandpipers, herons, kingfishers, ospreys, wrens, grosbeaks, and egrets.
The Most Dangerous Animals in Pennsylvania Today
The forests of Pennsylvania may have once teemed with many dangerous predators, but today most of the dangerous animals are venomous snakes and insects, not carnivores. This list will only count wild animals that pose a direct danger to people. It will not include wild animals that incidentally harm people by spreading diseases.
- Timber Rattlesnake: Present throughout most of Pennsylvania, the timber rattlesnake can come in a few different color morphs, including yellow with dark bands and almost fully black. The long fangs, big size, and ability to inject a lot of venom at once make them potentially very dangerous. Fortunately, they are quite shy and non-aggressive around humans, and they will normally give a lengthy warning with their weird rattle before striking. If you’ve been bitten by this snake, however, then you should seek immediate medical attention. The anti-venom for this snake bite is quite effective.
- Eastern Copperhead: Another common forest-dwelling snake, the eastern copperhead is identified by the pale brown body and darker markings that almost look like weird stains. While this snake will sometimes deliver a dry warning bite, the venom itself is quite potent and potentially lethal. Symptoms include pain, tingling, swelling, and nausea. Immediate medical attention is advised.
- Eastern Massasauga: Found only in western Pennsylvania, this species has a gray or tan body with rows of brown or black markings. It is normally quite shy and tries to avoid contact with humans, but once injected, the venom can destroy tissue and prevent blood clotting. Properly treated bite victims always make a full recovery.
- Black Widow Spider: The female of the black widow is the deadlier of the two sexes because of the larger venom gland. She is easily identified by the black body and red markings on the abdomen. Pain, cramps, and spasms are common symptoms of its bite, but death is exceptionally rare, even in untreated cases.
- Bees and Wasps: The sting from these flying insects can be exceptionally painful and annoying, but only a handful of deaths are known to occur each year, usually as a result of a severe allergic reaction.
- Black Bear: While not quite as dangerous as its fearsome reputation suggests, these large carnivores certainly dangerous enough to kill a person. Most incidents occur when a mother is protecting her cubs. Sometimes people can be injured when their dog picks a fight with the bear. Fortunately, attacks are exceptionally unlikely, and deaths are even rarer.
Endangered Animals in Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania currently classifies species as either threatened or endangered based on their status within its borders. There are currently dozens of endangered species, many of which are listed below. The cougar, moose, wolf, wolverine, and Canadian lynx are no longer found in Pennsylvania, but they do exist elsewhere in North America. The bald eagle and osprey have successfully recovered from previously low numbers thanks to the state’s conservation efforts. Here is a list of the endangered animals in Pennsylvania.
- Tricolored Bat: Easily identified by the presence of tricolored hair on the back, this species is currently threatened by the strange fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, which spreads rapidly through the concentrated mass of hibernating bats in the winter. It causes widespread destruction by disrupting the bat’s natural hibernation cycle.
- Indiana Bat: This medium-sized mouse-eared bat is very common throughout the entire eastern United States, but it too is susceptible to the strange scourge of white-nose syndrome. Since 2006, entire populations have been completely wiped out or heavily reduced.
- North American Least Shrew: These tiny mammals, which measure only about 3 inches long, are currently classified as threatened in Pennsylvania and Connecticut due to the loss of freshwater habitat such as dunes and marshes.
- Piping Plover: A small shorebird, the piping plover is one of the rarest birds in Pennsylvania due to the loss of its important nesting sites, particularly around Lake Eerie.
- Great Egret: This large, long-necked, white-colored water bird is a very common sight all over the world. However, it does appear to be declining in Pennsylvania due to the loss of wetlands from clearing, drainage, and other factors.
- King Rail: This medium-sized water bird, which breeds in the marshes throughout the eastern United States, is in decline throughout Pennsylvania because of habitat loss.
- Black-crowned Night Heron: Easily identified by the combination of a white body and black crown and back, this medium-sized bird can be found in fresh and saltwater wetlands throughout the entire world. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, it is suffering greatly from habitat loss.
- Loggerhead Shrike: This is a small songbird with a white breast, black mask and wings, and pale gray back. It breeds in the northern United States and migrates south as far as Central America for the winter. Numbers have been declining in the country since the 1960s, perhaps as a result of pesticide use, habitat loss, human disturbances, or a combination of all three.
- Bog Turtle: As the smallest turtle in North America, the carapace of the bog turtle measures no more than about 4 inches. Loss or disruptions of their preferred wetland habitats, as well as their low reproductive rate, have made them one of the rarest turtles in the entire country. They are currently protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
- Shortnose Sturgeon: The shortnose sturgeon is a large bottom-feeding fish that plies the waters off the coast of the US and then returns to freshwater habitats to lay their eggs. They are found throughout the Delaware Bay and the surrounding river system, but water pollution, poaching, overfishing, and accidental boat strikes (combined with slow maturity and low birth rates) have all contributed to declining population numbers. It is now one of the rarest fishes in the area.
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Pennsylvanian Animals List
Animals in Pennsylvania FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What kinds of animals live in Pennsylvania?
The most common native mammals that live in Pennsylvania are opossums, moles and shrews, bats, rabbits, raccoons, foxes, skunks, otters, minks, badgers, weasels, deer, and rodents (such as squirrels, chipmunks, voles, mice, and rats). The most common birds are blue jays, finches, cardinals, ducks, geese, warblers, sparrows, wrens, grouses, and birds of prey. The state is also rich in salamanders, frogs, and toads, turtles, snakes, freshwater fish, insects, mussels, and other invertebrates.
How many species of animals live in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has more than 60 native mammals, around 400 birds, 40 reptiles, and 36 amphibians. By far the most common animals, though, are invertebrates. There are some 11,500 documented species in the state, but this only represents about half of the invertebrates thought to exist in the wild.
What predators live in Pennsylvania?
Foxes, black bears, badgers, weasels, and minks are the main predators living in Pennsylvania. All these carnivores but the black bear pose little danger to people.
What is the strangest animal in Pennsylvania?
One of the more strange looking wild animals may be the star-nosed mole. The snout is covered in weird writhing tentacles that form a star-shaped pattern. But these tentacles are actually some of the most sensitive instruments in the entire animal kingdom. The mole can react very quickly to the presence of prey in its underground burrows – almost as fast as its nerves can react.
Do moose live in Pennsylvania?
The moose may have disappeared in the state at some point in the 18th or 19th century due to early colonial overhunting.