South Carolina is a smallish state, but with three geographic regions, mild winters, and hot and humid summers, it is a paradise for all kinds of wildlife, from small rodents to badgers, mink, long-tailed weasels, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The state is home to animals strange and pedestrian, predators and herbivores, some of the country’s rarest animals, and those seen and heard every day. Here are only a few of the fantastic beasts of South Carolina and where to find them:
The Official Animal of South Carolina
The official state animal of South Carolina is the white-tailed deer, which, to be blunt, is found absolutely everywhere in the state.
Official state bird
South Carolina’s official state bird is the Carolina wren, an aggressive little bird with a loud and confident voice. The state wild game bird is the wild turkey, which, like the white-tailed deer, is widespread. South Carolina’s state duck is the wood duck, which is also called the Carolina duck.
Official state marine mammal
The bottlenose dolphin is commonly seen off the coast of the state. The official migratory marine mammal is the northern right whale, which comes to the coastal waters to give birth.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in South Carolina
A citizen of the state won’t need to travel far to experience South Carolina’s wildlife. All manner of birds, opossums, raccoons, skunks, wild hogs, and white-tailed deer are frequent visitors to farms and backyards. However, South Carolina does have 47 state parks that cover 9000 acres from the southern coast to the mountains. In these parks, the visitor can glimpse the less common animals such as the badger, the mink, alligators, and the long-tailed weasel.
Among the state and national parks is Table Rock State Park in Pickens County where people can fish for the state fish, the striped bass as well as catfish, trout, and bream at Pinnacle Lake and Lake Oolenoy. Other areas are Caesars Head State Park, where visitors can find black bears, try to get a glimpse of the endangered green salamander, and fish for trout in the rivers.
Found only 18 miles from Columbia, the state capital, Congaree National Park is home to feral pigs, otters, bobcats, and armadillos. Its waters hold many species of fish, including catfish. Other sites are Kings Mountain State Park and Paris Mountain State Park, with their many varieties of birds and fish. Hunting Island State Park is a barrier island that’s home to alligators, deer, diamondback rattlesnakes, and many types of fish, including barracuda. It is where the rare loggerhead turtle hauls out to dig nests in the sand and lay eggs.
Besides the bottlenose dolphin and the right northern whale that visits seasonally, marine mammals found off South Carolina’s coasts include the minke, sei, bowhead, fin, and humpback whales. Other marine mammals are the goose beaked whale, the sperm whale, the harbor seal, and the harbor porpoise, and other types of dolphins, beaked whales, and pilot whales. The West Indian manatee, a strange and peaceable creature somewhere between a walrus and a dolphin, is also found off South Carolina.
Though the gray wolf seems to have been extirpated from the state, some claim that the red wolf can still be found in South Carolina’s forests. Some also claim that this canine is actually a cross between a wolf and a coyote. If it is still found in South Carolina, it must be the rarest of canines, and its status is critically endangered.
Canines that are not endangered are the grey fox and the red fox, which are also visitors to people’s yards. The coyote has also made its way into South Carolina as it has into other parts of North America.
Though people are wary of bats, they perform an important role in the ecosystem by eating mosquitoes and other insect pests such as cockroaches, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, and cucumber beetles. Among the bats found in South Carolina are the big brown bat, the little brown bat, the evening bat, the eastern pipistrelle, and the hoary bat. Bats often roost in caves or in people’s attics or barns.
Rabbits found in South Carolina are the eastern cottontail, one of the most commonly seen rabbits, the swamp rabbit, and the marsh rabbit.
South Carolina also has a wealth of rodents, many of whom do find their way into buildings. They include the house mouse, which is common to the point of ubiquity even though it is not native to the state. Other rodents are more species of mice, including jumping mice, the black, Norway, hispid cotton and marsh rice rats, the musk rat, and voles. The state is also home to several species of squirrels, including the groundhog, the eastern chipmunk, and the southern flying squirrel. Beavers build their dams and lodges in South Carolina’s ponds, streams, and swamps.
Though shrews aren’t rodents, they are mouse-sized creatures with long, pointed snouts. Among the shrews that populate South Carolina are the common or cinereus shrew, the least shrew, the southern and northern short-tailed shrews, and the tiny American pygmy shrew.
The black bear has stable populations in the northwest and the southeast parts of the state, and it at least passes through every other county. The only county where the black bear hasn’t been seen is Bamberg County.
The opossum is the only marsupial in North America, and it is found just about everywhere in the state. It is not above raiding people’s garbage cans and building nests in the ductwork.
Mustelids in South Carolina include the mink, the long-tailed weasel, and the river otter. Minks are found in the upper Piedmont region and down in the marshes along the coast, and there are populations all through the rest of South Carolina.
The long-tailed weasel prefers the borders between the woods and fields, of which there are many in South Carolina. Though it’s not especially common, it has been implicated in raiding henhouses.
The river otter is found in the state’s coastal marshes and swamps, around beaver ponds and refuges for waterbirds.
Badgers, which are relatives of weasels, are also found in South Carolina. More robustly built than their cousins, badgers dig burrows called setts. A family of badgers is called a cete.
Another strange and fascinating creature is the nine-banded armadillo. Not native to the state, it has made its way north from South America. Females always give birth to identical quadruplets and both sexes jump 3 or 4 feet straight into the air when they’re startled.
South Carolina is a haven for all sorts of birds, from seagulls, terns, skimmers, and pelicans as well as birds that scurry along the shore in search of food such as plovers and oystercatchers.
Birds found in South Carolina’s wetlands include rails, gallinules, bitterns, and grebes. Some wading birds are egrets, spoonbills, herons and ibises, and the endangered wood stork. Birds of prey include bald eagles, ospreys, kestrels, owls, hawks, falcons, and kites. Other birds are bluejays, robins, cardinals, kingfishers, cedar waxwings, crows, bluebirds, thrashers, chickadees, chimney swifts, phoebes, and many others.
The number of reptile species in South Carolina is also vast. The largest is the alligator, which lives in the state’s freshwater or brackish ponds, streams, rivers, and swamps. They are easy to find in the Savannah River and its tributaries. An adult male can grow to 15 feet long and weigh close to 1000 pounds.
The more humble reptiles include anoles, which live around human habitation and can change their color from brown to leaf green. There are skinks, fence lizards, horned lizards and geckos, glass lizards, and racerunners. Snakes include garter snakes, water snakes, rat and corn snakes, and venomous rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and copperheads.
Besides the loggerhead turtle, South Carolina is home to the leatherback sea turtle, the diamondback terrapin, the gopher tortoise, and species of freshwater turtles including the chicken turtle, the bog turtle, the common map turtle, the river and Florida cooters, and the mud turtles.
South Carolina amphibians include all types of frogs and toads including the American toad, the southern and northern cricket frogs, the bird-voiced tree frog, the squirrel tree frog, the bullfrog, the gopher frog, and the eastern spadefoot toad. There’s also the little grass frog and the spring peeper.
Salamanders are more elusive than frogs and toads, as their voices if they have voices, are quiet, and they live in moist places under rocks and leaves. Among them are the two-toed amphiuma, or the congo eel, which can be 4 feet long. South Carolina also contains sirens, mudpuppies, Alabama waterdogs, and hellbenders.
Like other warm places, much of South Carolina’s wildlife is made up of insects. Among the least welcome are the fire ants, Palmetto bugs, bed bugs, cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, weevils, scarab beetles and aphids, horseflies, and deerflies.
Among the insects that are tolerated if not welcomed are butterflies, the prettier species of moth such as the luna moth, bumblebees, honey bees, ladybugs, dragonflies such as the azure bluet and fireflies.
The Carolina wolf spider is the state spider, and South Carolina has other tiny predators such as jumping spiders, crab spiders, cellar spiders, nursery web spiders, fishing spiders, orb weavers, and green lynx spiders.
Zoos in South Carolina
Some of the zoos in South Carolina include Charles Towne Landing, which recreates the conditions of Charleston when it was still an English settlement. Because of that, visitors can see bison, river otters, wood storks, and other wading birds. Columbia’s River Banks Zoo is also a favorite, as is the Greenville Zoo.
Wild Animals in South Carolina
More wild animals found in South Carolina include native arachnids such as pillbugs, ticks, centipedes, millipedes, harvestmen, scorpions, and pseudoscorpions. Other common insects are wasps, hornets, treehoppers, grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and beetles, including the Hercules beetle. The common and alligator snapping turtles are also found in South Carolina, and the black vulture and the turkey vulture feast on carrion, including the always plentiful roadkill. Amphibians include the seepage salamander, the marbled salamander, the southern zigzag salamander and the red-spotted newt.
The Most Dangerous Animals In South Carolina Today
Since South Carolina is home to so many creatures, it is inevitable that some are going to be dangerous to humans. The most dangerous include:
- Sharks – Bull sharks and great white sharks are found in the waters off the state’s beaches. Though humans aren’t the favorite food of these predators and they tend to spit them out after one bite, it only takes one bite to cause serious injury.
- Black Bears – Black bears aren’t as aggressive as grizzlies, but it is best to watch them from a safe distance. Mother bears are especially protective of their cubs.
- Copperhead snakes – The problem with the copperhead snake is that it’s active during the day in the fall, and its coloration makes it well camouflaged among fallen leaves. It is easy for a person wearing sandals or no footwear at all to step on one and get bitten.
- Wasps, Hornets and Bees – Though people tend to overlook them, these insects cause more deaths than just about any other dangerous animal. A hive of angry stinging bees or wasps can kill someone allergic to their venom.
- Deer – People may be surprised to learn that the timid white-tailed deer is a dangerous animal. A deer can cause a shocking amount of damage to both car and passengers if a vehicle hits it on a country road.
Endangered Animals In South Carolina
Besides the loggerhead sea turtle and the green salamander, endangered animals in South Carolina include:
- Shortnose sturgeon – This prehistoric fish is endangered due to overhunting for both its eggs and its meat.
- Carolina heelsplitter – This is a type of mussel threatened by pollution and habitat destruction.
- Pine Barrens tree frog – This beautiful little frog from the wetlands is endangered due to development, pollution and fire suppression.
- North Atlantic Right Whale – South Carolina’s state migratory marine mammal has still not recovered from overhunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
South Carolinian Animals
South Carolinian Animals List
Animals in South Carolina FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What dangerous animals live in South Carolina?
Besides the ones listed, other dangerous animals in South Carolina include the black widow spider, the brown recluse spider, stingrays, mosquitoes, alligators and fire ants.
What animal is South Carolina known for?
The animal the state is most known for is probably the white-tailed deer, as it is everywhere.
Are there moose in South Carolina?
Some people claim to have seen a moose or two in South Carolina, but if it’s true, the moose must be one of the rarest cervids in the state. However, the state does have the next best thing to a moose which is the elk, Cervus canadensis, and its subspecies, the Rocky Mountain elk, C. c. nelsoni. Both of these elks are vagrants and were probably just passing through. If a moose, a creature of colder climes, was seen in South Carolina it is probably a vagrant as well or an escapee from a zoo.