Animals in South Dakota

Updated: October 24, 2023
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The upper midwestern state of South Dakota is generally a temperate grassland with plenty of tree-filled hills, mountains, lakes, and rivers. Many different species of reptiles, fish, birds, rodents and other mammals exist in a geography that is divided between humid continental and semi-arid climates. Several National Park Service-protected sites, state parks, two national forests, three national grasslands, plus a lack of urban areas make the state especially habitable for a wide variety of wildlife. It is especially known for waterfowl, songbirds, game birds, and birds of prey.

The Official Animal of South Dakota

The official animal of South Dakota is the coyote, which competed against a state legislator’s recommendation of a bull. As the state mammal, it is most common in the Black Hills and the Missouri River, but it also exists throughout North America. Not only is it called the prairie wolf, but its howl is called the “song of the west.” The adaptable, intelligent, predatory mammal mates for life.

There is other official wildlife, too. The state fish is the walleye and the state bird is the Chinese ring-necked pheasant.

Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in South Dakota

The state is home to 400 species of birds, including 200 species that are native to the Badlands and Black Hills. It is extremely popular for bird watching. Some examples of birds you can find there are pheasants, owls, hawks, prairie falcons, turkey vultures, golden eagles, and bald eagles. The state is known for fishing, with people often fishing in small lakes and ponds.

Zoos in South Dakota

The Most Dangerous Wildlife In South Dakota Today

With so much wildlife and different terrains, there are sure to be some dangerous animals in South Dakota. Bison (buffalo) are by far the most dangerous, with their charges causing many more serious injuries than other large mammals. They see nearby human activities as threatening.

Mountain lion (cougars) sightings are common and usually from a distance, with 20% of mountain lion attacks being fatal. The prairie rattlesnake is the only venomous snake. It is small and so its bite rarely injects enough venom to be fatal. There are many spider species, including the Hobo, Yellow Garden, and several species of wolf spiders, but only the western black widow and the brown recluse are venomous. Death from either of their bites is extremely rare. Black bears and grizzly bears can be dangerous, but they are some of the rarest sightings around.

Endangered Wildlife In South Dakota

The rarest wildlife are either threatened or endangered at the federal or state level. 20 species of birds are endangered in South Dakota. Endangered predators are the black-footed ferret, gray wolf, and swift fox. Other endangered wildlife are:

Strange Wildlife in South Dakota

When it comes to owning strange animals, South Dakota’s laws for exotic animals say you can own a raccoon dog with a permit. A raccoon dog is a wild dog species native to Asian forests. Other strange animals are water fleas and scuds. Water fleas are microscopic crustaceans that move like fleas, and scuds (also called side-swimmers) are freshwater amphipods that resemble shrimplike or crayfish-like sowbugs.

Native Plants in South Dakota

Most of South Dakota is covered in grasses and crops. However, the state is home to many other types of plants – trees, shrubs, ferns, or vines! Cutleaf daisy, rosinweed, and nannyberry are some native plants in South Dakota.

Discover the Coldest Place in South Dakota

The coldest place in South Dakota is Aberdeen, with an average winter low of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. With a population (as of 2020) of  28,495, Aberdeen is the third most populated city in South Dakota.

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South Dakotan Animals

Admiral Butterfly

Stunningly beautiful wings

Allosaurus

Allosaurus is the official state fossil of Utah because of the abundant number of fossils found in the state.

Archelon Turtle

Archelons are the largest turtles to have ever lived in the world

Armyworm

They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Bagworm Moth Caterpillar

They continually enlarge their protective cases

Barosaurus

If a barosaurus were alive today, it could stand on its hind legs and look in a 5th floor apartment window.

Beewolf wasp

They hunt bees

Blue Catfish

It's a strong fighter when caught on a fishing line

Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat stays close to the ground and uses stealth to survive!

Diplodocus

Their long tales could have been used as a whip!

Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern hognose snakes are venomous, but only to frogs and toads.

Flea

Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Fox Snakes

In some areas, fox snakes and gopher snakes have crossbred in the wild.

Fox Squirrel

Although it is a tree squirrel, it spends most of its time on the ground.

Green Snake

There are two types of green snakes: smooth green snakes and rough green snakes

Groundhog (Woodchuck)

They whistle to each other to warn of approaching danger!

MacGillivray’s Warbler

The complicated story of how MacGillivray’s Warblers got their name involves three ornithologists, a physician and a compromise.

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Mockingbird

Mockingbirds are incredible mimics that can learn hundreds of songs!

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Owl

The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Polyphemus Moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t and can't eat, except when it's a caterpillar!

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers will often steal the nests of other birds.

Rooster

Will mate with the entire flock!

Smallmouth Bass

A fierce fighter!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Texas Garter Snake

These snakes defensively emit a foul-smelling musk if you handle them!

Tiger Trout

As tiger trout are sterile, they cannot produce offspring. However, they do have relatively long lifespans and can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Tree Cricket

They make music with their wings

Tyrannosaurus Rex

They had many air pockets in their skeleton which kept them light despite their tremendous size.

Western Tanager

They migrate farther north than any other tanager.

South Dakotan Animals List

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does South Dakota have wild animals?

Yes, many. Wild mammals, including horses, bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, deer, raccoons, coyotes, and several different kinds of reptiles, fish, rodents, and birds are common.

What type of wildlife is native to South Dakota?

Prairie dogs and other rodents along with coyotes, deer, mule, pronghorn, elk, and bison are native to the state.

Are there grizzly bears in South Dakota?

There are, but they are the rarest sightings since they mostly stay in the mountains. A few black bears live in the forests.

What type of predators are in South Dakota?

Black bears, snakes, lizards s, walleye, smallmouth bass, badgers, coyotes, eagles, hawks, owls are all predators that are in South Dakota, especially in the Badlands and Black Hills.