Lakes are great places to beat the heat and enjoy many water activities. It’s important though to remember that we share this space with many animals. Thousands of animals live in and around lakes in the world but vary depending on their habitat.
Are you ready to discover some interesting animals that live in and around lakes? This list might push you to take a closer look next time you’re near a lake.
Animals That Live In Lakes
Many animals live in lakes. Some of these animals on this list live entirely in the water, while others, like the alligator, spend time both in and around the lake. Keep reading to learn more about animals living in lakes!
There are two species of alligators, and both live in lakes! The American alligator is native to the Southeastern United States, while the Chinese alligator is found in China. Both of these gators have a similar appearance, but Chinese alligators are smaller.
American alligators are found mostly in swamps and marshes. They are about 8.5 to 15.1 feet long and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. American alligators have dark coloration and blend into their surroundings well. These apex predators feast on other lake-dwelling animals like bullfrogs, crabs, turtles, and large fish.
Chinese alligators live in bodies of fresh water at the base of mountains. They hide well in tall grass and shrubs. Chinese alligators are opportunistic feeders and most of their diet consists of river snails. They also eat insects, aquatic birds, and clams. These alligators are a lot smaller than American gators. They grow up to about 7 feet long and can weigh about 100 pounds.
Although the word “river” is in its name, river otters, also live in lakes. You can find them in most waterways in North America. They are very common in Florida. Like alligators, they are semi-aquatic animals that spend time both in and out of water. These adorable animals weigh between 11.0 and 30.9 pounds.
Despite their adorable appearance, river otters are great hunters and consume fish, reptiles, crustaceans, birds, and insects. Although rare, they also consume small mammals like muskrats and eastern cottontails. These friendly and social animals are best known for their sense of play. They wrestle and play with other river otters.
Freshwater crocodiles are also known as Australian freshwater crocodiles and freshies. These large reptiles are endemic to the northern regions of Australia. Despite their size and sharp teeth, freshwater crocodiles don’t purposefully hunt for humans, like saltwater crocodiles. Instead, their diet is filled with frogs, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, and fishes. Freshwater crocodiles change their hunting techniques depending on their prey. With small prey, they sit and wait, but with larger prey, freshwater crocodiles stalk and ambush.
Freshwater crocodiles are about 6 to 13 feet long. Most only weigh about 150 pounds, while others can reach about 220 pounds. While freshwater crocodiles don’t actively hunt for humans, you should never try to touch them in the wild. They pack a powerful bite and will defend themselves.
Most fishing lakes in North America are frequently stocked with largemouth bass. These fish are popular with anglers with the largest catch weighing 22.4 pounds. Largemouth bass are members of the Centrarchidae family. They are native to the eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada, and northern Mexico. While most places refer to these large shimmering bass as largemouth bass, they have many regional names like green bass, widemouth bass, and southern largemouth.
In the wild, these fish live about 10 to 16 years. Their diet consists of smaller fish, aquatic salamanders, insects, and snails. Although largemouth bass isn’t the largest freshwater fish, they put up a large fish, attracting the interest of many anglers. They are also invasive species in other parts of the world including Guatemala and Japan.
One of the most common freshwater turtle species is the painted turtle. Painted turtles are slow-moving turtles native to North America. You can find them from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Painted turtles are about 5 to 10 inches long. Female painted turtles are larger than males. Their shells are dark with bright yellow and red stripes. These turtles feed on small fish, crustaceans, insects, and algae. Painted turtles are unique because they are the only turtles found from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There are also multiple subspecies and hybrids.
Ducks are some of the most common animals that live in and around lakes. There are well over 100 duck species in the world. These waterfowl are members of the family Anatidae. Ducks adapt well to many conditions. They can be found on every continent, excluding Antarctica.
Ducks eat a wide range of foods including grass, small fish, amphibians, and insects. They eat at the surface of the water and dive down for food.
Flamingos are bright and beautiful wading birds that live in lakes and lagoons. Some are bright pink, while others are a lighter color. These unique long-legged birds belong to the Phoenicopteridae family and there are about 6 subspecies in total. Four subspecies live in the Americas, while the other 2 are native to Afro-Eurasia.
Flamingos are best known for an action where they stand on one leg. The other is tucked underneath their bodies. These animals range in height and weight. But some of the tallest flamingos can reach about 4.7 feet tall. Interestingly, like other pink or red species, their coloration comes from their diet. The more carotenoids in their diet, the more vibrant they are.
Beavers are found in many freshwater habitats including lakes, rivers, and ponds. These large animals are the second-largest rodents in the world. Some can weigh up to 110 pounds! Beavers are native to the Northern Hemisphere. There are two species, the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver. Beavers build large dams with rocks, branches, and other natural materials.
These large rodents need plenty of water. They hunt by diving deep. Beavers commonly eat leaves, herbs, cattails, and water lilies.
Channel catfish are large fish native to the Nearctic. They are very common in the eastern and northern United States. While they are native to North America, they’ve been introduced to some parts of Europe, Malaysia, and Indonesia. These fish are very intelligent and have a keep sense of smell and taste. Channel catfish are about 12 to 24 inches long. They can weigh up to 58 pounds, but this is rare. Most channel catfish are only about 2 to 4 pounds.
These fish mainly eat other smaller fish like yellow perch and sunfish. They also consume insects and plants.
Swans are members of the family Anatidae. They are closely related to geese. Swans mate for life unless their mate dies. They are one of the only birds to mate for life. Swans are very large! They are about 59 inches long and can weigh over 33 pounds.
Swans are found throughout the world. However, they aren’t native to Asia, Central America, northern South America, and Africa. Swans live in and around lakes. They find food on land and in the water. Swans are often used in culture. There have been many famous stories and plays written surrounding these large and graceful white birds, like the ballet, Swan Lake.
Snails are found all over the world. Some even live in oceans or entirely on land! Freshwater snails are gastropod mollusks. Depending on the species, they can live in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Interestingly, there are over 4,000 species of freshwater snails.
Gar are long fish that belong to the family Lepisosteidae. They have a long history and first appeared over 240 million years ago. They are also the only surviving members of the Ginglymodi. Gars have heterocercal tails and sharp teeth. Previously, these fish had a large and wider distribution. However, they are now found only in North America. Some of the most common gars are alligator gars, spotted gars, and Florida gars.
Minks are semi-aquatic mammals found in and near riverbanks, lakes, and marshes. There are two living mink species in the world, the European mink and the American mink. The sea mink has been extinct for over a hundred years, but it was found in the Gulf of Maine in New England.
American minks are large and stand at about 5 to 9 inches, not including the tail. Females are smaller and are sometimes half the size of males. Wild minks have silky brown coats, while farm-bred minks have glossy rich coats. Minks are bred and used for their mink fat which is used to make mink oil.
Not all crabs live in the ocean. Freshwater crabs are common in lakes and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some freshwater crab species are bred specifically for aquariums. There are over 1,300 species of freshwater crabs worldwide. However, this number may be as high as 2,000. Freshwater crabs aren’t just found in lakes though, they are also common in rivers and swamps. You can find them hiding in caves near a water source.
Egrets live in and around lakes. They are beautiful white birds native to different parts of the world. Every species has a unique environment, but most hunt and live in saltwater and freshwater marshes.
Egrets are herons and range in size. For example, great white egrets are about 3.3 feet tall, while little egrets stand at about 1 to 2 feet tall. Reddish egrets look very different from other species. While other egret species have white feathers, reddish egrets have reddish feathers. However, one reddish egret form is entirely white.
Pink salmon are large and impressive fish in the salmon family. These large fish can reach up to 15 pounds. While they aren’t the largest salmon species, their coloring is impressive and attracts the interest of many anglers. Pink salmon are native to the Pacific and Arctic coastal waters and rivers. You can find them in large and well-known rivers across the world including the Lena River, Mackenzie River, and Salinas River.
Although they are named pink salmon, this fish species isn’t entirely pink. Instead, they are silver shimmering fish with yellowish-white bellies. These beautiful fish mainly eat other smaller fish, invertebrates, and zooplankton.
Another fish on our list of animals that live in and around lakes is the bluegill. This round panfish is a favorite challenge for many anglers. Its native range is the United States and northern Mexico. It’s been introduced to other parts of the world including South America, South Africa, and Europe.
Bluegills are easy to identify because of a black spot on their bodies that resembles an earmark. While it’s not entirely blue, the fish is dark blue around the sides of its head and chin. Bluegills aren’t very big, but they can reach about 16 inches long.
Lake trouts are also animals that live in and around lakes. They are long and thick freshwater fish native to the northern parts of North America, including Alaska. Although you can find lake trout in most lakes in the United States, its native range is mostly in Canada.
These large fish have also been introduced to Europe and parts of Asia. Interestingly, these large fish are invasive to Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. They range in size, but the largest recorded lake trout weighed 102 pounds, although it doesn’t hold the IGFA title.
Many people forget that insects are also animals. There are a lot of insects that live in and around lakes, including the dragonfly. These flying insects are abundant throughout the world, except for Antarctica. There are over 3,000 recorded species with unique colors and patterns.
Dragonflies need water to survive and go through their lifecycle. These insects are common near marshes, rivers, and ponds.
Imagine taking a swim and bumping into a salamander. Some salamander species are fully aquatic, while others live around a water source. Interestingly, even terrestrial salamanders frequent lakes and ponds, despite living on land. These amphibians may resemble lizards, but they aren’t reptiles. A common salamander found in lakes is the long-toed salamander. Another common salamander is the eastern mud salamander, which lays its eggs in ponds and lakes.
Animals That Live Around Lakes
Although many animals live within lakes, others live around lakes. Many animals travel to lakes and ponds looking for a source of water. Follow along to discover some amazing animals you may see around a lake!
While moose don’t live full-time in lakes, they live near them! Moose is the only species in the genus Alces. You may have heard some people refer to moose as elk, both terms are correct. Elk is in British English. Moose are large animals that live in thick and lush forests in the Northern Hemisphere. These animals are impressive and have large antlers. They can easily weigh over 1,500 pounds.
Gray wolves are large canines native to Eurasia and North America. These large canines vary in size and coat color depending on the subspecies. Currently, there are about 30 gray wolf subspecies. These large wolves are part of the Canidae family. They are about 41 to 63 inches long and can weigh as much as 175 pounds. Some of the smallest wolves are Indian and Arabian wolves which weigh about 55 pounds. Wolves are territorial. While they are land animals, they live around lakes and hunt along the shorelines frequently.
Did you know that black bears are great swimmers? This is likely the reason these large bears live near lakes. American black bears are one of the smallest bear species, and yet they can weigh up to 551 pounds. These large bears are found throughout North America. There are also several American black bear hybrids and subspecies. For example, one subspecies is the East Mexican black bear, which mainly lives in Big Bend National Park.
Next on our list of animals that live in and around lakes is the white-tailed deer. This animal, like others on this list, has multiple subspecies. White-tailed deer differ in appearance and size depending on the region. However, their native range is in North America, Central America, and South America. You can find white-tailed deer as south as Peru and Bolivia. Within North America, large populations are found around the Great Lakes.
Although it’s unlikely you’ll see a jaguar casually next time while taking a walk, they do live near lakes and rivers. Jaguars are great swimmers. These large cats adapt well to water and have been recorded crossing rivers. Jaguars are large spotted cats that can weigh up to 348 pounds. They are the third largest cat in the world. While most jaguars consume white-tailed deer and other large mammals, one remote population in the Brazilian Pantanal eats fish.
Nile lechwe is an endangered antelope species common in swamps and grasslands in Sudan and Ethiopia. They are found in swamps and lakes, however, most Nile lechwes live in the Sudd swamps in Sudan. These unique animals mainly consume succulent grasses and water plants. Nile lechwes have many predators, including humans, cheetahs, and lions.
Eastern Garter Snakes
Many snakes also live in and around lakes, including the eastern garter snake. This snake species is native to North America. They are about 18 to 26 inches long and are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Eastern garter snakes are very common on the shores of the Mississippi River. These animals aren’t picky and live in many environments including abandoned buildings and wetlands. They are also common in gardens and consume worms, toads, and frogs.
Another canine on our list of animals that live in and near lakes is the coyote. It’s closely related to wolves and is native to North America. Coyotes are smaller though, weighing up to 75 pounds. However, most coyotes weigh about 40 pounds. They are also about 3.3 to 4.5 feet long, with females being slightly shorter. Coyotes are common in the Great Lakes region. They live near lakes as they act as a source of water. Coyotes though adapt well and also live in urban areas.
Diamondback Water Snakes
Diamondback water snakes are other animals that live in and around lakes. They are nonvenomous snakes native to the central United States and northern Mexico. These snakes vary in color but are usually brown, dark brown, or dark olive green. They also have a black net-like pattern along their back. You can find this snake in slow-moving bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, swamps, and rivers.
Yellow-Bellied Water Snakes
Last but not least is the yellow-bellied water snake. This water snake is also commonly known as the plain-bellied water snake. It’s an aquatic and nonvenomous snake native to the United States. This snake has a plain and unmarked underside, which ranges from yellow to red. It’s very common in wetlands and around lakes. These snakes are also very active during summer.
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