Discover 5 Animals of South Carolina You Might Spot Atop the State’s Tallest Mountain

Written by Rick Chillot
Updated: July 13, 2023
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Sassafras Mountain is not only the tallest peak in the state of South Carolina, its position allows you to view four U.S. states: Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia as well as SC. And if you’re lucky, you can also view some iconic animals of South Carolina while you’re at it.

The spectacular view is easier to reach than you might think: after a drive up the mountain’s winding road, a parking lot puts you within walking distance of the observation tower. Because the North Carolina/South Carolina border passes right beneath, you can even stand with one foot in each state at the same time.

The Eastern salamander spends most of the day underground or underneath leaf litter.

But who might be watching you as you enjoy that view, or keeping you company if you walk the surrounding trails? To find out, let’s take a look at a few of the animals of South Carolina animals you might see…or who might see you.

1. Bald Eagles

Bald eagle in flight

Fish-eating bald eagles have been seen near Sassafras Mountain.


This unmistakable raptor, with its 70-90-inch wingspan and distinctive white head, neck, and tail, is an amazing sight to see. Bald eagles are fish-earing birds who usually nest within one mile of a body of water. In South Carolina, they tend to nest along the major rivers of the lower coastal plane. However, they’ve been observed at nearby Lake Jocassee. So bring your binoculars, and the spectacular mountaintop view may give you a look at a bald eagle on the wing.

2. White-Tailed Deer

A white-tailed deer doe and its two fawns

Adaptable white-tailed deer can live in a variety of habitats.

©Tony Campbell/

These animals range through most of the continental United States and reside throughout South Carolina. White-tailed deer prefer forests and old fields but will make their home in marshes, mountain forests, and other habitats.

3. Black Bears

black bear in a mountain stream

Black bears range across the state of South Carolina.


The largest land animals in South Carolina have been reported in almost every county. Two resident populations are known, one of which includes the mountainous region that includes Sassafras Mountain. More black bear encounters are reported in the mountains of South Carolina than in coastal areas. Still, they’re shy and evasive creatures, so don’t count on spotting one. If you do, know that South Carolina has never had a report of a black bear attacking a human.

4. Spotted Salamanders

Spotted Salamander, the state amphibian of South Carolina

Spotted: If it’s out in the open, the state amphibian of South Carolina is easy to see.

©Matt Jeppson/

The state amphibian of South Carolina, this large (6-9 inches) dark-bodied salamander is immediately recognizable thanks to its bright yellow or orange spots. These animals spend most of the day underground or underneath leaf litter.

5. Eastern Kingsnakes

Eastern Kingsnake on a south carolina mountain trail

The eastern kingsnake has a distinct black and yellow pattern.


This wide-ranging snake resides throughout the Eastern U.S., South Carolina included. They’re typically deep black in color, with contrasting yellow bands, but the subspecies found in SC’s mountains may have very thin banding or be almost completely black. Kingsnakes are nonvenomous. In fact, they’re resistant to the venom of other snakes…because they eat them.

Summary of 5 South Carolina Animals You Might Spot Atop the State’s Tallest Mountain

1Bald Eagles
2White-Tailed Deer
3Black Bears
4Spotted Salamanders
5Eastern Kingsnakes
Summary Table of 5 South Carolina Animals You Might Spot Atop the State’s Tallest Mountain

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wirestock Creators/

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About the Author

Rick Chillot is a freelance writer and editor who's worked in all kinds of print and digital formats, including books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and graphic novels. He abandoned his pursuit of a biology career when nature refused to cooperate.

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