Virginia is a beautiful and mountainous state with lots to do. One of the best-known features of this state is the Blue Ridge Mountains. Did you know that Virginia has eight mountain ranges? About five peaks surpass 5,000 feet, including the tallest mountain in the state. This impressive height though doesn’t deter animals away. Instead, many animals live on Virginia’s tallest mountain. Follow along to discover 10 animals that lurk atop Virginia’s tallest mountain.
What is the Tallest Mountain in Virginia?
Before we can learn more about the animals that live atop and around Virginia’s largest mountain, we should learn more about the mountain in question. Virginia’s largest mountain is Mount Rogers. Mount Rogers is the highest point in Virginia, with a 5,729-foot peak. It’s also the United States’ 19th highest point.
Things to do at Mount Rogers
Mount Rogers is an excellent mountain peak and area to visit if you love the outdoors. This mountain peak is in Grayson and Smyth Counties. The closest city to this point is Troutdale, Virginia. Mont Rogers is within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and the Lewis Fork Wilderness.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is a wonderful recreational area in Virginia. The surface area of the national recreation area is 154,816 acres. One of the most popular activities in this recreation area is hiking. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area boasts over 500 miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty. Within this area is a 78-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail. While visiting, you can also camp, bike, hunt, horseback ride, and do some bird watching.
Lewis Fork Wilderness is a wilderness system in Virginia. Although its main attraction is Virginia’s highest natural point, you can also hike and view wildlife. The hiking trails in Lewis Fork Wilderness range from moderate to difficult. While walking the trails, you can enjoy woodlands and forests. There are also clear and calm running streams throughout the park that support native trout species. Interestingly, also on the mountain are wild ponies. They’ve been in the area since at least the 1940s.
10 Animals That Lurk Atop Virginia’s Tallest Mountain
Many animals live on top of and around Mount Rogers. Many are birds and salamanders. Here we have a list of ten animals that lurk atop Virginia’s highest mountain and fun facts about each!
Starting our list is the winter wren. The winter wren is a small brown bird native to North America. These lovely small birds mainly live in parts of the eastern United States and Canada. They are only about 3.1 to 4.7 inches long. Winter wrens have small tails and short necks, which make them look like balls. They are also vocal birds that nest in spruce and fir trees. Winter wrens are mainly insectivores and consume spiders. However, during the winter, when they roost, they also eat seeds.
The next bird on our list is the downy woodpecker. This woodpecker species is native to North America. It’s the smallest woodpecker species on the continent. Typically, downy woodpeckers live in forests in both Canada and the United States. These birds are about 5.5 to 7.1 inches long with a much longer wingspan ranging from 9.8 to 12.2 inches. They also only weigh about an ounce, sometimes less. Downy woodpeckers are black and white birds. Adult male downy woodpeckers, however, also have a red patch on the back of the head.
Another bird you may encounter while hiking Mount Rogers is the golden-crowned kinglet. This small and beautiful bird is native to most of North America. They are about 3.1 inches long and on average weigh 0.21 ounces. It’s a tiny songbird often found foraging in shrubs. They mainly eat insects, and sometimes seeds. Golden-crowned kinglets are olive-grey and white birds. They have a black stripe on its eye and a vibrant yellow crown on its head.
The hermit thrush also frequents Mount Rogers. This bird is a North American thrush with a wide range. It’s currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Hermit thrushes have a high flute-like song. They are very vocal birds, singing in open areas. Hermit thrushes are medium-sized birds. They are between 5.9 to 7.1 inches long and can weigh as much as 1.31 ounces. Hermit thrushes are stocky and compact. They have brown and white feathers with reddish tails and pink legs. Interestingly, their coloration varies depending on their location.
Another bird on our list is the red crossbill. This vibrant bird has a wide range. They are found across North America and Eurasia. These lovely birds vary minimally. However, females are generally green or yellow with grey and white coloration. Males are more striking and are red or orange. Red crossbills, as their name suggests, are best known for their crossed mandibles. These birds mainly eat seeds and use their crossed mandibles to break apart cones.
Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Getting away from birds, the next animal on our list of animals that lurk atop Virginia’s tallest mountain is the eastern red-backed salamander. Eastern red-backed salamanders are members of the Plethodontidae family. They are abundant in North America and are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. This smooth salamander is a small terrestrial salamander rarely exceeding 3 inches long. They are common in forests and are found hiding underneath logs and rocks. Interestingly, not all red-backed salamanders have red backs. Some are yellow, orange, or white.
Near and on Mount Rodgers are clear streams. In some of these clear streams, you can find fish species like brook trout. These fish are freshwater char native to Eastern North America. They have a wide natural range but have been introduced to other states. In the northern Rocky Mountains, brook trout are considered a highly invasive species as they compete with native cutthroat trout.
You can also find rock bass while on Mount Rogers. Rock bass are small sunfish native to east-central North America. They have bright red eyes, six spines in the anal fin, and large mouths. Rock bass vary in color, but are usually orange, yellow, or green, with white to silver bellies. These fish rarely weigh over a pound. They are small, about 6 to 10 inches long. Fun fact, the largest rock bass caught in Virginia weighed 2 pounds and 2 ounces. Larry Ball has held this impressive record since 1986.
North American Black Bear
In Virginia, there are about 18,000 to 20,000 North American black bears. Encounters though are rare as these large mammals are relatively shy and quiet. While rare, they are increasing. Black bears are medium-sized bears native to North America. They are the only bear species in the state. These large bears are omnivores but mainly eat fruits and nuts. The most impressive thing about black bears is their size. While they are the smallest North American bear species, they can easily weigh over 300 pounds. The largest recorded black bear weighed 902 pounds. However, it wasn’t alive, so it may have weighed over 1,100 pounds when alive.
Raccoons are one of the most common mammals in Virginia. You’re more likely to see a raccoon on your trip to Mount Rogers than a black bear. They are most active at night and live in both rural and urban areas. Raccoons in the wild live for about 2 to 3 years. They are excellent climbers and can reach speeds up to 15 mph.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Gabriel Quiles/Shutterstock.com
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