Missouri has a continental climate and a highly diverse natural environment featuring rolling hills, prairies, and forested Ozark highlands. This variety in habitats gives Missouri great diversity in plant and animal life, from large land mammals to river dwellers and everything in between. The “Show-Me” state also has some speedy creatures dwelling within its boundaries. Discover the fastest animals in Missouri, including where they live and why they are so swift.
1. Coyote – 43 mph
The coyote is a wild canine native to North America and common throughout Missouri’s urban and suburban areas. It lives in semiopen brush country and open farmlands, where it is known for being a nuisance, killing poultry and pets. Coyotes are typically skittish but increasingly becoming less afraid of humans. And if you think you can outrun one, guess again. These animals can reach 43 miles per hour, much faster than a human or pet. And they can use their impressive speed to hunt swift prey like rabbits or run away from danger.
2. Armadillo – 30 mph
Now, here’s an animal you may have never pegged for being speedy. The armadillo is a placental mammal in the same order as anteaters and sloths. It is native to North and South America and inhabits grasslands and semi-deserts. The nine-banded armadillo is a resident of Missouri’s southern half and began migrating into the state in the 1800s. These unusual-looking creatures are also known for being quite fast, reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour. They may have an uncoordinated appearance, but these speedsters rely on quickness to escape dangers like coyotes and bobcats.
3. Badger – 19 mph
Badgers are short-legged mammals from the same family as otters and weasels. There are several species, and they inhabit regions throughout the world, but North American badgers primarily live in the Great Plains. Badgers are actually uncommon in Missouri, but you can find them near the Missouri River in the Northern and Western parts of the state. And surprisingly, they are fast little creatures that can easily outrun humans. They can run up to 19 miles per hour and maintain this max speed for long distances. They are also fast diggers and can move just as fast backward as they can forward. And while they can be fierce defenders, they also use their super speedy abilities to escape danger.
4. Collared Lizard – 16 mph
The collared lizard is a small lizard with distinct coloration native to North America. You can find them in Southern Missouri, where they inhabit shrublands, forests, and grasslands. Look for them among rocks, such as limestone, sandstone, and granite glades. These little reptiles are relatively fast, using their hind legs to rear up and sprint up to 16 miles per hour. One stride is three times their body length, which is useful when fleeing dangerous predators. However, they most commonly use their max speeds to chase intruding males from their territories.
5. Northern Pike – 10 mph
The northern pike is a carnivorous fish native to the fresh and brackish waters of the northern hemisphere. You can find this fish in northern and central Missouri, with the largest population residing in borrow pits and drainage ditches on the Mississippi River floodplain. They can grow up to five feet long and weigh as much as 60 pounds, and despite their large size and heaviness, they are excellent swimmers. This hefty fish can reach 10 miles per hour using their streamlined bodies to cut through the water and devour their prey. They wait in vegetation until their target approaches and use their aerodynamic torpedo-shaped frames to accelerate instantly.
6. Tiger Beetle – 5.6 mph
Tiger beetles are aggressive and speedy, and the six-spotted tiger beetle is one of the most familiar species in Missouri. They are known for their flashy colors and are often seen darting around trails near hikers during the spring. These beetles are some of the fastest insects on earth, relatively 10 times faster than a human sprinter. The fastest tiger beetle can reach 5.6 miles per hour, covering 120 of its body length in a split second. Their long, thin legs allow them to achieve these incredible speeds as they dart after prey. However, they move so fast that their eyes can’t process images, causing them to become temporarily blind.
7. Eastern Coachwhip – 3.5 mph
The eastern coachwhip is a nonvenomous colubrid endemic to the United States and Mexico. It is one of the longest, fastest-moving snakes in Missouri and is found in the state’s Ozark region. These snakes rapidly move into a burrow or climb up a small tree when startled. They can crawl up to 3.5 miles per hour, faster than most snake species. They are very alert and have keen eyesight, lifting their head off the ground and scanning the terrain as they move swiftly. These speedy reptiles are quick enough to catch their prey, but humans can easily outrun these creatures.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © mariamalaya/Shutterstock.com
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