Wyoming is the ninth-largest state in the United States in terms of land area, but it has the smallest population. With such vast lands and so few people, much of Wyoming is untamed and filled with wildlife. Among those many Wyoming animals are some serious speedsters. These ten are the fastest animals in the Equality State.
1. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
The fastest animal in the world can be found in Wyoming. Peregrine falcons can achieve speeds over 240 miles per hour. For some perspective, the top speed of Formula One race cars is over 20 miles per hour, slower than a peregrine falcon!
Also known as the duck hawk, the peregrine falcon’s preferred prey are other birds such as ducks, pigeons, songbirds, woodpeckers, and geese. They also hunt small mammals and, on rare occasions, even insects.
The peregrine falcon can be found on every continent except Antarctica. While these raptors were once under threat due to the proliferation of the synthetic pesticide DDT, the ban on the chemical and other conservation efforts have allowed the fastest animal in the world to make an impressive comeback.
2. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
The golden eagle is North America’s largest bird of prey, featuring an impressive seven-foot wingspan. But its size certainly does not slow it down. The golden eagle’s dive has been clocked at 200 miles per hour, making it the fastest eagle in the world and the second-fastest of all birds, bested only by the peregrine falcon.
The golden eagle’s prey is almost exclusively mammalian. Some of its favorites include rabbits, marmots, and prairie dogs. However, these girthy raptors aren’t shy about hunting bigger game as well, such as small deer, mountain goats, and even coyote pups!
Golden eagles are found throughout Wyoming, including grasslands, woodlands, and mountainous regions.
3. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Wyoming is home to two eagle species, the second of which also happens to be the national symbol of the United States: the bald eagle. While the bald eagle is far more well-known than the golden eagle, it doesn’t feature the same blazing speed. That’s not to say that the bald eagle isn’t impressively fast in its own right, though. These raptors have been clocked at 100 miles per hour.
While golden eagles eat mammals almost exclusively, fish are at the top of the bald eagle’s preferred prey. This opportunistic predator is not picky, though. It will also hunt small mammals and waterfowl, and will even eat carrion.
4. Common Pigeon (Columba livia)
This next fastest Wyoming animal is likely not one that many would expect: the rock dove, also known as the rock pigeon. But you probably know it best as the common pigeon that proliferates city sidewalks and parks.
These birds are found throughout the United States, mostly in urban areas. Similarly, in Wyoming, they are normally found in cities such as Cheyenne and Casper.
What you may not know about these common birds is that they are fast. The common pigeon has been clocked at 95 miles per hour!
The pigeon may not be an iconic Wyoming animal (no one travels to Yellowstone to see a pigeon!), but there is no denying that they are among the fastest animals in the Cowboy State.
5. Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
The fifth fastest creature in Wyoming is also the first land animal: the pronghorn. Though they are sometimes called the American antelope, pronghorn antelope, or prairie antelope, pronghorns aren’t antelopes at all. They are the only remaining member of the family group Antilocapridae and are found exclusively in North America.
These herbivores can cover ground with blistering speed. Pronghorn bursts have been documented at over 60 miles per hour, making them the second-fastest land animal in the world. Only the cheetah is speedier. Unlike the cheetah, though, the pronghorn can maintain speeds of 35-40 miles per hour over long distances, sometimes upwards of seven miles. They are certainly the world’s fastest long-distance runners.
The pronghorn is a favorite among predators. Their top predator is the coyote, which preys largely on pronghorn fawns. Other predation threats include wolves, mountain lions, and bears. Again, fawns are the main target. These predators make far fewer attempts on mature pronghorns for one very simple reason: they’ll never catch them.
6. American Quarter Horse (Equus caballus)
In a state often known as the Cowboy State, one would expect horses to be commonplace. The state is known around the world for its rodeos, including the Cody Nite Rodeo. Held in the northwest Wyoming town of Cody, this famous rodeo rides seven nights a week from June to August. One of the most popular events at the rodeo is barrel racing. And where there is barrel racing, you are sure to find the American quarter horse.
The quarter horse’s name comes from its ability to achieve impressive speeds over a quarter of a mile, reaching a maximum velocity of 55 miles per hour. With that kind of speed, it’s easy to see why the quarter horse is the horse of choice in rodeo events like barrel racing. Quarter horses are also invaluable for Wyoming’s cattle ranchers, having a temperament perfectly suited to driving cattle along with other work around a ranch.
7. Mountain Lion (Felis concolor)
The mountain lion is known by many other names, including cougar, puma, panther, painter, ghost cat, and mountain screamer. Wyoming is one of 15 U.S. states known to have breeding populations of mountain lions, with an estimated population of around 2,000 cats in the state.
Although rarely seen, there are mountain lions throughout Wyoming. The largest concentrations are in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming, the pinyon-juniper woodlands in the southwest part of the state, and all of Wyoming’s major mountain ranges.
The primary prey for the mountain lion is deer, but these predators will also stalk bighorn sheep, elk, beavers, turkey, and small mammals such as rabbits and raccoons.
Mountain lions are stealthy hunters, but once a chase breaks out, they can average 30-40 miles per hour, with a possible short sprint of 50 miles per hour.
8. Elk (Cervus canadensis)
With speedy predators such as mountain lions, elk need to be rather swift themselves, and they are. However, as the second-largest member of the deer family (only moose are larger), the size of these animals can be deceptive. They may spend most of their day slowly meandering and grazing, but when a chase is on, these large deer can really kick up some dust. Elk can reach speeds of 40-45 miles per hour.
Found throughout Wyoming, elk hunting is quite popular, with hunters tagging over 25,000 elk per year. Even with so many elk tags, Wyoming’s elk herds are still above the healthy numbers wildlife officials work to maintain.
9. Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
Along with its elk herds, Wyoming’s mule deer population is also quite strong. In fact, some consider Wyoming to be the premier state in the U.S. for a trophy mule deer hunt. Mule deer can be found throughout the state, from high mountain elevations to low-lying creek beds and woodlands.
Along with human hunters, mule deer are hunted by predatory animals, including coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, bears, lynxes, and bobcats.
The mule deer’s primary defense against predation is its speed. Mature mule deer can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour.
10. Coyote (Canis latrans)
Also known as “song dogs,” the howl of coyotes can be heard throughout Wyoming in the late evening or early morning. These predators weigh around 30 pounds at maturity, significantly smaller than the wolves found in Wyoming.
The coyote’s smaller size means it hunts smaller prey. Primary targets for coyotes include voles, rabbits, mice, and other small animals. These canines will sometimes target elk calves during the spring. They will also visit kills made by larger predators, such as wolves and bears, to clean up whatever scraps may be left.
When chasing after the speedy small mammals that make up most of its diet, the coyote can reach top speeds of over 40 miles per hour.
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.