Located in the southeastern region of the US and spanning 59,425 square miles, Georgia is a vast and diverse area. It has some of the most fascinating and beautiful areas – including the Blue Ridge mountains, the Piedmont Plateau, and numerous rivers and lakes as well as a stunning coastline and barrier islands. With so many different ecosystems, it’s not surprising that Georgia also has an incredibly diverse range of wildlife too. Therefore, we’ve discovered some of the largest animals in Georgia, and where you’ll find them!
1. American Black Bear
The largest land mammal in Georgia is the American black bear which can weigh up to 550 pounds. Black bears generally prefer habitats where there is plenty of vegetation and in Georgia, they are most often found in the North Georgia mountains, Okefenokee Swamp, and Ocmulgee river basin. They are omnivores and eat a variety of grasses, fruit, seeds, berries, insects, and mammals such as deer fawns. Black bears have a keen sense of smell and good eyesight. They are also strong and capable swimmers as well as good climbers that often climb trees in search of food. They can be territorial but do tend to avoid humans where possible.
2. Giant Water Bug
Also known as “toe biters,” giant water bugs have a reputation for delivering sharp, intensely painful bites if they are disturbed or handled. They are members of the Belostomatidae family of insects and can reach 4.5 inches long. They are typically dark brown or black and have flattened, oval-shaped bodies. Giant water bugs inhabit slow-moving areas of water – such as streams, ponds, and marshes – and in Georgia, they are mainly found in the southern region of the state. They have a voracious appetite and are capable of eating small fish, snakes, turtles, and frogs.
3. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The largest and most dangerous venomous snake in Georgia is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which reaches approximately 8 feet long. Eastern diamondbacks are usually brown or brownish-yellow with dark brown or black diamond markings. They typically live in forests, flatwoods, and swamps and in Georgia, they occur south of the Fall Line. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are ambush predators and mainly eat small mammals and birds. They are highly venomous and can deliver an average of 400 to 450 milligrams of venom with a single bite. The lethal dose for a human is only 100 to 150 milligrams.
4. American Alligator
When it comes to raw power, there are few animals more breathtaking than the American alligator which is the largest reptile in the state. There are 200,000 estimated alligators in Georgia and they can reach 15 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds. Alligators live in rivers, lakes, swamps, and streams and can often be seen basking in the sun on the shores. They are apex predators and eat a range of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish. Although they have a lot of teeth, they are designed for gripping rather than chewing prey. This is why alligators often roll and thrash around with their prey so that they can break off bite-sized chunks of flesh. Although there are a lot of alligators in Georgia, they mostly all occur south of the fall line, with Okefenokee Swamp being one of the best places to see them.
5. Blue Catfish
One of the most popular fish with anglers is the blue catfish which can easily reach weights of up to 150 pounds. The largest caught in Georgia weighed a massive 110 pounds 6oz. They are the largest species of catfish and are known for their ability to tolerate both fresh and brackish water, which means they can be found in rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Blue catfish are a blueish grey color and have distinctive barbels on their face. They are predatory fish and prey on anything that they can catch – something which leads to them being classified as a pest in many areas. Blue catfish are widespread across Georgia and can be found in most major lakes and rivers.
6. Eastern Hercules Beetle
One of the most common beetles in Georgia is the eastern hercules beetle which is a species of rhinoceros beetle. Eastern hercules beetles are usually grey, green, or tan with black spots. They are usually 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, although longer specimens have been found. Males have a long, forward-pointing horn which they use for fighting other males for the attention of the females. Eastern hercules beetles are incredibly strong and can carry approximately 100 times their own weight. They are typically found in forests where adult feast on rotting fruit and tree sap. As larvae, they eat rotten wood from deciduous trees.
7. Eastern Indigo Snake
Of all the snakes in Georgia, the largest is the eastern indigo snake which can reach a massive 9.2 feet long. Eastern indigo snakes are a blueish black color with smooth scales which give them a glossy appearance. They are not venomous and although they flatten their neck and hiss when disturbed, they rarely bite. Eastern indigo snakes prey on a wide variety of animals such as rodents, lizards, frogs, turtles, birds, and fellow snakes. They are even able to eat venomous snakes as they are immune to rattlesnake venom. Eastern indigo snakes are native to the southeastern region of the US where they typically live in habitats with sandy soil such as flatwoods and hammocks. In Georgia, they only occur in the southernmost areas of the state and even then they are rare and difficult to spot.
8. Bald Eagle
The largest bird in Georgia is the national bird of the US – the bald eagle. Bald eagles are huge, stunning birds with dark brown plumage and white heads and tails. They have a massive wingspan that can reach as wide as 7ft 7in. They are also credited with building the largest nests of any other bird in the world. Bald eagles are sea eagles and live near large bodies of water – such as lakes and along coastlines. They nest in large trees and instead of building a new nest every year they simply add new material. The largest nests can be as much as 20 feet deep and 9 feet wide! Although they were once almost extinct in the state, bald eagles have since made a comeback in Georgia. The barrier islands and West Point Lake are named the best spots to see them.
9. Great White Shark
The most notorious animal on the list is easily the deadly great white shark. Females are larger than males and can attain an average length of 15 to 16 feet, although there are reports of individuals reaching 20 feet long and weighing 4,200 pounds. In Georgia, they can be right along the coastal waters, with a 13-foot-long individual spotted off Tybee Island in May. Great white sharks are apex predators and prey on a wide range of fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and sea birds. They are generally classed as the most dangerous shark in the world due to the high amount of unprovoked attacks which are attributed to them.
10. North Atlantic Right Whale
The largest animal in Georgia is the north Atlantic right whale which is also Georgia’s state mammal. North Atlantic right whales are approximately 42 to 53 feet long and are dark grey to black with rough, white patches of skin on their heads. These huge animals are baleen whales and are actually the most critically endangered species of whale in the world. North Atlantic right whales are highly migratory and every winter many of them travel to their winter calving areas along the coast of Georgia and Florida. It is estimated that there are fewer than 350 individuals left in the world today, with one of their major threats being vessel strikes in busy shipping lanes.
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