Discover The 7 Largest Animals In Virginia, and Where You’ll Find Them

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: July 10, 2023
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Although Virginia is typically known for its rich history rather than its wilderness, the state still has quite a few interesting species living within its borders. Some of these species are even quite large, like the Chincoteague ponies. Yet, the state is also home to many other sizeable beings, and those are the ones we’ll focus on today. Get ready to learn about seven of the largest animals in Virginia!

Picture graph of the 7 Largest Animals in Virginia
Each of these animals is the largest of its kind in the state.

What Are the 7 Largest Animals in Virginia?

We’re not just going to count down the largest animals in Virginia that live on land. After all, there’s a wealth of big creatures waiting to be discovered. That’s why our list of the largest creatures will include a variety of types of mammals, fish, and more!

Without further ado, let’s get started looking at and counting down these cool and sizeable animals.

1. Blue Catfish

Blue Catfish

The blue


can be up to 5.5 feet long.

©M Huston/

Scientific NameSizeLocation
Ictalurus furcatus2ft-5.5 feetThey are usually found in lakes and rivers, including the Appomattox River, James River, and Buggs Island Lake.

The blue catfish is one of the largest animals in Virginia’s waters. The largest one ever caught measured 65 inches long and weighed 143 pounds.

This massive specimen was caught in Buggs Island Lake, one of the better places to catch this species. You can also find them in rivers such as the Appomattox and the Rappahannock Rivers.

Although the blue catfish is one of the biggest fish in Virginia, you can see massive sharks off the state’s coast, including tiger sharks.

2. Mute Swan

Most Dangerous Birds

Mute swans in Virginia are exclusively found in the Chesapeake Bay.

©Tone Trebar/

Scientific NameSizeLocation
Cygnus olor6-7.9 feet in wingspanAlmost exclusively found in the Chesapeake Bay in the eastern and northeastern part of Virginia.

The mute swan is a very large bird that is typically found only in the Chesapeake Bay area of the state. That being said, they’re becoming more common on the east coast of the state. These birds are large and beautiful. They’re mostly white birds with black markings around their eyes and bill. Speaking of the bill, it is bright orange.

As one of the largest animals in Virginia, you can expect to see a wingspan that reaches almost 8 feet in length when they unfurl them.

These swans reside in the state all year long, too. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to approach them while they’re eating their favorite aquatic vegetation. Just admire them from a distance.

3. Black Bear

Black Bear Showing Teeth

Black bears are the only bears found in Virginia.

©Jim Cumming/

Scientific NameSizeLocation
Ursus americanus5 to 6 feet in lengthUsually found in dense woods or swampy areas near the coast, found in most areas of Virginia.

The American black bear is the only bear found in the state, and it’s easily one of the largest animals in Virginia. Although it’s commonly encountered in wooded areas and forests, it can also be found in swampy areas of coastal plains.

The black bear is not something you’ll want to get close to. These bears have more than enough power to seriously harm or kill a person. They grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds or more when fully grown. Remember, their length becomes height if they stand up, so they can tower over most people.

4. Eastern Black Rat Snake

Black Rat snake in Virginia's Caledon State Park. These are large, non-venomous snakes between 3.5 and 7 feet (one and two meters) long.

Eastern black rat snakes are large, non-venomous snakes between 3.5 and 7 feet long.


Scientific NameSizeLocation
Pantherophis alleghaniensis6-7 feetFound throughout the state, usually in wooded areas or fields with tall vegetation.

Although the eastern black rat snake is shorter than the western variant, it is still the longest snake on average in Virginia. This snake can reach over 7 feet long, and some come close to the 8-foot mark. Most of the time, the dorsal portion of their body is black, but they can have white markings on the ventral side.

Eastern black rat snakes are often found in forested wetlands, farmlands, and even suburban areas that have the right type of prey around them. They are not venomous. Yet, that doesn’t mean you should attempt to handle it. They can still deliver a painful bite.

5. Eastern Hellbender

An Eastern Hellbender foraging for crayfish on the bottom of the creek.

Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in Virginia.


Scientific NameSizeLocation
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis1-2.5 feetFound in the southwestern portion of Virginia in streams and rivers.

The eastern hellbender looks almost unearthly with its wide-set eyes, dark brown or almost black coloration, and paddle-shaped tail. These are fully aquatic salamanders, and they can grow up to 2.5 feet long at their greatest!

The eastern hellbender is almost exclusively found in the southwestern part of the state. They live in rivers such as the New River, Powell River, and other fast-running streams. Although some people believe that they are venomous, that’s not actually true. These salamanders spend a lot of their time hiding under rocks and debris to stay out of sight.

6. Cecropia Moth

A cecropia moth is sitting on a huge maple leaf. The Cecropia moth is the largest and heaviest moth in North America.

The Cecropia moth is the largest and heaviest moth in North America.

©Cathy Keifer/

Scientific NameSizeLocation
Hyalophora cecropia5-7 inches in wingspanPrefers to live in forested areas, especially hardwood forests.

The Cecropia moth is a very large insect that has a total wingspan that measures between 5 and 7 inches. This critter is usually seen in the late spring and early summer when it emerges from its cocoon. Sadly, the moth only lives for about two weeks so that it can breed.

The moth itself has a reddish body, black or brown wings, and stripes on the wings consisting of the colors tan, white, and red. They live in hardwood forests, but they can also wander toward bright lights like those found on porches and stores.

7. Dark Fishing Spider

dark fishing spider

The dark fishing spider can run across the surface or dive into the water to catch prey.


Scientific NameSizeLocation
Dolomedes tenebrosus3.5-4.5 inchesOften found in wooded areas near lakes, rivers, and streams.

Last but not least on our list of the largest animals in Virginia is the dark fishing spider. This is the biggest spider in the entire state, and it’s a rather large one measuring upward of 4 inches or more.

Dark fishing spiders can be found throughout the state in wooded areas near lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. They are frequently seen chasing prey by running across the water. Fishers commonly see these spiders on docks and boats, too. Although they are big, they won’t hurt you even if they did deliver a bite.

Now that we’ve covered the largest animals in Virginia, it’s clear that the state has a decent number of sizable creatures. Should you see any of the dangerous animals from this list, like the black bear, it is best to stay away and keep safe. Wild animals aren’t very forgiving when it comes to human intruders.

Summary of the 7 Largest Animals in Virginia

Name of AnimalType of AnimalHabitat
Blue CatfishFishLakes and rivers.
Mute SwanBirdChesapeake Bay.
Black BearMammalDense woods or swampy areas near the coast.
Eastern Black Rat SnakeReptileWooded areas or fields with tall vegetation.
Eastern HellbenderSalamanderStreams and rivers in southwestern Virginia.
Cecropia MothInsectForested areas, especially hardwood forests.
Dark Fishing SpiderArachnidWooded areas near lakes, rivers, and streams.

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

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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