The state of Maryland is situated in the Mid-Atlantic area. Baltimore and the suburbs of Washington, D.C. are home to metropolitan areas in the diverse state of Maryland. The state also features a large amount of rural and agricultural terrain. On the western edge of the state, the Appalachian Mountains continue into Pennsylvania. The geography is rich and diverse, as is its animal population. The wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay and the forests further inland host a wide range of insects, mammals, reptiles, and crustaceans.
There are a number of state animals of Maryland that can be found in the wild in this coastal state, from blue crabs to the diamondback terrapin. Let’s take a look at some of these incredible state animals of Maryland!
Maryland State Reptile: Diamondback Terrapin
Classification: Malaclemys terrapin
The diamondback terrapin is an aquatic turtle with a shell covered in distinctive rings in the shape of diamonds. It is found in and near the brackish tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay, including rivers and marshes.
The diamondback terrapin is the only turtle in the world that solely dwells in brackish water. In May, diamondback terrapins typically mate in the water at night. Females visit beaches after mating, where they create little nests in the sand. They lay around 15 eggs that are pinkish-white in color. While mollusks like clams, snails, and mussels make up the majority of terrapins’ diets, they will also consume fish, worms, insects, and some species of crustaceans.
The diamondback terrapin’s carapace, or shell, can range in hue from brownish or greenish to grey or practically black. Their black patches or stripes cover their scaly, gray, or white skin. The rings inside the plates that make up the carapace can have a distinct color from the rest of the shell and are fashioned like concentric diamonds.
Maryland State Crustacean: Blue Crab
Classification: Callinectes sapidus
Crustaceans have a place as one of the state animals of Maryland, which is pretty rare among other state’s animals. The blue crab is a swimming crustacean with vivid blue claws and an emerald-hued shell. It is one of the most easily recognized species in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.
Almost any food source, including oysters, mussels, smaller crabs, and dead fish, can be consumed by blue crabs. They are also known to be occasionally cannibalistic. Large fish including rock fish and croakers are among the blue crab’s predators.
The carapace of the blue crab can measure up to nine inches broad and ranges in color from azure to olive green. Each side of the carapace bears nine marginal teeth, the ninth of which is a strong spine. It has vivid blue claws, and mature females’ claw tips are crimson. The back swimming legs of blue crabs are paddle-shaped, and they have three pairs of walking legs. The abdomen of males is highly tapered and shaped like an inverted T. Females who are immature have a triangular apron, whereas adult females have a broad, rounded apron.
Maryland State Dog: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Classification: Canis familiaris
The breed of dog known as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a water dog employed to hunt and recover waterfowl in the frigid chop of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. This dog is perfect for the job because of its strong constitution, thick coat, endurance, and strength. They are still regarded as excellent hunting dogs today, and they make ideal companions for energetic, seasoned dog owners who can provide them with the structure and activity they require.
The maximum weight of a male Chesapeake Bay Retriever is 80 pounds. A wavy, touchably slick coat is the defining feature of the breed. These canines are all chocolatey brown or sedge in hue. They have bright yellow-amber eyes that go well with their coat. Compared to the typical hunting dog, they are more emotionally complicated.
It is not unexpected that Chesapeake Bay Retrievers like being in the water given their ancestry. Young pups that are exposed to water playtime develop into strong, powerful swimmers who use their straight or slightly curled tails as rudders. These dogs can be independent thinkers, but they are generally sociable, outgoing, and obedient.
Maryland State Bird: Baltimore Oriole
Classification: Icterus galbula
Baltimore orioles are orange and black songbirds. They are the official state bird of Maryland and make summer trips to the Chesapeake Bay area regularly. You’re likely to encounter a lot of these birds if you happen to travel to this state’s coast.
Baltimore orioles weigh around one ounce and range in length from six to eight inches. Their wingspan measures four inches. Men are somewhat bigger and more intelligent than females. Although females are an olive-brown to yellow hue with white wing bars and a gray beak, males are black with vivid orange on the breast, tail, and wing bars. Until they are a year old, young birds will have the lighter female coloration.
Baltimore orioles mostly consume fruit and insects. They will hunt for insects in the vegetation or even in the air. The forest tent caterpillar is one of the numerous harmful insects that orioles consume. Orioles are preyed upon by a range of animals, including bigger birds like crows and screech owls as well as mammals like squirrels and house cats. Predators usually go for eggs or fledglings.
Maryland State Shell: Ecphora Gardnerae
Classification: Ecphora gardnerae
This animal is one of the state animals of Maryland, but don’t expect to see it snailin’ around the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Ecphora gardnerae, an extinct snail, is the official fossil shell of Maryland as of 1994. One of the earliest fossils from the New World to be shown in a scholarly publication in Europe was this particular fossil snail.
Around the conclusion of the Miocene era, some 5 million years ago, the Ecphora lived in the tidal seas off the East Coast. Most of modern-day Maryland was submerged during that time under the Salisbury Embayment, a section of the Atlantic Ocean. When the ocean was higher and warmer, a wider range of marine life, such as crocodiles, sharks, and whales, likely lived in the area. Ecphora specimens that were buried in silt by retreating waves have been found on cliffs throughout Maryland.
Maryland State Insect: Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly
Classification: Euphydryas phaeton
The black, orange, and white Baltimore checkerspot butterfly is the official state butterfly (not state insect) of Maryland. It inhabits the whole Chesapeake Bay area and is a butterfly that is particularly common throughout the state of Maryland.
There are three distinct life phases for the Baltimore checkerspot, each with a unique look. The Baltimore checkerspot as a caterpillar has a black head and body with spine-like protrusions placed along the alternating bands of black and brilliant yellow lines. The Baltimore checkerspot has an orange-yellow, black, and white chrysalis as its second life phase. The adult Baltimore checkerspot butterfly has four wings, each with two broad, banded borders, an inner border with white checkers, and an outer border with orange to yellowish-orange checkers. The wings have a black foundation with orange spots.
White turtlehead is the first plant that Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars eat when they are young in the summer. Adult Baltimore checkerspots consume nectar from blooming plants like milkweed that bloom when they are in flight.
Maryland State Marine Fish: Rockfish
Classification: Morone saxatilis
The Atlantic coast along the United States is home to the popular fish known as the rockfish, also known as the striped bass. This species may be found from northern Florida to southeast Canada. There are also some landlocked lakes where this specific species has been introduced throughout the Midwest and on the Pacific coast along the United States. Naturally, they are common along the Maryland coastlines and in the Chesapeake Bay.
Striped bass thrive in broad stretches of clear, deep water. Inshore, in estuaries, and in freshwater habitats are where adult fish may be found in Virginia. Depending on the time of year and location, the bulk of fish will be found five miles or less from the shore. As rivers are a vital spawning habitat, they frequently host young fish.
Striped bass are fish with wide mouths, conspicuous dorsal fins, a flat overall body, and a number of continuous lateral stripes on both sides of the body. The center of the striped bass is often white or silver iridescent, while the dorsum is frequently pale green, olive, steel blue, black, or brown.
Maryland State Horse: The Thoroughbred Horse
Classification: Equus caballus
In 2003, Maryland declared the thoroughbred to be the official state horse. The typical thoroughbred horse weighs 1,000 pounds and measures 64 inches tall at the withers. A thoroughbred can have a coat that is chestnut, black, gray, or even roan in color.
Thoroughbred horses are able to maintain pace over long distances and can run up to 40 miles per hour. Thoroughbreds are employed by mounted police forces, pleasure riders, show jumpers, dressage teams, and racehorses and polo mounts. The thoroughbred horse is most recognizable as being used in horse races. Though basically any purebred horse breed is often referred to as a thoroughbred horse, the term strictly exclusively applies to this breed. Thoroughbreds are regarded as hardy horses and are prized for their nimbleness, quickness, and energy.
In order to create a breed that could maintain speed over a significant distance, thoroughbred horses were bred via wild horses. Since then, the thoroughbred has been carefully bred for its speedy and tough characteristics.
Maryland State Cat: The Calico
Classification: Felis catus
Official state cats aren’t exactly common! In 2001, the calico cat was declared the official state feline of Maryland. Moreover, the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Colorado, Tennessee, and California designate cats as part of their state animals.
The calico cat coloration, which consists of odd shades of orange, black, and white, is not a specific breed of cat. A male calico cat is a genetic abnormality, typically infertile, and has a shorter lifespan than a female calico cat. A calico cat must be a true tricolor, not blended colors like a tortoiseshell cat, with three colors appearing in separate patches. Some standards define the minimum amount of white that must cover the body, while others permit tabby striping within the color patches.
Calico cats, particularly in Southeast Asia, are historically thought to bring good luck and even money despite the tremendous variations in patterns and colors.
Maryland is a very beautiful state with rich wildlife. All of these state animals of Maryland can be found throughout the Old Line State. If you happen to visit, try checking out state parks and other areas where you can find some of these fascinating animal species!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/JasonOndreicka
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