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Where To See U.S. Native Animals

Oct/08/2023 / by Nancy Amon

Explore wildlife unique to North America

North American elk with large antlers in the wild
Photo via Shutterstock

This World Animal Day, we feature some of the most wonderful creatures native to the U.S., with recommendations on where you can spot them. So plan a wonderful outing this Columbus Day weekend!

American Bison (American Buffalo)

When you think about bison, the image of a tremendous and strong animal comes to mind. Bison also feature a wool-like coat, often used by Native Americans to make warm clothes, moccasins, and tools.

Spot Them: The best place to see American bison is Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Raccoon

Raccoons might be cute and fuzzy-looking, much like a plush toy, but don’t be fooled by their cute looks. Raccoons are wild animals; you can easily recognize them with their distinct fur markings. In spirituality, the raccoon sometimes symbolizes playfulness, wisdom, and resourcefulness.

Spot Them: Raccoons are commonly found throughout North America, but they dislike places of extreme heat such as Arizona and Utah.

Coyote 

Much like a wolf, the coyote is a dog-like mammal that lives in the wild and can be found throughout North America. Coyotes travel and live in packs, just like their wolf relatives. Coyotes can run up to 40 miles per hour (64km), and with their small stature, they are agile and hunt with precision. You can tell when a coyote is in the region as they have a distinct call, often heard at nighttime.

Spot Them: Coyotes are spotted across the U.S., and are commonly seen in urban areas as well, especially across Florida and Texas. In the wild, you can see them at Big Bend National Park, Texas.

American Black Bear

When it comes to bears, one should never muck about as their ferociousness and strength are death-defying. The black bear got its name because of its famous black coat. They live in most of the mountainous terrain and forests.

Spot Them: The best places to spot the black bear is at national parks, such as Glacier National Park (Montana), Mount Rainier National Park (Washington), and Denali National Park (Alaska).

Ocelot

If you like cats, you’ll find the little ocelot to be adorable. Still, you cannot have it as a pet because it is a wild cat. While the ocelot is considerably tiny compared to other wild big cats, they are larger than the average domestic feline. Ocelots are often dubbed miniature or “dwarf leopard,” and they share similar coat markings.

Spot Them: With barely over a hundred ocelots left in the U.S., they are now mostly confined to South Texas.

Flying Squirrel 

There are two families of flying squirrels native to America, namely the Northern and Southern flying squirrels. These cute creatures share the features of regular squirrels, but the flying squirrel gets its name due to their “built-in wingsuit” that helps them glide through the air. As adorable and tiny as they are, they are not usually recommended as pets. Still, some people keep them as a pet and must adapt the environment to suit their needs. 

Spot Them: Spot these at the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Acadia National Park, and Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Elk

The elk are known for their iconic antlers and resemble reindeer. Their color can be reddish brown or dark brown, and the tones vary from the back to the legs and sides. Elk is found throughout the western regions of the U.S.

Spot Them: The Wyoming Elk Sanctuary gives refuge to over 5000 elk who make their journey during winter.

Bald Eagle 

Eagles are often praised for their strength, intelligence, and being the kings of the sky. While they rule the sky in splendor, they are also excellent swimmers. This makes them fantastic hunters. Bald eagles are found throughout Mexico, North America, and in parts of Canada. Their name comes from their distinct bald look marked by the white feathers on their head, while the rest of the body is covered in black feathers.

Spot Them: Visit the popular James River National Wildlife Refuge in the Prince George County, Virginia, home to the bald eagle, spotted salamander, pine warbler, eastern box turtle, and more.