North Carolina provides a wide range of wildlife habitats, including the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state, the coastal plains and the eastern Atlantic coastline. The “Tarheel State” has warm temperatures for much of the year, so most of the animals native to North Carolina do not leave for migratory reasons. Some of North Carolina's state and national parks offer guided tours to help visitors spot the species native to North Carolina native wildlife species. Included here is a sampling of native North Carolina animals.
The Carolina wren, or Thryothorus ludovicianus, is native throughout the southeastern United States, including North Carolina. This bird has reddish-brown feathers on its crown and back, while its underside has a light brown color. When fully mature, Carolina wrens in North Carolina do not migrate due to the states warm temperatures year-round. These birds are songbirds, which have musical calls when they chirp.
Due to their loud “hoot” calls, barred owls, or Strix varia American, are often referred to as “hoot owls.” Adult barred owls have a wingspan of approximately 4 feet. When they attack their prey, these owls descend silently in a swooping motion. Their prey consists of rodents, including mice, squirrels and baby rabbits.
Animals Native to North Carolina: Mammals
The Indiana bat, or Myotis sodalis, is a flying mammal species native to North Carolina and other states on the Eastern Seaboard. As of March 2011, this mammalian species is endangered in North Carolina. Indiana bats are found in cave formations in the state's Blue Ridge Mountains. During the winter months, these animals undergo a hibernation period.
Found in eastern North Carolina, the raccoon, or Procyon lotor, is a medium-sized mammal with grayish fur on its body and a black-ringed tail. The approximate weight of an adult raccoon is 20 lbs. The primary habitat for raccoons are riparian areas and wetlands.
Read more about the characteristics mammals.
NC Wildlife Reptiles
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, or Crotalus adamanteus, is in North Carolina's coastal plains, in the southern region of the state. These snakes are venomous; when threatened, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes will shake the rattle on their tail as a warning. This carnivorous reptile preys on rabbits and rats. The average length of an adult is 4 to 5 feet.
Read more about the kinds of snakes in North Carolina.
The coastal plains of North Carolina is also home to the mimic glass lizard. This legless reptilian NC wildlife specimen resembles a snake, except it is able move its eyelids and has external ear openings. If the mimic glass lizard is trapped by another animal, it is able to break off its tail to escape; the tail will regenerate.
The chain pickerel, or Esox niger, is more commonly known as “jack” among North Carolina's fishermen. This freshwater NC wildlife species is generally found in rivers and lakes in the eastern region of the state. Most the chain pickerel's scales are dark green and bronze, but its underbelly has white scales; a black bar is underneath its eyes. Adult specimens grow up to 20 inches in length.
North Carolina's bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, appears near the state's Cape Hatteras area. This saltwater fish has a high population in Cape Hatteras during the winter, which has created a surge in fishing activity in this region. Bluefin tunas have shiny blue scales and grow between 10 to 15 feet when they mature.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus); Christopher M. Rusnak and Ronald F. Labisky
- Museum of Life and Science: Barred Owl-Strix varia American
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Indiana Bat in North Carolina
- Davidson College: Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Duke University; Reptiles & Amphibians; Jessie Bluvias and Kristin DeMarco; April 2007
- Heath McPherson/iStock/Getty Images