Top Native Georgia Animals

By Britton Sullivan

Georgia is filled with a diverse variety of wildlife that ceases to amaze me. I assumed living in suburbia wouldn’t give me the chance to see much of the animals that live around me, but I was surprised just how many you can see in their natural habitat by going for a simple walk or drive. Here’s a short-list of my top Native Georgia Animals.

  1. White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

The white-tailed deer is Georgia’s state mammal. The reddish brown or tan-colored animals are born with whitish spots on their backs that fade with age. The deer feed on vines, woody stems, fruit, and shrubs and can be found throughout the state.

  1. Black Bear

Ursus americanus

Black bears inhabit forested lands throughout Georgia. The animal can have a coat that ranges in color from black to lighter shades of brown or gray. They roam large swathes of territory to satisfy their omnivorous diets, eating a variety of foods that include herbaceous vegetation, fruit, nuts, roots, honey, insects, fish, and small mammals.

  1. Common Bottlenose Dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

Bottlenose Dolphin, tursiops truncatus, Adult Leaping

Although they inhabit all oceans around the world, bottlenose dolphins can be found in both coastal and open sea populations off the coast of Georgia. They are dark gray and have a tall dorsal fin, a wide head and body, long flippers, and a short snout. Bottlenose dolphins primarily eat invertebrates, fish, and squid.

  1. West Indian Manatee

Trichechus manatus

young manatee close up portrait underwater

Manatees are seal-shaped, aquatic mammals that have flippers and paddle-like, rounded tails. These creatures can reach 1,800 pounds in weight and 10 feet in length while feeding on vegetation and cruising through Georgia’s rivers, canals, and estuaries.

  1. Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

The gray squirrel is the most common squirrel found in Georgia. It is primarily found in hardwood forests, suburban neighborhoods, and developed urban areas where it eats acorns, fruits, and grasses. The squirrels make leaf or cavity nests and can produce up to six young per year. Individual squirrels can live anywhere from two to ten years.

  1. Bobcat

Felis rufus

Bobcat Balances on Branch

Bobcats are terrestrial and nocturnal animals that are twice the size of a common house cat. Brown or beige, the cats can also have spots. They live in a multitude of habitats that range from forests and moderate deserts to mountains and brushlands. When they are not sleeping in hidden dens during the day, bobcats hunt rabbits, mice, other rodents, birds, and reptiles at night.

  1. North Atlantic Right Whale

Eubalaena glacialis

As Georgia’s state marine mammal, the North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered large whale species. The stocky, black-colored mammals have broad tails and paddle-shaped flippers. Many whales migrate from the cooler waters of feeding grounds near New England and Canada to their calving grounds in the shallower coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida to breed. The whales feed on plankton by filtering them from the water using their baleen.

  1. Appalachian Cottontail

Sylvilagus obscurus

The Appalachian cottontail is a brown, gray, or ocher-colored rabbit with a black spot between its ears. The rabbit lives in areas with brush in hardwood oak forests and eats grasses, woody material, and the needles of evergreen trees. It predominantly inhabits the eastern United States from New York’s Hudson River south to Georgia.

  1. Gray Fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Gray fox isolated full size portrait in the forest

Weighing between eight to 12 pounds, the gray fox is charcoal colored and has patches of reddish fur on its legs and a black stripe that runs along its back to the tip of its tail. It is native to the eastern forests of the United States and evades large predators by climbing trees, which is a practice unique to this species of fox. It eats rabbits, rats, mice, birds, squirrels, insects, and a variety of fruits, berries, and nuts.

  1. Beaver

Castor canadensis

Beavers are the largest rodent in North America, and they are present in areas where there is a year-round water flow. The semiaquatic rodents have broad, flat tails that are used for balance and two large front teeth for felling trees. They eat woody vegetation during the winter months and consume aquatic plants and tender green shoots in the spring and summer. Ecologically one of the most important animals in Georgia, beavers’ habits of creating dams provide excellent wetland habitats for animals, plants, wading birds, and waterfowl and filter sediments from the water supply.

  1. Virginia Opossum

Didelphis virginiana

The Virginia opossum is native to the eastern two-thirds of the United States, and it inhabits wooded areas near creeks, lakes, and rivers. Grayish white with a white face and a hairless, foot-long, pink tail, the animal is a marsupial and keeps its young in a pouch until they fully develop. Opossums are omnivorous and eat acorns, berries, fruit, insects, birds, bird eggs, snakes, and small mammals. On average, opossums live no longer than two years because they are susceptible to larger predators like foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.

  1. River Otter

Lutra canadensis

River otters have thick, dark brown fur and range in length from three to five feet long. They have torpedo-shaped bodies, flattened tails, and webbed back feet to aid them in swimming and diving under water for four minutes to depths of up to 60 feet. The otters inhabit lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers throughout Georgia and eat a variety of prey depending on their location. Their diet consists of crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, and fish.

  1. Raccoon

Procyon lotor

Four cute baby raccoon sitting on a deck at night

The raccoon is a stocky mammal up to three feet in length and weighing between 8-20 pounds. Distinctive markings include a black mask over the eyes and heavily furred tail with black rings. Raccoons have pointy, triangular ears and hand-like front paws. Raccoons are highly adaptable, and their populations thrive in most parts of the state. They typically den in hollow trees, ground burrows, or brush piles. They are considered nocturnal but will readily forage during the day when local conditions allow. They feed on a variety of plant and animal matter including berries, fruits, seeds, and insects, as well as other invertebrates and small vertebrates.

Well, you’ve reached the end of the list, and I wish I could have added more animals! There is such an amazing breadth of biodiversity in the state that I am constantly reminded of how wonderful Georgia is. I’m glad to call it home.

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