Table of Contents
Maryland’s Wildlife in Brief:
- Maryland State insect: Baltimore checkerspot butterfly
- Maryland State bird: Baltimore oriole
- Maryland State reptile: Diamondback terrapin
- Maryland State mammal: Thoroughbred, calico cat, Chesapeake Bay retriever
- Maryland State fish: Striped bass
Maryland is one of the most diverse states in the country, boasting a wide variety of habitats that have earned it the nickname “America in miniature”. From sand dunes and sea grass to swamps with tall cypress trees, there is something for everyone in Maryland. The state is also home to thick oak forests, rolling hills, and mountains covered in pine woods.
However, despite this diversity, there are no natural lakes in the state. The reason for this is that glacial activity did not extend into Maryland during the last Ice Age, and as a result, no deep holes were present to hold massive volumes of water. There are numerous natural ponds in Maryland, but these are too small to be considered true lakes.
Maryland is one of only a handful of states with a population of wild horses. These impressive animals have a long and fascinating history in the United States. Although no horses are native to the continent, the first explorers and settlers brought them over when they arrived. The horses in Maryland are present in coastal islands governed by law. Because of their historical relevance, these horses are allowed to roam free. The wild horses of Maryland are a reminder of the state’s rich history and offer a unique opportunity to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
In Maryland, there are three main types of large grazers: horses, sika deer, and American elk. Horses are not native to the state but were introduced at an unspecified time in the past. Sika deer are also not native to Maryland, but were introduced at some point and have since proliferated to the point where they now have their own hunting season. The largest native grazer is the American elk, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. The white-tailed deer is the second largest grazer in Maryland and is a native species.
Maryland is home to a variety of large predators, including black bears, coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions. Black bears are the most common of these predators, with frequent sightings reported throughout the state. Coyotes are also relatively common, though they are not typically as bold as black bears and tend to avoid humans. Wolves and mountain lions are much more reclusive, but they do share territory with other large predators in Maryland. These animals typically only come into contact with humans when they are hunting for food.
Maryland is home to a wide variety of animals from common animals like skunks and raccoons to rare species like bats and snakes. The state is also home to a variety of amphibians, including frogs, salamanders, and newts.
However, seagulls are among the list of problem-causing and nuisance birds in the state. The droppings from seagulls are another big risk as they cause health problems. Businesses and homeowners along the coast often find themselves in conflict with these birds, as they try to protect their property from damage.
Types Of Animals In Maryland
Maryland is filled with many waterways and coastlines along Chea state known for its numerous waterways and coastlines along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.
The state is home to around 90 mammal species, more than 90 amphibian and reptile species, over 400 bird species, and hundreds of fish species.
Maryland is also home to a number of predators, including snakes, coyotes, and foxes. These provide a great source of entertainment for tourists who come to Maryland to experience the state’s diverse wildlife.
Maryland is a snakes hub with fewer venomous snakes among them. Snakes get active in this region when the climate is humid and hot in summer. Whereas, during the dry winters and cold they get into hibernation.
Snakes can be found everywhere in Maryland ranging from waterways, and grasslands to forests. The types of snakes could easily exceed 25 and we named a few of them below:
- Rat Snake: These snakes are 7 feet long and are all non-venomous, they can still be quite dangerous if they feel threatened.
- The Northern Racer is dark brown or black in color and can run at lightning speed. These snakes prefer to live in wooded or rocky areas where they can easily camouflage themselves.
- The Eastern Copperhead is hyper-alert during the day but becomes nocturnal when the heat gets too scorching hot. Their heads are dark brown, rest of the body from neck to tail is of black and brown spots.
- The Northern Brown Snake is the smallest of all the rat snakes found in Maryland. These snakes don’t fall under the venomous category. Yet, they will attack if they feel startled or threatened.
Squirrels are known as the cutest animals in Maryland. Squirrels are abundantly found in green fields and forests. There are 5 major types of squirrels in Maryland as below:
- Gray squirrels are a common sight in many parts of Maryland. These bushy-tailed creatures are known for their tendency to quickly climb trees, and they can often be seen dashing across rooftops or skipping through parklands. One of the most distinctive features of gray squirrels is their tails, which are large and fluffy and help to keep them balanced while they’re moving around. Gray squirrels typically mate in the winter, and after mating, they typically build nests in trees. They subsist on a diet of nuts, including hickory, acorns, walnuts, and beechnuts.
- Red and pine squirrels are two of the most common types of squirrels found in Maryland. Both species are typically brown or gray in color, with reddish or yellow fur on their heads and bellies. Red squirrels are a bit smaller than pine squirrels, and they can be found in both rural and urban areas. Pine squirrels, on the other hand, are mostly found in forests and are known for their prodigious appetite for pine nuts. In Maryland, red and pine squirrels can be found throughout the state, but they are most commonly seen in the western and central parts of the state.
- The Southern Flying Squirrel is a small, brownish rodent found in the hardwood forests of the southeastern United States. Despite its name, these squirrels cannot actually fly; they merely glide from tree to tree by using extra skin folds between their front and hind legs. This adaptation allows them to travel quickly and easily through the dense forest canopy. Southern Flying Squirrels are nocturnal, and they eat a variety of foods, including insects, nuts, and berries.
- The fox squirrel is the largest of all the squirrel species in North America, and it spends more time on the ground than other types of squirrels. Fox squirrels choose tree cavities to make nests in or out of leaves, and they breed in December. Usually, they reproduce around one-to-two young litters per year. Fox squirrels are also heavier than other squirrels, and they have shorter tails.
Skunks can be found in many habitats all over the state of Maryland. They are especially common in rural and urban areas, but can also be found living in forests and meadows. Skunks are nocturnal creatures, so they tend to come out at night and stay hidden during the day. In the winter, skunks go into a dormant phase and will only wake up if it is a particularly warm day.
Skunks choose woodchuck holes and brush piles to build their homes. Sometimes, they also live under porches and decks.
Mating season for skunks usually starts in the spring, typically in late February or early March. After mating, female skunks will give birth to an average of four to six young between late April and early June. Skunks are omnivorous animals, who eat insects, earthworms, mushrooms, and seasonal fruits and nuts.
There are 2 types of Skunks in Maryland as below:
- Striped Skunks: One of the most easily recognized mammals in Maryland is the striped skunk. These creatures are about the size of a big cat, with fluffy-haired bodies and long, bushy tails covered in white and black hair. What makes them especially distinctive is their facial markings. The forehead contains a white stripe extending to the back side. Skunks are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plant and animal matter. Their diet includes insects, rodents, berries, and other fruits.
- The Spotted Skunk is a small, nocturnal mammal that is easily identified by the white spots on its black body. Although they are smaller in size than the striped skunk, they are equally as feisty and are known to emit a powerful scent when threatened. One of the most distinctive markings of the spotted skunk is the white spot between its eyes, which is not found on the striped skunk. They have also marked differences in terms of behavior; while the striped skunk is largely solitary, the spotted skunk lives in small family groups.
Maryland is home to a variety of bat species, including the big brown bat, the eastern small-footed bat, and the Indiana bat. These creatures are much like humans in that they have hair and nurse their young with milk. All bats consume insects such as mosquitos, moths, stink bugs, and others. In fact, bats can consume up to 600 mosquitos an hour!
- The Northern Long-Eared Bat is a species of bat that ranges from yellowish-light brown to black in color. They are medium-sized bats, measuring 8.6 cm in length and weighing 5 to 8 g. Their diet consists of mostly moths, but they will also eat beetles, flies, and leafhoppers. They are considered beneficial species because they eat large quantities of insects that can cause damage to crops. Northern Long-Eared Bats hibernate in caves or mines during the winter, and they mate in the late fall. Females give birth to one or two pups in the early summer.
- The Hoary Bat is one of the most common species of bats in Maryland. This medium-sized bat is easily recognized by its dark brown fur, which is tipped with white. Hoary bats typically rest during the day, alone in trees near the edge of a forest. At night, they use their echolocation to fly and locate their food, which includes insects and spiders. Hoary bats are long-lived and can live for up to 20 years. They are territorial, meaning that they will fight to defend their territory against other bats.
- The Eastern Red Bat is a unique species of bat found in eastern North America. This mammal has long pointed wings and a big tail, as well as small ears. Unlike other species of bat, the Eastern Red Bat does not hibernate during the winter. Instead, it remains in the same area all year long. It typically comes out in the evenings, when it can be found roosting in woods and grasslands. Although it is not commonly seen by humans, this bat is nonetheless an important part of our ecosystem.
- The Indiana Bat is a small, dark-colored bat that is found throughout Maryland. These social creatures typically live in forests, where they roost in trees during the day and actively forage for food at night. Indiana Bats have a lifespan of 14 years, and their diet consists primarily of insects. Unfortunately, this endangered species is threatened by habitat loss and white-nose syndrome, a lethal disease that has decimated bat populations in recent years.
Mice may seem like harmless creatures, but they can actually cause a lot of damage in suburban and agricultural areas. They often carry harmful bacteria and diseases in their saliva and excrement, which can contaminate food and water sources. Mice are known to gnaw on electrical wires, which can lead to fires.
Maryland is home to three different types of mice: House mice, white-footed mice, and deer mice. While all three types can cause problems, deer mice are particularly troublesome because they are the primary host for Hantavirus, a virus that can be deadly to humans.
House mice are small, grey rodents that are commonly found in urban areas. They typically live in retail stores, shops, and commercial spaces, where they can find darkness with no human disturbance. House mice are nocturnal creatures, and they come out from their nests at night to forage for food. They are proficient climbers, and they can squeeze through very small openings. They can also cause damage to property by gnawing on electrical wires and chewing holes in walls.
Field mice are small rodents that are found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, forests, and even urban areas. They are gray or brown in color, with white hair covering their underbelly. They have short tails and large ears, which help them to hear predators approaching. Field mice are generally active at night, and they use their sharp incisor teeth to gnaw on plants and seeds. While they are not typically harmful to humans, they can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans if their urine or droppings are ingested.
The White Footed Mouse is a small rodent that is found in Maryland. They get their name from the inner part of their belly which is white. These mice have large ears and a two-toned tail with the tip being darker than the rest. The back part of their body is usually red, brown, or gray. White Footed Mice are good climbers and can jump up to 12 inches high. They are mostly active at night and during the winter months, they will build nests out of soft materials like grass and feathers. These nests are typically located in trees, stumps, or logs.
There are two types of foxes found in Maryland: the red fox and the gray fox. Both species are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk, and night. Foxes are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat whatever small animals, birds, insects, fruit, etc. are easy to find and catch.
Common food sources for foxes include rabbits, chicken coops, guinea pigs, and garbage. Foxes have different breeding seasons depending on the species. For example, red foxes mate in the months of December, January, and February while gray foxes mate from October to December.
Pups are born in March and April for red foxes and from January to March for gray foxes. Litter size for both species is typically 3 to 6 pups on average. Fox populations in Maryland are stable and currently not endangered.
- The Gray Fox is a small to medium-sized canid that is found throughout North and South America. The upper fur of the gray fox is typically gray, while the underfur is yellowish. The tail is black and tipped with white, and the claws are black and semi-retractable. Gray foxes are able to climb trees easily, and they typically weigh between 10 and 12 pounds. Gray foxes are less vocal than red foxes, but they may bark or yap on occasion. They are primarily nocturnal hunters, and they feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Gray foxes typically live in wooded areas, but they can also be found in urban areas.
- The red fox is one of the most common species of foxes in the world. They are found in many different habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. Red foxes are usually reddish-brown in color but can vary somewhat depending on their habitat. They have long tails and characteristic black markings on their faces. They mainly prey on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents, but they will also eat birds, insects, fruits, and vegetables.
Maryland is home to a wide variety of bird species, with 440 different species known to exist in the state. Of these, 72 are considered to be rare and can only be found in Maryland. Some of the more notable rare species include the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Bachman’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Thrush, Greater Prairie Chicken, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
While these birds are relatively uncommon, they can still be spotted in certain areas of the state if you know where to look. As such, Maryland’s willingness to protect these rare birds is commendable and provides hope for the future of bird conservation.
- The northern cardinal is a small, attractive bird that is found in the eastern region of America. The male bird is bright red, while the female is light orange. These birds live in dense vegetation and eat fruit, seeds, and insects. Cardinals are known for their beautiful singing voices. In Maryland, cardinals can be found in woodlands, gardens, and parks. These birds play an important role in the ecosystem by eating insects that can damage plants. Cardinals also help to spread seeds and pollen, which helps to maintain plant populations.
- The American robin is a common sight in many parts of the United States, and it is especially well-known for its bright red breast. However, this bird is actually more diverse in its coloration than many people realize. The head and back of the robin are black, with the body red and orange. This distinctive coloration is most often seen during the breeding season when the robin is present in Maryland. The diet of the American robin consists mainly of insects, worms, snails, nuts, and fruit.
- The American crow is a highly adaptable bird that is found in a variety of environments across the United States. These birds are most commonly found in woods, beaches, and urban areas, and they are able to eat almost anything. In Maryland, crows are widely present and can be found all year round. These birds typically feed on the ground, but they will also eat insects and small mammals if given the opportunity.
- The red-winged blackbird is a species of true blackbird and is the state bird of New Jersey and Iowa. The adult male has black feathers and striking reddish-orange wing patches, which are visible when the bird is in flight or displaying. The adult female is mostly black with some brown streaks on the wings and tail. Both sexes have yellow eyes. During the summer breeding season, red-winged blackbirds are commonly found in open meadows, marshes, and wetland areas. They build their nests in trees or shrubs near the water’s edge.
- The Dark-eyed Junco is a small, sparrow-like bird that is common in Maryland. The bird has a black head and back with white sides and gray breasts. The coloring of the bird can vary somewhat, with some birds having brown sides instead of white. The Dark-eyed Junco is a winter bird, typically arriving in the state in October and staying through April. During the winter months, the bird is often seen scavenging for food in open areas such as parks and parking lots.
- The Gray Catbird is a small songbird that is found throughout the eastern United States. As its name suggests, the bird is gray in color with a black cap. The gray catbird gets its name from its distinctive call, which sounds like a cat meowing. The bird is also known for being very shy and retiring, preferring to stay hidden in dense vegetation. Gray catbirds are typically seen during the months of May and October. During this time, they are breeding in Maryland and can often be seen feeding on insects and berries.
8. Black Bears
Black bears are a common sight in Maryland, where they are considered an important part of the state’s ecosystem. These bears are relatively small, with short, sturdy legs and black or brown hair all over their bodies.
They typically grow to be less than six feet in length, and males and females live in separate habitats.
Black bears are solitary creatures that are mostly nocturnal, and they can spend up to 20 hours a day grazing for food.
Though they have a reputation for being fierce, these bears are actually shy and gentle by nature. As such, they pose little threat to humans. It is important to be cautious when encountering a black bear in the wild. If you do see one, it is best to give it plenty of space and avoid making any sudden movements.
Porcupines are rather unusual animals that are found in Maryland’s western counties. What is interesting about them is that they are very solitary creatures and have nocturnal habits. This means that they are mostly active at night, which can be surprising to people who come across them.
Porcupines are also known for the incredible defense mechanism of their quills. If they feel threatened, they will squat down and make themselves appear as large as possible to their attacker while also trying to scare them off by hissing.
If this does not work, the porcupine will lash out with its tail, which is covered in quills. These quills will detach from the porcupine’s tail and embed themselves in the attacker, causing severe pain.
The habitat of a porcupine is typically mixed conifer-deciduous woodlands where there are plenty of trees for them to climb.
They are expert tree climbers and use the large, curved claws on their feet to rise into the canopy where they can eat a variety of seasonal plant debris such as buds or leaves.
Porcupines usually mate in the late summer or early fall and the female will give birth to one or two offspring about seven weeks later.
Porcupines mate in the winter and females give birth to one or two young in the spring. The young will have all teeth with open eyes and their eating habits will start immediately after their birth. Although they are born with soft quills, these quills quickly harden within a few hours after birth.
Maryland is home to seven different species of hawks, though the red-tailed hawk is by far the most common. Hawks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be found in a variety of habitats, from mountains to deserts.
They are also proficient hunters, capable of preying on a wide variety of animals, including insects, reptiles, and mammals.
A single hawk can eat up to three pounds of food per day. Unfortunately, hawks are also often considered pests, as they are known to prey on smaller birds and animals. Thus they are sometimes hunted or killed by humans.
- The Sharp-Shined Hawk is the smallest species of hawk found in Maryland. These birds are typically a dark blue-gray on their backs and wings, with lighter gray or white on their bellies. They have a darker band across their breast, and their tail is squared at the tip. Sharp-shined Hawks are slightly bigger than a Jay, but they are smaller than crows. These birds are often found near wooded areas or open fields. They typically eat insects, but they will also eat small mammals and reptiles.
- The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a beautiful bird with distinctive coloration. The upper parts are generally a dark brown, while the underparts are warm cinnamon or rusty red. The breast is usually streaked with brown, and the belly is usually a solid rusty red. These birds can be found near moist woodlands, especially those with streams or ponds. They prefer to nest in deciduous trees, and often hunt from perches near the edge of the forest. Their unique coloration makes them one of the most visually striking birds in Maryland.
- The Northern Goshawk is a raptor with a dark back, wings, and light belly. They are one of the biggest birds of prey, and their broad wings allow them to soar through the air with ease. Northern Goshawks hunt by flying low over the ground in search of their prey, which consists mostly of small mammals and birds. When they spot their target, they will swoop down and grab it with their powerful talons. These raptors are fierce predators, and their size makes them a fearsome sight for any would-be assailant.
- The broad-winged hawk is a common sight in woodlands across North America. These Hawks are easily identified by their barred breasts and short, square tails. They are also known for their reddish-brown heads. During the breeding season, these birds prefer to mate near bodies of water. After the breeding season, they migrate south to winter in Maryland. The broad-winged Hawk is a beautiful bird that is relatively easy to spot in the wild. With a little patience and luck, anyone can have the opportunity to see one of these Hawks up close.
- The red-tailed hawk is a large bird of prey that can be found throughout North America. These hawks are most commonly seen circling high in the sky, searching for their next meal. Their rusty brown tails and scarlet plumage provide a vivid contrast to their otherwise white bodies. When hunting, red-tailed hawks typically perch on a high vantage point and then swoop down on their unsuspecting prey. These birds primarily eat small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, but they will also consume reptiles, amphibians, and even other birds.
- The Rough-legged Hawk is a bird of prey that can be found throughout North America. It gets its name from its messy feathers, which often cover its legs. Rough-legged Hawks are most often seen hovering over broad fields and wetlands, looking for their next meal. They are active all day long and spend their time hunting between dawn and night. While they will eat a variety of small animals, their favorite food is voles. Rough-legged Hawks typically mate for life and build their nests on cliffs or in trees. Their nesting season usually lasts from April to May. During this time, the female will lay a clutch of 3-5 eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the young birds will stay with their parents until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
- The Cooper’s Hawk is a bird of prey in the same family as the Bald Eagle. It is comparable in size to a crow, but it has a Sharp-shinned Hawk appearance. The Cooper’s Hawk has a larger extending far beyond the wings when viewed from above. This gives it a more powerful grip when hunting. Cooper’s Hawks hunt in the air and eat small mammals. The most common Cooper’s Hawk prey are squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits, and voles.
Chipmunks are small, striped rodents that are found in wooded areas across North America. There are 25 different species of chipmunks, and they typically reside in rocky places or among large logs on the ground. Chipmunks are most active during the dawn and evening hours, but they will occasionally come out during the day to forage for food.
These creatures usually live alone, but they may form temporary bonds with other chipmunks when courting or caring for young. Their diet consists primarily of insects and nuts, which they gather in their cheek pouches and store in their burrows.
- The Eastern Chipmunk is one of the most common mammals in Maryland. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, and gardens. Eastern chipmunks are small, brown creatures with white stripes on their backs. They have two black stripes that run from their eyes to the tips of their ears. Eastern chipmunks are herbivores, meaning they eat mostly plants. They eat a variety of things, including seeds, nuts, berries, and insects. They are also known to store food for later use. Eastern chipmunks are active during the day and at night. They live in colonies of up to twenty-five individuals. These colonies are led by a dominant male chipmunk.
- The Least Chipmunk is a small, brown rodent that is found in forests and woodlands throughout Maryland. It is one of the most common chipmunks in the state and is known for its black stripe that runs down its back. The least chipmunk is a timid creature and prefers to stay away from humans. It feeds on a variety of foods, including insects, nuts, seeds, and berries.
Maryland is a great place to be an animal lover. With more than 440 different species of animals, there’s something for everyone who is exploring for animals in Maryland. Of these, 72 are rare and can only be found in Maryland. This makes the state a hotspot for birders and nature enthusiasts alike. If you want to get up close and personal with some of Maryland’s most interesting creatures, make sure to visit one of the many state parks or wildlife refuges open to the public. You never know what you might see!
Rahul M Suresh
Visiting the Zoo can be an exciting and educational experience for all involved. As a guide, I have the privilege of helping students and visitors alike to appreciate these animals in their natural habitat as well as introducing them to the various aspects of zoo life. I provide detailed information about the individual animals and their habitats, giving visitors an opportunity to understand each one more fully and appreciate them in a more intimate way.