WD-Orsulak-219×512

Photo Credit: U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

American Black Bear

  • Found in all 55 counties, the WV legislature named the black bear the state animal in 1973. 
  • They’re not always black - there are also cinnamon, white, beige, and "blue" (slate gray) black bears.
  • Adults can weigh as little as 150 pounds up to 700 pounds.  
  • These very shy, intelligent omnivores will eat almost anything! They prefer berries, grasses, and roots, but if that’s not available they’ll also eat small mammals, fish, and insects. 
  • They’re very good swimmers and can run as fast as 30 mph!
  • Most of the time, these kind beasts are solitary, except when mothers go out to teach her cubs what to eat. 
  • Cubs are born during winter hibernation, and are with their mother for 2 summers. 

https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/west-virginia/state-mammal/black-bear

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Photo Credit: FWS

Brook Trout

  • While the common size is around 10.4 inches, there has been a reporting of a brook trout being 33.9 inches in length. 
  • These fish are attracted to clean, well oxygenated water including lakes and small to medium rivers. 
  • In early spring, summer, and late fall they generally make upstream movements, and have been seen making downstream movements late spring and early fall following the cold, clean water movements.  
  • Some brook trout are known as salters; making their way to the ocean in the late spring when water temperatures are rising, only a few miles away from a river, and staying in the ocean no longer than 3 months. 
  • Young brook trout feed on plankton, but as they become adults they eat just about anything in the rivers: worms, leeches, crustaceans, mollusks, insects, fish, amphibians, plant matter, and small mammals. 
  • Although it takes brook trout roughly two years to mature, they’re known to start spawning after one year. 

https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/freshwater-fish-of-america/brook_trout.html 

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Photo Credit: FWS

Coyote

  • After mating between February and April, mothers birth one to nineteen pups (averaging 6). Pups are born blind, and open their eyes after about 10 days. 
  • Male pups leave their mother between six and nine months and the females stay with their mom's pack. 
  • As a very vocal animal, they have many different vocalizations: barks, growls, yips, whines, and howls. They howl to let their pack know where they are, bark to indicate danger, yip to welcome a new member into the pack, growl to gain dominance, whine and whimper when females and males are establishing bonds, and high pitch bark to summon puppies. 
  • For nesting, they usually find old dens of fox, make it bigger, and claim it. They also like rock crevices, logs, and caves.
  • Primarily carnivorous they hunt alone and at night. If they’re hunting larger animals like deer, they will hunt as a pack. They prefer small mammals, but will eat snakes and birds too. In the fall and winter they substitute their diet with grass and fruit. 

https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/coyote.htm

snake

Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service

Timber Rattlesnake

  • Timber Rattlesnakes have two color phases - yellow and completely dark/ black. Both phases have dark bands along the body with a black tail ending with it’s rattler. 
  • They can be up to 5 feet long, but are usually found much smaller. 
  • Their favorite habitat consists of boulder fields, rock outcrops, and talus slopes for hibernating, and in the springtime they start dispersing into woodlands to hunt little rodents. 
  • Mothers give birth to fully developed young between October and September, staying with them until they shed their skin for the first time. 
  • The probability of someone getting bit by a rattle is less than the probability of getting struck by lightning; they’re very misunderstood animals. Many people are known to kill them or capture them and take them to a different area, negatively affecting their population and our natural ecosystem cycles. 

https://www.marshall.edu/herp/Old/rattlesnake.htm#:~:text=Range%3A%20This%20species%20occurs%20in,in%20the%20eastern%20United%20States.

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Photo Credit: FWS

Opossum

  • Mothers will give birth to as many as 20 babies who are born as tiny as honey bees (usually only half survive), immediately crawling into their mothers pouch to continue to develop. As they get bigger, they’ll go in and out of the pouch, occasionally riding on their mom's back while she hunts. 
  • Known as scavengers, eating almost anything, they often raid human trash. In addition they eat carrion, grass, fruit, nuts, mice, birds, insects, snakes, and even chickens. 
  • When approached by their predators like a fox, bobcat, or dog, they will flip over on their backs and play dead in hopes to get a chance of escape. 
  • With sharp claws and a prehensile tail, they make excellent tree climbers, and like to spend a lot of their time up high nesting in tree holes. As an opportunist, they will also nest in dens abandoned by other animals.

 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/opossums

bitterroot_bill

Photo Credit: FWS

Groundhog

  • Groundhogs are in the same family as prairie dogs and chipmunks. 
  • They’re also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs.  Woodchuck comes from Native American names and has nothing to do with wood. Whistle pig is the common nickname in Appalachia due to their high pitched whistles they make when they’re warning other groundhogs that they feel threatened.  
  • As powerful diggers they make large, underground burrows that are good for soil aeration and nutrient recycling. These burrows end up getting used by other animals such as foxes and skunks. 
  • Known to eat peoples gardens, groundhogs are primarily herbivores, but also eat other things such as snails and insects. People have also observed them eating baby birds and small animals. 
  • With their burrowing, climbing, and swimming skills they only have a few predators; humans, coyotes, foxes, and domestic dogs. 
  • One of the true hibernating animals- they emerged in February after losing half of their weight, hence the Groundhog holiday, which has no scientific bases. 

https://now.tufts.edu/articles/five-things-you-didn-t-know-about-groundhogs

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Photo Credit: Vermont FWS Department

Ruffed Grouse

  • These birds can be spotted on the forest floor foraging for insects and seeds. Also known to eat snakes, frogs, and salamanders.
  • As hearty, snow loving birds, they’re one of ten species of grouse native to North America. 
  • Ruffed was derived from their long, shiny, black, and chocolate colored feathers that extend into a ruff when a male is trying to defend his territory or impress a mate, making him look twice his size. 
  • Males are aggressively territorial, claiming 6-10 acres, sharing with one or two females. To claim the territory, the male will find a spot 10-12 inches above the ground, where he can see over his land with a radius about 60 ft. to “drum”. Drumming is where they beat their wings against the air. 
  • Females lay a clutch of about 8-14 eggs, taking a day and a half to lay each one, each egg takes about 25 days to hatch, and so the mother will be at her nest for at least 5 weeks. 
  • The babies are precocial, meaning that once they’re dried they’re ready to leave the nest and feed themselves.

https://ruffedgrousesociety.org/grouse-facts/

grayfox_iStock

Photo Credit: VT FWS

Grey Fox

  • The grey fox is the only member of the canine family that can climb trees.
  • They can be mistaken for red fox because they have some red fur, but they’re significantly shorter, and have a black tip on their tail instead of a white tip. 
  • Their favorable living spaces are on the border of farmlands in forests where they can find hollow logs, rock crevices, or hillsides to use for dens. 
  • They have many predators including coyotes, bobcats, golden eagles, and great horned owls. 
  • While they’re territorial among themselves, they will share space with red fox ensuring minimal contact. 
  • Although they’re not a threatened species, individuals struggle with trapping, hunting, vehicle collision, and fox penning. 
  • As solitary animals, the only time they’re with others, is when both parents are sharing duties in raising their kits. 
  • Rarely are they seen by humans, because they spend most of their time hunting from dusk until dawn. 
  • Their diet usually consists of small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, but in the fall they become seed dispersers when they add fruit to their diet. 
  • To climb trees they hug them with their arms and push with their back legs. Once in the tree they’re able to leap from branch to branch. 

http://www.wildlifelandtrust.org/wildlife/close-ups/gray-fox.html 

Gallery Cardinal

Photo Credit: FWS

Cardinal

  • In 1949 the Cardinal was designated the official state bird of West Virginia.
  • Distinctive for their appearance (males bright red, females buffy-brown with a reddish tint), and their vocalizations (“cheer cheer cheer”, “whit-chew whit-chew whit chew”, and “purty purty purty”). They’re heard nearly year round.
  • Males are very territorial. They’ve been seen attacking other red objects mistaken for other males, protecting their 4 acre territory.
  • Cardinals breed 2-3 times each year. Eggs take about 10 days to hatch. Males help take care of the first brood while the female flies to a different nest to lay more eggs. 

https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol/west-virginia/state-bird/cardinal-northern

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Photo Credit: FWS

White-tailed Deer

  • White-tailed deer coats change color with the seasons: tan or brown in the summer, grayish brown in the winter.
  • Males weigh between 150- 300 lbs. and females weigh between 90- 200 lbs. 
  • As herbivores, they eat green plants in the spring and summer, corn, acorns, and other nuts in the fall, and buds and twigs of woody plants in the winter. 
  • Because there aren’t any natural predators in the area besides humans (although bobcats and coyotes are known to get babies), deer are having troubles with their population, numbers are too high causing disease and starvation. 
  • Due to deer becoming more comfortable near human populations, deer ticks are spreading lymes disease to humans more and more. 
  • Mothers can give birth to one - three fawns. If she has more than one fawn, she hides them in different places while searching for food. 
  • When they become alarmed they stomp their hooves and snort to warn other deer, or they run raising their tail to show their underside - the white part- this is also helpful to fawns who are trying to help them follow their mothers. 
  • As good leapers, swimmers, and runners, they can run up to 30 mph.

https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm

 

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Photo Credit: USDA FS

Rhododendron

  • In 1903 the rhododendron, also known as the great laurel, was designated the state flower of West Virginia, although it’s actually a shrub that flowers in the late spring. 
  • A broadleaf evergreen (stays green and leafy throughout the winter). 
  • They usually grow between 4 and 5 feet tall, but can be as tall as 30 ft in the most favorable conditions. 
  • Their white, pinkish flowers bloom in clusters of about 16-14. 
  • While they have a special value to bumble bees, all parts of this plant is highly toxic to humans and other animals.

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=rhma4

https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol/west-virginia/state-flower/rhododendron#:~:text=Rhododendron%20(Rhododendron%20maximum)%20was%20designated,schoolchildren%20from%20across%20the%20state.

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Photo Credit: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Huckleberry

  • Huckleberries are small red and purple berries related to blueberries and cranberries that come from shrub-like plants, growing in the underbrush of forests. 
  • Native Americans have used these plants as a traditional medicine for years. 
  • Depending on the location they occur between July and September. Use caution when picking these edible berries because there are a lot of look-alikes. 
  • Generally thrive in fir and pine dominated areas, on slopes that are hard to get to. 

https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/eight-juicy-questions-about-huckleberries

https://www.canaanvalley.org/blog/5-plants-youll-see-everywhere-in-the-canaan-valley