Iowa is a state of the United States Of America that lies in the upper Midwestern region bordered by two navigable rivers; the Missouri River to the west and the Mississippi River to the east. Although the midwest is often considered a very flat area, the landscape of Iowa is known for its gently rolling hills and fertile farmland.
Summers in Iowa are warm and humid; heavy snowfalls occur in late autumn and early spring. As a Midwestern state, the landscape of Iowa holds some hidden gems that form a bridge between the forests of the east and the grasslands of the high prairie plains to the west. Iowa houses four kinds of habitats, including tallgrass prairie, woodlands, oak savannahs, and wetlands.
Overview Of Wildlife
Each of these habitats is equally important and is a sanctuary to over 1,100 species of various, unique birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, and reptiles. In addition to the forests and savannas, the barns and buildings dotting the countryside are used to care for animals which include cattle, hogs, turkeys, sheep, dairy cows, meat goats, and poultry.
The state animal of Iowa is the American Goldfinch, and their other common forest animals include white-tailed deer, grey foxes, red foxes, and bobcats. Some of the largest predators of the state are mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and tigers. Opossums, otters, muskrats, and moles are some of the smaller mammals native to Hawkeye State.
If you want to know more about the animals that call Iowa home, you have come to the right place. Here we have all the details you need to know about some of the most common animals as well as those native to Iowa alone. Read on for all there is to know about these fascinating animals and their habitats.
The bobcat (Lynx rufus), also referred to as the red lynx, is a medium-sized, nocturnal, and elusive cat native to North America. It is the most widely distributed native wild cat in the continent and can be found in coniferous and mixed forest, swamp, and coastal areas, as well as in deserts and scrublands around the United States.
Bobcats can weigh between 15–35 pounds, measure around 3 feet in length, and are generally 1.5-2 feet tall at the shoulder. Male bobcats are approximately 33% larger than their female counterparts. They have brown or buff-colored fur marked with spots or stripes of brown and black. Their spotted coat provides excellent camouflage, allowing the animal to hide from its prey until it is ready to pounce.
Bobcats are famous for their tufted ears, razor-sharp teeth, and long legs. These large cats are skilled climbers and can leap up to ten feet in the air. These effective hunters also have extraordinary night vision. Bobcats are carnivorous animals known to feed on raccoons, squirrels, rodents, rabbits, wild birds, reptiles, skunks, chickens, feral cats, and fawns. They are successful predators of small mammals and help keep their population numbers in check in the ecosystem.
2. White-Tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also referred to as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a mammal native to the central part of the American continent. In North America, most of Mexico, the United States, and southern parts of Canada, these deer can be found grazing or eating fallen fruits from trees. The white-tailed deer is tan or brown in the summer and turn grayish brown in winter. They are an extremely uncommon sight– their rarity lies between 1 in 20,000-100,000.
The male deer has antlers and weighs between 150-300 pounds while the females weigh between 90-200 pounds. The white-tailed deer is a graceful animal set apart by its conspicuous ears, long legs, and narrow, pointed hooves. Their most distinctive feature is their tail, which is brown above and white underneath. They have good eyesight and hearing abilities and are steady swimmers. These features allow them to escape any danger or predatory attack.
The white-tailed deer is a herbivore that feeds on green plants, aquatic vegetation, and fruit in the summer, while most of its diet in autumn consists of nuts, acorns, and crops.
The deer population is controlled and harvested by human hunters instead of their natural predators, such as mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, and coyotes as the populations of these carnivores have fallen significantly.
3. Mountain Lions/Cougars
The mountain lion (Puma concolor) is known by its multiple names, including cougar, catamount, panther, red tiger, deer tiger, and puma. This large cat is native to the Americas and is the most widespread of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. As one of the most adaptable animals, their usual habitats include steep, rocky canyons or mountainous terrain, as well as deserts and coastal forests.
The scientific name of a mountain lion is Puma concolor, which means “cat of one color.” Their bodies are covered in tawny-beige fur, except for their whitish-gray belly and chest. They weigh between 90 to 175 pounds- the males weigh more than the females. They measure 7-8 feet lengthwise from nose to tail and can be 30 inches at the shoulder. The tail of a Mountain Lion is about one-third the entire length of its body.
These cats possess what some might call supernatural strength; they can leap over a 12-foot fence from a sitting position, pounce more than 20 feet at a run, and hit 45 mph while sprinting. Mountain lions have a bite pressure of approximately 400 pounds per square inch. These successful predators have excellent day-to-night vision and near-perfect depth perception- a vital asset that enables them to attack with measured accuracy. These obligate carnivores are solitary animals that enjoy hunting for deer and small mammals between dusk and dawn.
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are also commonly known as prairie wolves or brush wolves. They are a species of canines, smaller than their close relative, the wolf, and native to North America. Coyotes are native to Iowa and are the largest predator in the state. They are intelligent and social animals that do not form packs but live in family groups.
Coyotes can be found in the sagebrush lands, brushy mountains, and open prairies of the American West. They are known to exclusively use dens during their pup season. Coyotes are well known for their ability to adapt to different habitats and conditions in suburban and urban areas. They have grayish-brown to yellowish-brown fur on top and whitish fur on their underparts. Their pointed, erect ears and long, bushy drooping tails set them apart from the rest of their dog family.
On average, a coyote measures around 3 ft lengthwise and is over 2 ft tall. They generally weigh 20 to 50 pounds- the males are larger than the females. Coyotes are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants. Their diet consists of rabbits, carrion (dead animals), rodents, deer (usually fawns), insects (such as grasshoppers), livestock, poultry as well as berries and fruits like watermelons. They provide effective pest control with their keen senses and can run up to 40 mph when chasing prey.
They are nocturnal but may also be active in the early morning or at sunset. Coyotes are monogamous animals that mate for life, living up to 14 years of age in the wild and 20 years in captivity. They are shy, non-confrontational creatures that do not usually attack people unless provoked.
5. American Badger
The American badger (Taxidea taxus) is a North American badger belonging to a diverse family of carnivorous mammals that includes weasels, otters, ferrets, and the wolverine. They can be found in the western, central, and northeastern United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada, where these badgers inhabit grasslands, shrubsteppe, desert, dry forest, parkland, and agricultural areas.
The fur on their backs and flanks ranges from grayish to reddish, having white patches on their eyes and a white underbody. American badgers have stocky low-slung bodies with short, powerful legs, short ears, and furry tails. They weigh between 4 to 12 kg and are easily distinguished by a triangular face with a long, pointed, tipped-up nose. Their oddly shaped triangular faces are ideal for digging and “nosing” their way into small tight spaces. Their front feet are also partially webbed, keeping their toes close together for strength and even digging.
These badgers are carnivores- their diet consists of small burrowing mammals like ground squirrels, rats, gophers, and mice, as well as insects, prairie dogs, ground-dwelling birds, and groundhogs. When left in the wild, the American Badger can live anywhere from four to fourteen years in open areas like plains, prairies, farmland, and the edges of woods. In captivity, they are known to have lived for twenty-six years.
6. Little Brown Bat
The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus), also known as Little Brown Myotis, is one of the nine bat species found in Iowa. It is one of the rarest bat species in the United States. This bat is an endangered species of mouse-eared microbat found in most of North America.
Little brown bats are aptly named as they measure between 3-5 inches in length, weigh between 1/16 and 1/2 ounces, and have a wingspan between 25-27 cm. They have glossy fur that can be dark brown, golden brown, reddish, or olive-brown. The fur on their belly is lighter than the fur on their backs. They have large hind feet with hair on their toes and small pointed ears.
The most important part of their habitat is the presence of good roosts. Little brown bats use three different kinds of roosts; day, night, and hibernation roosts. These roosts can be found in buildings, trees, piles, forested areas near water, and under rocks. These bats are primarily nocturnal and emerge from their roosts at dusk. The little brown bat hunts at dusk or during the night and feeds on insects like gnats, flies, moths, wasps, and beetles. The average lifespan of these bats is 6 to 7 years. Although some live well beyond 10 years, males mostly live longer than females.
7. American Goldfinch
The brightly colored American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington. It is a North American migratory bird that can be found living at the edges of forests and plains in areas filled with brush and thistle plants, as well as in backyards and parks. The Native Americans see Goldfinch as a symbol of unbridled joy, inspiration, motivation, and positivity. Goldfinches are common and easy to find throughout much of North America, except in deep forests.
These birds are highly social and often breed in loose colonies in open, weedy fields with shrubby edges. American Goldfinches have a pleasant liquid twittering song and call. These birds are granivores and adapted for the consumption of seedheads, with long pointed beaks to remove the seeds and agile feet to grip the stems of the plants. Their conical beaks allow them to extract otherwise inaccessible seeds from thistles and teasels.
Since the diet of these birds is primarily seeds, they are mainly found in areas where an abundance of seeds of trees such as elm, birch, and alder can be found. They also eat buds, the bark of young twigs, and maple sap, and feed on insects for a limited time in summer. These birds are intelligent, friendly with humans, and do not act aggressively toward predators within their territory; their only reaction is their alarm call.
8. Southern Flying Squirrel
This rodent (Glaucomys volans) is one of the rarest in the entirety of the United States. The Southern flying squirrel is a nocturnal mammal found in the western regions of North America, where they inhabit hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests.
It measures about seven to ten inches lengthwise (including a 3-4 inch tail) and weighs no more than 2 or 3 oz. They have thick, silky grayish-brown fur above and white fur on their underside. These squirrels can effortlessly glide from one tree to the next with the aid of membranes between their front and hind legs.
Their diet primarily consists of berries, seeds, fruits, lichen, tree bark, buds, and nuts, but they can also feed on insects, carrion, nesting birds, and eggs. These chipmunk-sized rodents live for five to six years in the wild and up to ten years in captivity.
Over the years, multiple human activities which include but are not limited to land reclamation, deforestation, and hunting have posed an alarming threat to the ecosystems of Iowa. From the loss of habitat to wildlife disease, the species of this state have suffered greatly. The prairies of Iowa have been reduced by more than 99%, whereas approximately 95% of the prairie pothole wetlands have been drained. This, along with the fact that over half of the original forests are gone, the loss of suitable habitat has led to the decline and loss of species.
The Iowa Wildlife Action Plan (IWAP) is a proactive plan designed to sustainably conserve all wildlife in Iowa before they become endangered and more costly or rare to protect. This plan aims to help protect wildlife and the places they inhabit for future generations. It prioritizes protecting and enhancing existing habitats, developing new habitats, reintroducing species to their native homes, and increasing conservation efforts to improve aquatic habitats.