The state of Georgia is host to a plethora of unique animals that form the state’s image and have even become a popular tourist attraction for anyone who visits. These animals have thrived in the state’s natural, wild environment for decades, garnering historical significance as the state’s native animals. The Northern Appalachian Mountains play host to most of these animals.
That being said, finding some of these animals close to your homes in the suburbia is no mean feat either. Some of them have become increasingly daring and unafraid of being in the vicinity of humans. In this article, we’ll explore Georgia’s fauna in greater detail, including their relationship with the state and why they enjoy living in Georgia’s wet, swampy environment. So, without any further ado, here are ten unique animals that call Georgia their home.
10 Animals Found only in Georgia
1. American Alligator
The most famous animal found in Georgia and some other parts of the Southeastern United States is the American Alligator. This aquatic beast holds substantial historical significance in this region as it’s been part of the state’s ecosystem for thousands of years. It’s also the number one animal used to promote Georgia’s tourism industry. The American alligator has played a massive role in shaping the culture and traditions of the region’s indigenous people.
As a matter of fact, some native American tribes in Georgia, namely the Seminole and Creek tribes, actually considered the wild animal to be sacred. They even included the image of the animal in their art and rituals. These apex predators absolutely thrive in the fresh wetlands, swamps and marshes that constitute most of the state’s environment.
Adult American alligators can grow up to 14 feet long and weigh up to a whopping 1000 pounds. They have a broad, flat head along with a long and powerful tail, and are covered in armored plates called scutes. They’re also incredibly useful for maintaining the population of other animals and keeping the ecosystem healthy. Their prey mainly consists of fish, turtles, birds and other aquatic mammals in the marsh habitat.
2. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Georgia is a state known for its sometimes-arid climate and overall wet atmosphere. An environment that’s perfect for an animal like the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. This dangerous predator is one of North America’s largest species of venomous snakes. It measures between 3 and 6 feet in length.
Its carnivorous diet consists mainly of smaller mammals like rats, rabbits and squirrels. It can use its venom for hunting and defense, causing severe pain, swelling and tissue damage to any predator or prey. Unfortunately, the animal’s dangerous nature has caused it to become the focal point of human attacks. This has caused them to become one of the few endangered species found in Georgia.
The rattlesnake has also been featured in the artwork and mythology of southeastern native American tribes like the Cherokee and Creek. They’ve also played a massive role in America’s history. The snake is depicted on the Gadsden flag, a historical American flag first used by the continental marines during the American revolution and later became a symbol of American patriotism.
3. Wood Stork
A true born and bred Georgia animal, Wood Storks are an iconic bird species vital to the state’s cultural and natural history. Like American Alligators, Wood Storks have been a symbol of Georgia’s tourism industry and are touted as one of the greatest attractions the state has to offer. These birds have been nesting in the region’s ecosystem for thousands of years and were a staple in the diet of the indigenous people. The bird was also used for its feathers, while some parts were used in art and clothing.
However, like every other animal living in the same habitat for thousands of years, Wood Storks were labeled an endangered species in Georgia in 1970. Factors attributing to this rapid decline were loss of habitat and excessive hunting. These majestic birds are massive, standing about 3-4 feet tall and weighing around 5-7 pounds. They’re also carnivorous, with their diet consisting mainly of fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects.
Lastly, wood storks are also non-migrating birds meaning they prefer staying in one habitat for long periods. A fact that’s helped the state of Georgia to claim that the animal has been born and bred in the region.
4. Red Cockaded WoodPecker
Speaking of gorgeous birds that have existed in the Georgia region for a long time, the Red Cockaded WoodPecker is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the state. The bird was officially listed as a federally endangered species in 1970, around the same time the authorities labeled Wood Storks as endangered.
The species has a long history in Georgia and has existed in the Pine forests in the region for decades. However, it is only recently that the people of the region became enlightened with just how vital the bird is for the natural ecosystem after years of foresters targeting them for removal specifically. These mesmerizing birds are peculiar about their habitat and can only exist in the longleaf pine forests that exist in the Georgia area.
Efforts are now being made to repopulate Georgia land with these trees to once again allow these birds to return to the state and live in their natural habitat. Appearance-wise, these majestic creatures are magnificent. Weighing in at about 1.5 to 2.5 ounces and measuring about 7 to 9 inches in length, this woodpecker has black and white feathers with a large white cheek patch and a small black cap on its head. The male of the species also has a stream of red streaking across the right side of its head, hence the name.
5. North American River Otter
River otters are one of the cutest animals in the entire animal kingdom. These small muscular animals are streamlined in shape and have dense, water-repellent fur that can vary in color from brown to black. These otters are also medium-sized carnivores whose diet mainly consists of other underwater creatures like fish, crayfish, frogs and small mammals found along coasts.
These otters are crucial in shaping Georgia’s culture and natural history, as the animals have existed in the state’s waterways for several decades. Native tribes in the area considered river otters powerful, mystical animals with special powers. They also used their skins to make clothes and other important items.
As a matter of fact, otter fur became a prized possession in the 17th and 18th centuries as it was a high-ranking commodity among European traders. It became a huge source of income for the native Americans living in the area. However, that is also what led to them eventually becoming an endangered species that was all but wiped out from the ecosystem of the state. Successful efforts have been made in recent years to make river otters abundant in the waterways of Georgia once again through reintroduction programs and conservation efforts.
6. White Tail Deer
Switching our focus to land animals now, the White Tail Deer is one animal still abundant in and around the greater Georgia region. The white tail deer, also known as the Virginia deer, gets its name from the white fur under its tail and on its backside. A mutation that’s unique to this species alone.
Other distinct features include a grayish earthy body, around 3-3.5 feet at the shoulder, a weight between 100 to 300 pounds, and a reddish brown coat that turns grayish brown in the winter. You’ll usually find these beasts living in open grassy fields and forest environments. These deer have long been a staple of hunting in the larger Georgia region, with the animal being dubbed one of the most popular game animals in the region.
Deer hunting is one of the most popular activities in Georgia, and has long been a part of Georgia’s heritage. Unlike most of the other animals on this list, white tail deer are not an endangered species and are a popular attraction in the various parks and forests in the Georgia region. The white tail deer was also designated the official state mammal of Georgia in 2015.
7. Gopher Tortoise
Dubbed as the official state reptile of Georgia back in 1989, the Gopher Tortoise is one of the most recognizable animals in Georgia’s history. These slow-moving mammals are still considered keystone species due to their burrowing behavior, which creates habitats for other animals and helps to maintain soil health.
Gopher tortoises were also an important food source for the early settlers in Georgia and were often hunted for their meat and shells. Their meat was considered a delicacy, whereas the shells were used for a bunch of different purposes, including bowls, tools and ornaments.
This innate passion for tortoise meat eventually led to Gopher tortoises becoming a threatened species. This led to the state government making every effort to conserve the incredibly useful creature by creating protected areas and relocating tortoises from areas of development to suitable habitats. However, as the encroachment on their habitat increases due to the rise in population, it is only a matter of time till the species go extinct.
8. Barred Owl
Barred owls are another one of the few native species that have been living in and around the Georgia area for thousands of years. Although they haven’t been appointed as the state’s bird, they’ve still shaped the state’s culture. Even now, the barred owl is one of the state’s greatest tourist attractions.
Multiple bird-watching stations have been set up for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts who visit the state, specifically pointing to forests and parks where these owls are known to nest. The barred owl is also famous for its distinctive calls and markings.
Moreover, as time has progressed, forest management has learned the importance of the existence of barred owls in the Georgia ecosystem. Barred owls are considered an indicator species, meaning that their presence and absence can provide valuable insights into the health of forest ecosystems.
9. Bobwhite Quail
Despite Georgia mainly consisting of wetlands and swamps, the state still hosts many different bird species, including the Bobwhite Quail. In fact, the state of Georgia has actually recognized the bird by making it the official state game bird of Georgia. This designation was made official by the Georgia State Legislature back in 1970. The earliest mention of Bobwhite quails was in southern folklore, where they were often portrayed as symbols of the rural South and have also been referenced in many traditional songs and stories.
The bird itself is quite distinctive in appearance, with a brownish-gray back, white throat and eye stripe, and a reddish-brown breast. They prefer living in grasslands, open woodlands, and agricultural areas. Bobwhite quails are one of the few omnivores on our list whose diet consists mainly of seeds, insects and other small invertebrates.
Bobcats are one of the most endangered wildcat species in the world due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat. Since the early 1900s, Bobcats have been a prominent target for hunters looking to sell their pelts, which were used for clothing and other purposes. The governments of the world have now stepped in to conserve this critically endangered animal by applying some hunting regulations and creating awareness about the critical nature of these animals to the public.
Despite all this, Bobcats are still among the most common wildcats in the Georgia region. They were even made the state’s official wildcat and have been an important part of Georgia’s heritage for centuries now. The native Americans in Georgia, especially those from the Cherokee and Creek tribes, viewed the bobcat as a powerful animal and incorporated it into their folklore and spiritual beliefs.
Since then, Bobcats have also become a popular subject for artists and photographers. These artists and photographers journey to Georgia from all parts of the world to take pictures and paint images of them to later display in the many art galleries around the region.
And there you have it folks, that was our list of the ten most famous animals in Georgia. Each one of these animals has a distinct and rich relationship with the state. Furthermore, each one of them has also played an immense role in shaping and cultivating the culture and natural history of the region.
It’s actually quite sad that almost every animal on the list is now an endangered species. Still, we’re hoping that the state’s conservation efforts will be enough to ensure these majestic animals live on for a thousand more years.