Mammals

A class of warm-blooded animals with fur or hair on their bodies. Mammals are vertebrates. The young are born live and feed on milk from their mothers. There are 121 species of mammals in North Carolina, 21 of which are state or federally listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. See Protected Species of North Carolina guide (PDF) for more information.

Learn more about the state's nongame and endangered wildlife.

Wildlife in North Carolina are classified as the following: game, big game, nongame, furbearer.

More information on some of our state's mammals is provided below.

 


Squirrel, Carolina Northern Flying

Federally/State Listed-Endangered


Wolf, Red

State Listed as Threatened

Fish

A class of vertebrate animals that breathe with gills and swim with fins. Most fish are “cold-blooded” where body temperature can fluctuate as surrounding water temperatures change. Many species, although not all, are covered in scales. Most fish can survive only in the water suitable for a species form and function which is why trout are more likely to live in cold mountain streams. North Carolina is home to 234 fish species that utilize mostly freshwater habitats at all, or some life stage. Of these, 223 are described species and another 11 are not fully described, yet are different from the described species.

Of the 234 freshwater fish species known in North Carolina, there are 57 species that are state or federally listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. Please see the Protected Species of North Carolina guide for more information.

Catch a personal best? Visit our Fishing Records to see if you qualify for a citation certificate or state record.

Fishing in saltwater? Please visit the Division of Marine Fisheries Fish ID page  for saltwater fish species.

Below are some fish species that may be encountered in the diverse waters of North Carolina.

BLACK BASS

 

CATFISH

 

CRAPPIE & PERCH

 

SHAD

 

SUNFISHES

 

OTHER BASS

 

TROUT

 

OTHER SPORTFISHES

 

NONGAME FISHES

 
 

Birds

North Carolina is home to more than 475 wild bird species - thanks in part to the state's diverse habitats that range from the high mountain peaks to coastal marshes. Unlike other wildlife species, the number of bird species in the state is constantly changing because many species leave the state and go elsewhere, depending on the time of year. For this reason, bird species are broken down into 1) residents (live in the state year-round); 2) summer visitors (found only in the summer months; usually breeding in North Carolina); 3) winter visitors (spend the winter months in the state); 4)  transients (species passing through the state during spring and fall migrations as they travel to breeding grounds elsewhere); and, 5) stragglers (birds that are not normally found in the state but are here for unknown reasons). 

Like to bird watch? Visit our Bird Watching in North Carolina page for more information.

Below is a list of some bird species that frequent the Tar Heel state.

 

DUCKS, GEESE, SWANS

 

NEW WORLD QUAILS, GROUSE & ALLIES

 

PIGEONS, DOVES

 

CRANES, RAILS

 

NEW WORLD VULTURES

 

BITTERNS, HERONS, EGRETS


Snowy Egret

State Listed as Special Concern

 

 

OSPREYS, KITES, EAGLES, HAWKS

 

OWLS and FALCONS

 

WOODPECKERS


Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Federally Listed as Endangered

 

 

SANDPIPERS & ALLIES, GULLS, TERNS, SKIMMERS


Least Tern

State Listed as Special Concern

 

Amphibians-Frogs & Toads

North Carolina is home to 30 species of frogs and toads. Virtually every part of North Carolina has at least one frog or toad species. Frog and toads belong to a group of tailess amphibians known as "anurans," which have hind legs modified for jumping. In addition to frogs and toads, other amphibians include salamanders and caecilians (a group of tropical, worm-like amphibians). Most frogs and toads have moist skin and webbed, unclawed toes. Some species, such as bullfrogs, have smooth skin and elongated hind limbs. Other, like toads, have warty skin, stout bodies and relatively short hind limbs. Some species can change colors depending on environmental conditions or time of day they are active. No native toad or frog species in North Carolina is poisonous or venomous.

"Amphibian" literally means "both lives" and refers to the fact that most frogs and toads have an early, gill-breathing larval (tadpole) life stage and later, air-breathing adult life stage.

Frogs and toads play important roles in natural ecosystems. They consume countless insects and other vertebrates. Large species, like bullfrogs, consume vertebrates like other frogs, toads, snakes and turtles. Frogs and toads, in turn serve as an important food source for many fish, reptiles, birds and animals.

 

TRUE TOADS

 

NARROWMOUTH TOADS

 

SPADEFOOTS

 

TRUE FROGS


Carolina Gopher Frog

State Listed as Endangered


River Frog

State Listed as Endangered

 

CRICKET FROGS, CHORUS FROGS, TREEFROGS


Mountain Chorus Frog

State Listed as Special Concern


Ornate Chorus Frog

State Listed as Endangered


Copes and Common Gray Treefrog

Common-State Listed as Special Concern


Pine Barrens Treefrog

Official State Frog of NC

Amphibians - Salamanders

North Carolina is home to more than 60 species of salamanders, which is more than any other state in the southeastern United States. Salamanders are tailed amphibians and although closely related to frogs, they look more like lizards with slender bodies, blunt snouts and short limbs. While they look similar, salamanders and lizards are very different. Salamanders are amphibians whereas lizards are reptiles. Because they're amphibians, salamanders go through metamorphosis, just as frogs do, laying eggs in water or in moist areas near water. Eggs develop into larvae, which develop into salamanders. Lizards also lay eggs but they lay their eggs on dry land, typically in sand. Upon hatching, young lizards are replicates of the adults, with no metamorphosis taking place. Visual differences include: salamanders have skin that is smooth and moist, without scales. Lizards have dry and scaly skin, much like snakes, which are also reptiles.

Some salamanders have lungs; others have gills and some have neither - they breathe through their skin. In North Carolina, salamanders also range in size from very large (more than 2 feet) to very small. They can be found in a variety of habitats and across the state, depending on the species. However, they all need to be near a water source since they need to keep their skin moist and need to have their offspring in the water.

 

GIANT SALAMANDERS and NEWTS


Eastern Hellbender

State Listed as Special Concern


Mudpuppy

State Listed as Special Concern


Neuse River Waterdog

State Listed as Special Concern


Eastern Newt

(Red-spotted Newt)

 

Mole Salamanders


Eastern Tiger Salamander

State Listed as Threatened


Mabee's Salamander

State Listed as Threatened


Marbled Salamander

Official State Salamander of NC


Mole Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern

 

LUNGLESS SALAMANDERS


Dwarf Salamanders

State Listed as Special Concern


Four-Toed Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern


Green Salamander

State Listed as Threatened


Junaluska Salamander

State Listed as Threatened


Long-tailed Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern


Southern Zigzag Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern


Wehrle's Salamander

State Listed as Threatened


Weller's Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern

Reptiles-Alligator

The American alligator ranges from coastal North Carolina to southern Florida west to central Texas. In North Carolina, they inhabit freshwater areas mostly east of Robeson County northward to Gates County. The largest populations live in the coastal counties of Brunswick, New Hanover, Craven, Columbus, Onslow and Pender. Alligators are also seen in other areas of eastern North Carolina, and are even sometimes found on coastal beaches.

See an alligator in the wild? Let the Wildlife Commission know. Learn more about the agency's Alligators in NC iNaturalist Project.

American Alligator

Reptiles-Lizards

North Carolina is home to 11 species of lizards, none of which are venomous or poisonous. Lizards typically have rounded torsos, elevated heads on short necks, four limbs and long tails. Three species of glass lizards are legless and often mistaken for snakes. Like other reptiles, lizards are cold-blooded (ectothermic), so they rely on their environment to warm their bodies, using the heat of the sun to raise their body temperature. For this reason most lizards are active during the day and can be found basking on rocks, fences, ledges and other places that generate warmth. Below is a list of the lizards found in North Carolina.

 

Reptiles-Snakes

North Carolina is home to 38 snake species. Of those 38 species, only six are venomous, and of those six, only one, the copperhead, is found statewide. In many areas, including most of the larger urban regions, it is the only venomous snake. The other five - three rattlesnake species, the cottonmouth and coral snake - are found primarily in the Coastal Plain. Snakes are shy creatures that pose little to no threat to humans when left alone. Most people are bitten when they try to pick up a snake, step on one accidentally or try to kill it.

Snakes are an important part of our environment, keeping populations of pests such as rodents, slugs, and insects in check. Plus, snakes are a food resource to other animals such as foxes, raccoons, bears, eagles, hawks, and owls.

Like all wildlife species, snakes should be admired and respected, and left alone. Killing a snake is not only unnecessary but also could be illegal. Four of the six venomous snakes, as well as several non-venomous species, found in North Carolina are protected and none should be handled or disturbed without an Endangered Species Permit issued by the Wildlife Commission.

The Commission does not send people out to trap and remove snakes since removing one snake is not going to prevent another one from taking its place. A few tips that people can follow to make their backyards less hospitable to snakes can be found in the Co-Existing with Snakes document (PDF).

 

NON-VENOMOUS SNAKES



Pine Snake

State Listed as Threatened


Southern Hognose Snake

State Listed as Threatened

 

NON-VENOMOUS WATERSNAKES


Carolina Swamp Snake (Black Swamp Snake)

State Listed as Special Concern

 

VENOMOUS WATERSNAKE

North Carolina is home to only one species of venomous watersnake - the cottonmouth. In North Carolina, the cottonmouth, also called a water moccasin, is predominantly found in the Coastal Plain and on some parts of the Outer Banks. RANGE MAP
 
Many non-venomous watersnakes (see list above) are mistaken for cottonmouths and killed needlessly.
 
 
 

VENOMOUS SNAKES

See a rattlesnake in the wild? We want to know! Download our Rattlesnake Sightings Wanted brochure for more information.
 


Eastern Coral Snake

State Listed as Endangered


Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

State Listed as Endangered


Pigmy Rattlesnake

State Listed as Special


Timber Rattlesnake

State Listed as Special Concern

Reptiles-Turtles

North Carolina is home to 21 freshwater turtle species. Of these 21 turtle species, 11 are protected because of a law, which went into effect on July 1, 2003, that prohibits the "commercial taking" of 11 species and one subspecies of turtles and terrapins in the families Emydidae and Trionychidae. These are large basking turtles, sliding turtles and terrapins. "Commercial taking" is defined as the taking, possession, collection, transportation, purchase or sale of five or more individual turtles or terrapins from either of these two families. Learn more in our Protected Species Identification handout (PDF).

In North Carolina, the Loggerhead sea turtle is the most common sea turtle species although four other species regularly visit the coastal waters of the state: Kemp's Ridley, Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill. The Loggerhead is the most common sea turtle to lay its eggs on North Carolina beaches, although all but the Hawksbill have been found to occasionally nest here. All sea turtles are protected under both state and federal threatened or endangered species laws. The Loggerhead and Green sea turtles are federally listed as threatened. The Kemp’s Ridley, Atlantic Hawksbill and Leatherback sea turtles are federally listed as endangered.

Learn more about the sea turtles that visit North Carolina's coast, along with tips on how to help sea turtle populations by reading the "Help Protect Sea Turtles" document. (PDF)

Find an injured, dead or stranded sea turtle? Call the N.C. Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network hotline: 252-241-7363

 

EMYDIDAE & TRIONYCHIDAE FAMILIES


Bog Turtle

Federally and State Listed as Threatened


Eastern Chicken Turtle

State Listed as Special Concern


Diamondback Terrapin

State Listed as Special Concern


Eastern Spiny Softshell

State Listed as Special Concern

 

CHELYDRIDAE & KINOSTERNIDAE FAMILIES


Stripe-Necked Turtle

State Listed as Special Concern

 

 

SEA TURTLES


Atlantic Hawksbill
Federal & State Listed as Endangered


Green Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Threatened


Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Endangered


Leatherback Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Endangered

Loggerhead
Federal & State Listed as Threatened

Crustaceans

A crustacean is an invertebrate animal with a hard exoskeleton and at least five pairs of jointed legs on the thorax. Crabs, lobsters, shrimp and crayfish are all crustaceans.  

Crayfishes look like miniature lobsters, with a front pair of strong pinching claws, an armored body, and a broad tail. Like lobsters, crayfishes have 3 main body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen and a hard exoskeleton that protects their soft tissues and organs. The front part of the body is rigid, but the back part, the abdomen or tail, has movable segments. Crayfishes inhabit streams, ponds, lakes and swamps throughout North Car - olina. Stream dwellers prefer fast-moving and highly oxygenated rivers and streams of the Mountains and Piedmont regions. In slower streams, as in the Coastal Plain, crayfishes hide under rocks and logs for protection. Crayfishes can also be found in ponds, lakes, and in standing water in roadside ditches.

Agency biologists discover and describe new species of crayfish every year and also document the spread of exotic crayfishes in the state. As more surveys are completed, biologists continue to document the range expansion and also the contraction of some of North Carolina’s crayfishes.

Learn more about crayfishes in North Carolina by reading the Crayfish Wildlife Profile. (PDF)

Learn more about each species below. Species are alphabetized by common name.

Appalachian Brook Crayfish

Atlantic Slope Crayfish

Big River Crayfish

Broad River Spiny Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Broad River Stream Crayfish

Cambarus (Depressicambarus) latimanus (no common name)

Cambarus (Puncticambarus) (No common name)

Carolina Foothills Crayfish

Carolina Ladle Crayfish

Carolina Needlenose Crayfish

Chattahoochee Crayfish

Chauga Crayfish

Chowanoke Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Croatan Crayfish

Devil Crayfish

Digger Crayfish

Edisto Crayfish

French Broad River Crayfish

Grandfather Mountain Crayfish

Greensboro Burrowing Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Hiwassee Crayfish

Hiwassee Headwaters Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Knotty Burrowing Crayfish

Little Tennessee River Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Longnose Crayfish

Mitten Crayfish

New River Crayfish

North Carolina Spiny Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Pamlico Crayfish

Red Burrowing Crayfish

Red Swamp Crayfish (non-native)

Reticulate  Crayfish

Rocky River Crayfish

Rusty Crayfish (non-native)

Sandhills Crayfish

Santee Crayfish

Sickle Crayfish

Spiny Stream Crayfish

Spinytail Crayfish

Surgeon Crayfish

Tennessee River Spinycrayfish

Tuckasegee Stream Crayfish

Upland Burrowing Crayfish

Valley River Crayfish

Virile/Northern Crayfish

Waccamaw Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

White River Crayfish

Mollusks

Mollusks are a group that includes snails, slugs and mussel. They are invertebrate animals with soft, unsegmented bodies. Most have hard, external shells. North Carolina is home to more than 60 species of freshwater mussels. Unfortunately, 50% of these species are designated Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern within the state. The Wildlife Diversity Program strives to prevent species from becoming endangered through maintaining viable, self-sustaining populations of native wildlife, with an emphasis on species in decline. Public education is a major component of this effort.

Management Recommendations for Freshwater Mussels

The following list provide detailed information about North Carolina's freshwater mussel species. Species are listed by common name in alphabetical order.

Note: When you see an example like (Conrad, 1834), this indicates the namer of the species and date of the description with that species name.

Alewife Floater  (State Listed as Threatened)

Appalachian Elktoe  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Atlantic Pigtoe  (State Listed as Endangered)

Barrel Floater  (State Listed as Endangered)

Brook Floater (State Listed as Threatened)

Cape Fear Spike  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Carolina Creekshell  (State Listed as Endangered)

Carolina Fatmucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Carolina Heelsplitter  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Creeper  (State Listed as Threatened)

Cumberland Bean Pearlymussel   (State Extirpated)

Cumberland Moccasinshell   (State Extirpated)

Dwarf Wedgemussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Eastern Creekshell

Eastern Lampmussel  (State Listed as Threatened)

Eastern Pondmussel  (State Listed as Threatened)

Green Floater  (State Listed as Endangered)

Kidneyshell   (State Extirpated)

Littlewing Pearlymussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Mountain Creekshell  (State Listed as Threatened)

Notched Rainbow  (State Listed as Threatened)

Oyster Mussel   (State Extirpated)

Pheasantshell   (State Extirpated)

Pimpleback   (State Extirpated)

Pistolgrip   (State Extirpated)

Pod Lance  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Purple Lilliput   (State Extirpated)

Purple Wartyback  (State Listed as Endangered)

Rainbow  (State Listed as Threatened)

Roanoke Slabshell  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Savannah Lilliput  (State Listed as Endangered)

Slippershell Mussel  (State Listed as Endangered)

Spike  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Tar River Spinymussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Tennessee Heelsplitter  (State Listed as Endangered)

Tennessee Pigtoe  (State Listed as Endangered)

Tidewater Mucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Triangle Floater  (State Listed as Threatened)

Wabash Pigtoe   (State Extirpated)

Waccamaw Fatmucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Waccamaw Spike  (State Listed as Threatened)

Wavyrayed Lampmussel  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Yellow Lampmussel  (State Listed as Endangered)

Yellow Lance  (State Listed as Endangered)

 

Species Classifications

Endangered

"Endangered" status includes any native species whose continued existence as a viable component of the state's fauna is determined to be in jeopardy and/or is designated "Endangered" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.

Extirpated

"Extirpated" status is in reference to a population, no longer present as live individuals in a particular area.

Threatened

A status of "Threatened" includes any native species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state and/or is designated "Threatened" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.

Special Concern

The "Special Concern" designation applies to any species that is determined to require monitoring.

Nongame

“Nongame” status includes species that are not classified as game or furbearer. These species are regulated by the NCWRC.

Game

“Game” status includes species that can be hunted in North Carolina.

Big Game

“Big Game” status includes species that can be hunted and must be registered with the NCWRC upon harvest.

Furbearer

“Furbearer” status includes species that can be trapped in North Carolina.

Inland Game Fish

"Inland Game Fish" may be taken only with a hook and line for exceptions see General Regulations For Inland Game Fish.

Nongame Fish

"Nongame Fish" status includes any fish not classified as a game fish when found in inland fishing waters and includes shellfish and crustaceans.

Protected Wildlife Species of N.C.