Mammals you might not know are native to the US

By Stef Zisovska
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Mammals you might not know are native to the US

Stef Zisovska
 
 
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The US is home to a variety of animals that may appear too exotic to be native. We all know about the bison, the grizzly bear, and the bald eagle, which are the country’s most famous and the most iconic, but there are many other species that we rarely, if ever, hear about. Not all mammals get the same attention, of course, but here you can learn about a handful of them that you probably didn’t know were native to the States.

Collared peccary

Running collared peccary – Author: Wing-Chi Poon – CC BY-SA 3.0
Running collared peccary – Author: Wing-Chi Poon – CC BY-SA 3.0

The collared peccary is often mistaken for a pig, but it’s not one. It comes from the family Tayassuidae, not Suidae from which domestic pigs come. Nobody will blame you if you misidentify them because they have a lot of similarities with the pig. But they are smaller than pigs, and they have a number of other anatomical differences including one less toe on their feet and the direction of their tusks, which point down.

Peccaries can be seen mostly in the southwestern part of the States, especially in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. They feed on cactus, beans, fruits, roots, and palm nuts.

Ringtail

Ringtail in Phoenix, Arizona – Author: Robertbody – CC BY-SA 3.0
Ringtail in Phoenix, Arizona – Author: Robertbody – CC BY-SA 3.0

The ringtail is a cute looking mammal from the raccoon family, found in various dry regions across North America. It’s also known as a ring-tailed cat, and it’s native to Arizona. You may have thought that you would only find a ringtail in countries like Australia, but actually, you can find it back home. The reason they are not that well known is because of their nocturnal and shy nature. The ringtail weighs around 1-2 pounds and reaches a length of 2 feet. Their timid behavior doesn’t stop them from being tamed. They were called the miner’s cat because miners and other settlers would let them into their cabins to hunt down mice, even though they are raccoons and not cats.

Ocelot

Ocelot Santago Leopard Project – Author: Spencer Wright – CC-BY 2.0
Ocelot Santago Leopard Project – Author: Spencer Wright – CC-BY 2.0

Known as a dwarf leopard, the ocelot is a medium-sized spotted cat. It can grow up to 3-4.75 ft. from the nose to the tip of the tail with a maximum weight of 40 pounds. The ocelot is a solitary cat that hides and hunts in thick vegetation. The species is native to South and Central America, as well as the States, where it can be found in southern Texas. Back in the past, ocelots could be seen in Arkansas and Louisiana but disappeared because of habitat loss. Now ocelots are restricted to Texas, where they number around 50 individuals.

Coati

Coati foraging in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Coati foraging in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A unique looking species, the coati, is a member of the raccoon family and lives in southwestern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and some parts of Texas. It reaches the size of a large house cat and has a long ringed tail that’s virtually always kept straight. It serves as a signal in tall vegetation for other group members so they can stay together. An inquisitive creature with highly-developed climbing skills, the sociable coati is an omnivore that likes to eat tarantulas, fruits, small lizards and birds, and crocodile eggs. They communicate with chirping and grunting sounds.

Flying squirrel

A southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) gliding – Author: Pratikppf – CC BY-SA 3.0
A southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) gliding – Author: Pratikppf – CC BY-SA 3.0

There are many species of flying squirrel across the world, with Southeast Asia being home to 44 flying squirrel species. However, 2 of them are native to the US. They are cute and adorable, and they can ‘fly’. They’re not so easy to spot as the regular tree squirrel because they are generally nocturnal. The southern flying squirrel lives in the eastern U.S. from Maine to Florida and west from Minnesota south to Texas. The northern flying squirrel can be seen down the West Coast, in Idaho and Minnesota. Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, they glide through the air with the help of the extra skin on both sides of their bodies. Bats are the only mammals that can fly for real.

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