Maryland, located in the eastern United States, is a state known for its diverse ecosystems, ranging from the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the Chesapeake Bay in the east.
These varied landscapes provide a habitat for a wide array of wildlife, from mammals and birds to reptiles and amphibians. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting wild animals that call Maryland home.
1. Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina)
This is a fascinating reptile found in various parts of Maryland, particularly in wooded areas. These turtles are known for their unique appearance, with a domed shell that can be colored in shades of brown, yellow, or olive.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Eastern Box Turtles is their longevity, as they can live for several decades. Some individuals reach over 100 years old! They are also famous for the ability to retract their head, legs, and tail inside their shell for protection.
2. Maryland Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
The Maryland black bear is the only species of bear native to Maryland, and one of the most iconic mammals in the state. These bears are typically found in the western part of Maryland, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains.
They are known for their dark black fur, which provides excellent camouflage in their forested habitats. Despite their name, not all of them are actually black. Some individuals can also have brown or cinnamon-colored fur. These bears are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of foods, including fruits, nuts, insects, and small mammals.
3. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
The bald eagle is a majestic bird of prey that has a significant presence in Maryland, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay area. These eagles are known for their distinctive white head and tail, and their impressive wingspan, which can exceed 7 feet.
Bald Eagles are known for their remarkable hunting skills, as they primarily feed on fish. They use their keen eyesight to spot prey from high perches or while soaring in the sky. Of course, it is also the national bird and national animal of the United States, a symbol of American patriotism and pride.
4. Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus)
This squirrel species is a unique subspecies of the eastern fox squirrel found in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region. They are known for their large size with some individuals reaching up to 30 inches in length, their bushy tails included.
They have a striking appearance, with a combination of gray, black, and rust-colored fur. Also, they are known for their arboreal lifestyle, spending most of their time in trees. Their acrobatic feats are iconic as they jump from tree to tree with agility.
5. Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)
The unique species of turtle is found in brackish tidal marshes and estuaries along the Atlantic Coast, including Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. These turtles are known for their beautiful appearance, with a dark-colored shell adorned with diamond-shaped markings, hence their name.
They are also known for their ability to tolerate a wide range of salinities in water, allowing them to thrive in the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay. A cool fact is that it is the official state reptile of Maryland, making it an iconic wildlife species.
6. Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The red fox is a common and fascinating mammal found throughout Maryland, from rural areas to suburban neighborhoods. They are known for their reddish-orange fur, bushy tails, and pointed ears as well as their adaptability and resourcefulness.
Skilled hunters and scavengers feed on a wide variety of prey including small mammals, birds, insects, fruits, and vegetables. Red foxes adapt to human-dominated landscapes and often forage for food near human habitation.
7. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
The large and impressive bird lives in forests, particularly in mature woodlands. These woodpeckers are recognizable for their black body, striking red crest on their head, and white stripes on their face.
They are also known for the loud and distinct drumming sounds they use for communication and to forage insects in dead trees. The bird is considered a keystone species in forests, as they play an important role in creating and maintaining habitat for other species by excavating nest cavities that are later used by other birds and mammals.
8. Maryland Fiddler Crab (Uca pugnax)
This crab is a fascinating species of crab that lives in the brackish marshes and mudflats along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. One of their claws is much larger than the other, resembling a fiddle or violin, hence their name.
The males use their larger claws to communicate and attract females, as well as for defense against rivals. They are known for their burrowing behavior, creating intricate burrows in the mud that provide shelter and protection from predators.
Where to Go to See Them Up Close?
Those are some spectacular wild animals that would be a sight to behold to see in nature. Well, with the following 5 places, you can make that fantasy a reality:
1. Assateague Island National Seashore
Located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Assateague Island is famous for its wild horses, which are actually feral descendants of domestic horses.
Visitors to the island can spot these beautiful horses roaming freely on the beaches and marshes, as well as observe other wildlife such as white-tailed deer, foxes, and a variety of bird species including herons, egrets, and shorebirds.
2. Catoctin Mountain Park
Nestled in the Catoctin Mountains in northern Maryland, the park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. It is home to diverse habitats, including forests, meadows, and streams, which provide habitat for a variety of animals, including the elusive eastern box turtle, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and a wide range of bird species, including the pileated woodpecker.
3. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a prime destination for birdwatching.
The refuge is home to one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles on the entire East Coast. Also, there is a variety of other bird species like waterfowl, wading birds, and marsh birds. Visitors can also spot red foxes and marsh rabbits while exploring the refuge’s scenic trails and waterways.
4. Chesapeake Bay
The largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is a critical ecosystem that supports a rich diversity of wildlife.
Visitors can spot a variety of marine mammals, such as bottlenose dolphins and harbor seals, as well as a wide range of bird species, including the majestic osprey known for its impressive fishing skills. The bay’s marshes and wetlands are also home to the Maryland fiddler crab, which can be observed in its natural habitat.
5. Gunpowder Falls State Park
Located in central Maryland, this is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and wildlife observation. The park’s diverse habitats include forests, meadows, and rivers, that come together to provide habitats for a variety of animals. These include deer, foxes, and snakes like the northern copperhead.
Maryland is home to a diverse array of fascinating wild animals, ranging from reptiles and mammals to birds and crustaceans. These animals are not only ecologically important but also contribute to the state’s natural beauty and biodiversity.
Whether it’s the elusive Eastern Box Turtle, the majestic Bald Eagle, or the resourceful Red Fox, Maryland’s wildlife offers endless opportunities for observation and appreciation in the state’s diverse landscapes.