Celebrate July 4 with 10 Fascinating Animals Found in the United States

The Fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate all aspects of our nation — including its animals. North America is home to many fascinating species, and some of the more interesting can be found right here in the United States.

“North America is a big continent with such a great diversity of different wildlife species that many don’t exist anywhere else. It’s up to us to protect them and their habitats so they stay around,” National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski says.

We spoke with Mizejewski about 10 animals that have native ranges in the United States and beyond. Some of the animals you may be familiar with, but a few just might surprise you!

American Animals

Bald eagle

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Bald Eagle

It would be hard to name a more iconic American animal than the bald eagle. Our nation’s symbol — and our national bird — is found only in North America. This bird of prey also has a truly American comeback story.

The bald eagle was once endangered, in part because of widespread use of the pesticide DDT. But Mizejewski says thanks to better enforcement of the Endangered Species Act and a 1972 ban on DDT, the bald eagle population has recovered and been delisted. These days you can find the eagles in many places across the country.

Bison in a field

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Bison

The bison — a close runner-up to the eagle in the Most Iconic American Animal category — may soon become the national mammal of our country. The bison has already been named the official mammal in three states (Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming) and is North America’s largest terrestrial animal.

Most American bison live in national parks and on reserves. Though the bison has made a resurgence in recent years, Mizejewski says their current numbers are still only a fraction of what they used to be.

Pika eating a leaf

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Pika

The American pika is as adorable as its name. The small mammals are related to rabbits and hares, with similarly big ears as proof. They tend to live on rocky mountainsides in western North America. According to Mizejewski, they make screeching noises as a warning when predators are near.

Unfortunately, pikas are heavily impacted by climate change. They need a high elevation and cool, moist environment, but those climates are slowly disappearing. As their habitat warms, they will have nowhere to go. The pika could become the first species driven to extinction by global warming.

Pacific tree frog on a leaf

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Pacific Tree Frog

If you’re searching for an all-American amphibian, look no further than the Pacific tree frog. As the name suggests, the frogs make their home on the West Coast, from Northern California to British Columbia, Canada.

“They’re neat, small frogs at maybe an inch or so long," Mizejewski says. "They don’t live way up in the treetops like most tree frogs, but in the vegetation." They also make the classic “ribbit” noise that we associate with frogs (even though it's actually a noise few frogs make). 


Monarch butterfly in the flowers

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Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is found across a large stretch of North America, from southern Canada and east of the Rocky Mountains all the way south to Texas and northern Mexico — and if you plant milkweed in your garden, you can attract them to your yard.

Though other butterfly species lay their eggs on several plants, milkweed is the only plant the Monarch larvae eats. “This past winter and the last several years, the population has been crashing down to an all-time low because, in part, we’ve wiped out milkweed, the host plant for the species,” Mizejewski says. “Lots of conservation groups try to plant more milkweed gardens, and in doing so help bolster the population and get numbers back up.” A few milkweed plants in your flower beds can make all the difference for the butterflies.

Box turtle in the woods

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Box Turtle

Butterflies aren't the only American animals you can lure into your yard: Mizejewski says if you skip the pesticides, a backyard garden can attract box turtles. The reptile's habitat ranges from wooded areas to grassy meadows in the United States and Mexico. The box turtle can pull his head and feet into his shell; he also has a hinge that closes to keep out predators such as raccoons, pet dogs and even people.


Crocodiles by the water

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Crocodile

Crocodiles live not only in Africa and Asia: The American crocodile lives in limited areas in Florida and southern Mexico. They co-exist with the American alligator in Florida — and it’s easier to tell the two apart than you may think.

While alligators have a broad head and snout, crocodiles have a more narrow, D-shaped snout and more teeth that stick out on the sides. Crocodiles are also browner when they reach maturity, while alligators are a greenish black.

The species is endangered, with only a few thousand left in the wild, according to Mizejewski.

Jaguar on a tree

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Jaguar

Like the crocodile, the jaguar is one of the more surprising animals on our list. Though it is native to parts of the United States, the predator is largely absent here now due to hunting.

“The native range of jaguars, the biggest cat in North America, comes all the way up into southwest Arizona and New Mexico,” Mizejewski says. “They’ve almost been wiped out and are not as common anymore, but in recent years [there have been] cases of jaguars caught in camera traps in the U.S.”


Javelina family

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Javelina

The mammals may look like pigs, but they’re not related. The javelina, or collared peccary, has a different number of teeth and toes than the pig, as well as a differently shaped snout. Though the pig is an immigrant from the Old World, the javelina is native to the New World and can be found in the southwestern United States.

“Most people who live in the Southwest have no idea these exist,” Mizejewski says, even though “they’re pretty big and will hang out in backyards. They can be pests in gardens, actually, but they’re cool!”

Mountain beaver

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Mountain Beaver

Like the javelina, the mountain beaver is another animal that seems familiar but isn't what you might expect. Mountain beavers, found in the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, are unrelated to the beavers you’re probably familiar with: They are rodents about the size of groundhogs. The mountain beaver lives underground and is native only to North America.

“They’re just these strange animals," Mizejewski says, that you probably don't know about "unless you live in that part of the world.”

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