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