Tennessee is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has many species of different mammals. In this article, I look at 25 mammals in the volunteer state.
The North American beaver can reach up to 32 kg, with 20 kilograms being the average weight. They can measure 74-90cm, excluding the tail, which adds 25-30 cm.
The beaver is the largest rodent in North America and is semi-aquatic. They have a transparent third eyelid allowing them to see underwater.
Beavers play an essential role in the environment and are a keystone species. They are well known for building dams, canals, and lodges. They construct dams to flood areas to obtain access to food and protection.
They live in colonies and have orange teeth due to the amount of iron they contain. This makes their teeth stronger than regular teeth.
The beaver is a herbivore and eats bark, cambium, roots, buds, and water plants. The North American beaver lives in forests (near water bodies) in the northern parts of North America, with a lifespan between 10 to 15 years.
American Black Bear
The American black bear is a midsize mammal from North America. Their color is not always black but can be brown, tan, or even blonde.
They measure from 130 to 190 cm and weigh 200 to 300 kg. The black bear is an omnivore and has a varied diet. This consists mainly of fish, mammals, insects, grasses, roots, and berries.
This black bear is broadly distributed in forest habitats, with an average lifespan of twenty years.
The American mink can be found in the northern regions of North America. The color varies from brown to black, and they have a white patch on the throat.
They measure from 31 to 45 cm and weigh from 400 to 1580 g. Their lifespan is three to four years in the wild and ten years in captivity.
American mink are carnivores eating muskrats, snakes, mice, fish, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, and frogs. They live in wet areas like swamps and marshlands or near water bodies.
American Red Squirrel
The red squirrel is a small, solitary, and diurnal animal. Its color is gray, red, or dark brown, with white on its underbody, and sometimes has black stripes on its sides.
They measure from 28 to 35 cm (including the tail) and weigh 200 to 282 g.
The red squirrel eats sunflower seeds and all types of nuts. They are arboreal, living in coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forests, with a lifespan of 5 to 10 years.
The bobcat is a nocturnal, elusive, midsize wildcat related to the lynx. Their appearance is like a big domestic cat with a bobbed tail.
Their color can range from grayish brown to red, with a white underbody. They measure from 47 to 125 cm and weigh 8 to 9 kg.
The bobcat is a carnivore and eats raccoons, squirrels, rodents, rabbits, birds, reptiles, skunks, and sometimes even deer.
They have extraordinary night vision and can live in all types of habitats across the central section of North America. Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 12 years.
The cougar is a solitary, elusive, and primarily nocturnal wildcat. They are also known as the puma, mountain lion, and catamount.
Their color is grayish-brown with white on the underbody. Cougars measure about 2.4 m long (including a long tail) and weigh 53 to 100 kg.
Cougars are carnivores, with their main prey being deer. They will also prey on elk, coyotes, mountain goats, beavers, moose, and wild sheep. Smaller cougars will prey on smaller mammals than larger cougars.
They can live in an enormous range of habitats in North America. They have a lifespan that ranges between 8 to 13 years.
The coyote is a midsize canine with the look of a domestic dog and is thinner and smaller than the gray wolf. Their color is grayish-brown with a white underbody.
Coyotes measure about 1.5 m (including the tail) and weigh 6.8 to 21 kg. Their lifespan ranges from ten to fourteen years in the wild and up to twenty-one years in captivity.
Coyotes are adaptable and have an extremely varied omnivorous diet. Their diet includes cactus fruits, flowers, insects, rodents, rabbits, birds, and reptiles.
The coypu is also known as the nutria. They are very similar in appearance to a beaver. They have light to dark-brown fur and are also aquatic. Unlike the beaver, their rounded tails have fewer hairs which are not as flat or wide.
Coypu is about one-third the size of an adult beaver. Coypu is sometimes misidentified as a large muskrat, although they are over five times the size. Like a beaver, the tail of a muskrat lays flat, although more triangular.
They have long white whiskers, unlike beavers and muskrats, which have black whiskers. Nutria can weigh up to 20 lbs with a body length up to 2 ft. Their tails are 1-1.5 ft long and have webbed hind feet.
They can be destructive, causing damage through burrowing. The damage can erode riverbanks and cause flood-control levees to breach and weaken.
Coypu also causes damage to the plants in their environment as well. They eat up to 25% of their body weight per day but destroy and waste approximately ten times as much again.
The damage they cause can threaten rare populations of other animals that rely on these habitats and the livelihoods of agricultural farms.
The Eastern chipmunk is a solitary animal. Their color is reddish-brown with two white stripes surrounded by black stripes on the side of its back and head, with a fifth black stripe running across the center of its back. The chipmunk’s underbody has a lighter brown color.
They measure about 30 cm (including the tail) and weigh from 66 to 150 g.
The Eastern chipmunk is an omnivore that eats acorns, insects, eggs, mushrooms, snails, nuts, fruits, seeds, berries, and corn.
They like to live in rocky areas, logs, and bushes in deciduous forests and urban parks. They live in the eastern United States and Southeast Canada, with a lifespan of three years.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
The Eastern gray squirrel is a diurnal and solitary animal. The color varies from gray to grayish red, and the underbody is white.
The Eastern gray squirrel measures from 23 to 30 cm (including the tail) and weigh 400 to 600 g.
The Eastern gray squirrel is an omnivore and eats nuts, acorns, insects, berries, bird eggs, and seeds.
The Eastern gray squirrel is an adaptable animal that lives in the trees on the Eastern side of North America. They have an expected lifespan of six years.
Eastern Red Bat
The Eastern red bat is found across North America and is a microbat species. They measure 109 mm (4.3 in) with a weight of just 7 to 13. They have long pointed wings with short ears and a long tail.
Eastern red bats are very maneuverable and can fly quickly with speeds up to 50 km p/h. They do not hibernate, staying in the same regions all year. They enter a state of torpor in hollow trees or leaves with little shelter.
They are prioritized as least concern by the IUCN. Eastern red bats can be seen in the early evening either around the edges of forests and woods or flying around street lights.
Eastern Spotted Skunk
The Eastern spotted skunks are a small-sized species of skunk that can be found inhabiting the Great Plains and Southeastern Woodlands. They can also be found in Canada and the northeastern regions of Mexico.
The Eastern spotted skunk typically measures between 46 and 68 cm in body length, and their body range spans between 0.2 and 1.8 kilograms. Males are usually bigger than females.
Eastern spotted skunks have four stripes on their back which are broken in a pattern, giving a spotted appearance from which their name comes.
They are more active compared to other species of skunks. Their main predators are mostly big cats, owls, and bobcats.
During wintertime, up to eight skunks can share a burrow underground. Eastern spotted skunks are pretty secretive and rare for humans to spot.
They do not hibernate but tend to reduce their activity during the winter season.
The elk is one of the largest members of the deer family. They live in the United States and southern Canada.
Their color varies from tan to dark brown. They measure from 2.1 to 2.4 m in length and weigh between 220 to 330 kg.
The elk is a herbivore that eats grass, leaves, bark, and brushwood. They live mainly in forests and have an expected lifespan of ten to thirteen years in the wild.
The Eastern fox squirrel is also known as Bryant’s fox squirrel. The Eastern fox squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel in North America.
Their total body length ranges from 45 to 70 cm, with a weight ranging between 500 to 1000 grams.
They coexist in certain areas with the Eastern gray squirrel but have more brownish-colored fur with darker underparts that make it recognizable.
The fox squirrel has sharp claws, and they have developed strong abdominal muscles to help them climb. Fox squirrels have excellent vision and a great sense of smell.
The gray fox is a solitary fox that lives in the southern part of the United States and Mexico. Their back has a scattered combination of light and dark gray with reddish-brown sides and an underbody of white.
They measure from 76 to 112.5 cm and weigh from 3.6 to 7kg. Their lifespan is sixteen years in the wild and twenty years in captivity. The gray fox is an omnivore and eats mice, birds, voles, rabbits, insects, corn, fruits, nuts, and berries. They live in dense forests, in areas with rocky terrain or thick vegetation.
The house mouse is a secretive and cautious mouse that is sometimes domesticated. Their color is gray, black, or brown with a lighter underbody. They measure from 7.5 to 10 cm (including the tail) and weigh 40 to 45g.
The house mouse is an omnivore eating meat, fruits, seeds, and grains. They tend to live in places where humans live.
Their lifespan is less than one year in the wild but can be between 2 to 3 years in protected environments.
The long-tailed weasel is a fearless, aggressive hunter. They are also known as the bridled weasel or the big stoat.
Their color is reddish-brown with a light yellow underbody, but in cold northern regions, they are entirely white.
The long-tailed weasel measures from 23 to 35 cm and weighs 85 to 267 g. They are carnivores and can attack animals that are twice their size.
They eat primarily mice, voles, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, eggs, and insects.
They live in grasslands and thin forests in sub-tropical areas with mild temperatures in the southern states of North America. Their lifespan is up to five years.
The muskrat is the only species of the genus Ondatra. The muskrat is a midsize, primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent from North America. Their colors vary from brown to black, with a lighter underbody.
Muskrats measure from 40 to 70 cm and weigh 600 grams up to 2 kg. Their lifespan is 3 to 4 years.
The muskrat is an omnivore and eats aquatic vegetation, farm and garden plants, roots, pondweed, fruits, vegetables, snails, salamanders, crustaceans, fish, and birds.
They live in wetlands in the northern part of North America. They are considered a pest because of the destruction it causes in the places they live and the diseases they can carry.
The fur of the muskrat is thick and short of a dark-brown color. Their tails are covered with scales that help them swim rapidly and easily.
Muskrats spend most of their time in the water and can swim underwater for up to 17 minutes. This species usually lives in a group of males, females, and their offspring.
Muskrats make nests protect themselves from cold temperatures and predators. The nests are usually burrowed with an underwater entrance.
The nine-banded armadillo is also called the long-nosed armadillo. They usually weigh between 2.5 to 6.5 kg and reach 38-58cm in length.
They live in various habitats, from forests to more arid areas. Nine-banded armadillos do not have a solid tolerance for cold-weather but can survive in colder temperatures for several days by remaining in a burrow.
They are mainly nocturnal and solitary animals. Nine-banded armadillos are mainly insectivores but can sometimes eat small amphibians and reptiles.
Unlike the three-banded armadillo, this species cannot roll itself into a ball but can jump high when disturbed.
Northern River Otter
The river otter is an intelligent, semiaquatic mammal found in the northern states. The river otter has short, very dense fur. Their colors vary from gray to brown, with a lighter underbody.
They measure from 66 to 107 cm and weigh from 5 to 14 kg. River otters are carnivores eating fish, turtles, frogs, crayfish, and insects.
They live in aquatic habitats in the northern part of North America. Their lifespan is eight to nine years in the wild and fifteen to twenty years in captivity.
The raccoon is a nocturnal midsize mammal. Their color is gray, brown or black. They have white faces with a black mask around their eyes. They measure from 40 to 70 cm and weigh 5 to 26 kg.
The raccoon is an opportunistic omnivore eating fruit, plants, oak nuts, insects, worms, rodents, frogs, eggs, and crayfish.
Raccoons live in forests, suburban, and urban areas in the Central and southern states of North America. The average lifespan of a raccoon is two to three years.
The red fox is a midsize fox that lives in the northern region of North America.
The color varies from light yellow to red, with dark legs and a white underbody. They measure from 45 to 90 cm and weigh 2.2 to 14 kg. Their lifespan is between two to five years.
The red fox is an omnivore, eating grass, fruits, corn, apples, oak nuts, cherries, berries, mice, birds, rabbits, squirrels, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and crayfish.
The red fox lives in forests, grasslands, mountains, deserts, and suburban areas.
Southern Flying Squirrel
The Southern flying squirrel is a nocturnal mammal that glides from one tree to the next with the aid of membranes between its front and hind legs.
They live in the western regions of North America. Their color is grayish brown, with a white underbody.
They measure from 21 to 26cm (including the tail) and weigh 45 to 82g.
The Southern flying squirrel is an omnivore and eats nuts, seeds, spiders, acorns, fungi, eggs, insects, shrubs, buds, mushrooms, flowers, and fruits.
These squirrels have gray fur and whitish color in their bellies. They use a furry membrane called a patagium that extends between the front and rear legs to glide through the air.
This species of flying squirrel is found in deciduous and mixed woods in the eastern regions of North America, from southeastern Canada to Florida.
They have a lifespan of five to six years in the wild and ten years in captivity.
The star-nosed mole is a solitary mammal from the eastern regions of North America.
Their color ranges from dark brown to black. They measure from 15 to 20 cm and weigh 37 to 76 g.
The star-nosed mole is a carnivore and eats worms, amphibians, aquatic insects, mollusks, and small fish.
They live in wet lowland areas, forests, and marshes. Their lifespan is 2.5 years in captivity. Using their star-nosed, they can gather a clear image of their surroundings.
The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in North America. Their habitats can vary, and they are one of the species to thrive in urban areas. They prefer living close to water sources.
This medium-sized animal measures between 13-37cm in length and can weigh between 0.3-3.7 kg. They have relatively short legs and typically gray or brownish fur.
This animal is known to act as if they are dead as protection against predators. The Virginia opossum is an omnivore eating almost anything: carcasses, garbage, plants, animals, and insects.
They live in deciduous forests, farming areas, marshes, swamps, and wooded streams. Their lifespan is four years.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.