The C&O Canal provides important habitat to many animals, aquatic and terrestrial during breeding and migration seasons and throughout the year. Aquatic environments in the park include wetlands, streams, rivers, springs and seeps, and open water habitat in the sections of watered canal. These habitats support animals such as frogs, toads, salamanders, fish, freshwater mussels, beaver, and muskrat.
Terrestrial habitats such as forests, open fields, rocky outcrops, developed, and transition habitats support many common Eastern Deciduous woodland species: deer, song birds, red and gray fox, raccoon, gray and fox squirrels, and a few uncommon species, black bear and bobcat. Bald eagle, a federally threatened species, nest here and are seen quite regularly.
The linear shape of C&O Canal and the 184.5 trail along the riparian forest of the Potomac River provides a transportation corridor for wildlife as well as human hikers and bicyclists. Corridors of unfragmented habitat are important for the preservation of biodiversity, allowing for the movement of species between areas of higher quality or preferred habitat. Additionally, larger blocks of parkland of 100-500 acres provide important protected habitat to wildlife. As our landscape becomes more developed or urbanized, corridors of contiguous, protected habitat will become increasingly important in the preservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of viable wildlife populations.
Please enjoy and observe wild animals from a distance. Photograph all wildlife from a safe distance. Use telephoto lenses and observe quietly. It is dangerous and illegal to feed wild animals including ducks and geese in national parks. Wildlife can become dependent on handouts and lose their ability to forage for food causing them to starve. Such animals can lose their fear of humans and become aggressive.
Animals can be very protective of their young and can become aggressive if cornered. Never approach or feed wildlife. Also they can be infected with the rabies virus and can infect you or your pet if bitten or scratched.
If you encounter an animal that is acting strangely or an animal has attacked you, immediately report it to our emergency Dispatch Center 866-677-6677. If you want to learn more about rabies, please visit the CDC website (www.cdc.gov/rabies).
Help us keep wildlife wild.
Pets must be on leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. Loose or feral pets often disturb or kill wildlife or their newborns. Protective wildlife parents can be aggressive and could harm you or your pet. Keep wildlife and your pets safe by observing the leash law.