Mammals

The most common groups of mammals found in the Chesapeake region are: Navigation

 

Nocturnal Mammals- mammals that are more active at night


Long-tailed Shrew - Sorex dispar

Identify MeLong-tailed shrew

  • Slender body, long snout, small eyes, and a thick tail
  • Body length: 2.75 inches
  • Tail length: 2.2 to 2.5 inches
  • Dark gray with paler underparts

Find Me

  • Cool, moist, rocky forests; high elevations

I Like to Eat

  • Small invertebrates, including centipedes, beetles, spiders and crickets

Biologist's Note

  • Long-tailed shrews have relatively narrow skulls and incisors that stick out, adaptations designed to help remove invertebrates from rocky crevices.

Cool Fact

  • Their long tails likely help them balance as they travel along rocks.

Raccoon - Procyon lotor

Identify Meraccoon

  • Grayish fur with some red or black tints
  • Long, black and yellowish-white ringed tail
  • Black "mask" over its eyes
  • Black feet with five toes on each paw
  • Grow to about 28 inches and weigh up to 35 pounds

Find Me

  • Found in all stretches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Along edges of streams, rivers, swamps, and marshes
  • Common in developed areas: cities and suburbs
  • Mostly nocturnal

I Like to Eat

  • Feeds on nearly everything available: fruits, nuts, corn, fish, frogs, insects, bird eggs, Rodents and dead animals

Cool Facts

  • The word “raccoon” comes from the Algonquian word arakun, which means “he scratches with his hands.”
  • Raccoons are great swimmers, but they do not swim farther than they need to to find food because their fur is not waterproof.

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

Identify Mesquirrel in tree

  • Rusty reddish back
  • White underbody, chin, and throat
  • Long, bushy tail with a white tip
  • Pointed ears
  • About 3 1/2 feet long

Find Me

  • Forests, meadows, and fields

I Like to Eat

  • Mice, squirrels, birds, insects, acorns, and dead animals

Biologist's Note

  • The fox's hunting habits rely on its sensitivity to low-frequency sounds, which permits it to hear noises made by smaller mammals underground.

Cool Fact

  • Red foxes only use dens when they have babies. Normally, they rest in openings in the grass or brush.

Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitis

Identify MeStriped skunk in the grass

  • Black with white stripe from snout to tail
  • Length: between 18 and 32 inches
  • Weight: up to 8 pounds; sze of a house cat
  • They have webbed toes and claws to help them dig

Find Me

  • Forests,grasslands, meadows, and suburban areas

I Like to Eat

  • Insects, small amimals, fish, eggs, fruits, nuts, and seeds

Biologist's Note

  • While they don’t hibernate, skunks that live in cold areas become much less active and live off of their fat stores. Skunks can lose up to 50 percent of their body weight during the winter months.

Cool Fact

  • The skunk’s scientific name, Mephitis mephitis, comes from the Latin word for bad odor.
 

Water Mammals- mammals that mainly or completely live in the water


Florida Manatee - Trichechus manatus latirostris

Identify Memanatee in the water surrounded by fish

  • Rusty reddish back
  • White underbody, chin, and throat
  • Long, bushy tail with a white tip
  • Pointed ears
  • About 3 1/2 feet long

Find Me

  • Found in warm, shallow waters; creeks, bays, rivers, and canals

I Like to Eat

  • Bay grasses

Biologist's Note

  • Like all other mammals, manatees breathe air from the atmosphere. They can stay underwater for about 15 minutes when they are resting, but when they are active they must resurface for air every 3 to 4 minutes.

Cool Fact

  • If you ever see a manatee in the Chesapeake Bay, contact the National Aquarium’s Stranded Animal Hotline to report your sighting. The aquarium monitors manatees in the Bay to help keep them safe.

River Otter - Lontra canadensis

Identify Mesquirrel in tree

  • Long, streamlined body
  • Dense, brown fur
  • Its throat and belly are golden or silvery brown
  • Wide, rounded head with small ears
  • Long, white whiskers
  • Length: 26 to 40 inches
  • Weight: Up to 18 pounds

Find Me

  • Shores of the Chesapeake Bay and in its lakes, streams, rivers, and marshes

I Like to Eat

  • Mostly fish, but also frogs, crabs, crayfish, and small mammals

Biologist's Note

  • Otters are remarkable and graceful swimmers that can remain submerged for several minutes, dive to 55 feet and swim up to a quarter-mile underwater.

Cool Fact

  • Playful and energetic, river otters often create “rolling spots” where they roll and tumble with each other. They will also slide into the water on paths of snow, dirt or ice.
 

Land Mammals - mammals that live on land


White-tailed Deer - Odocoileus virginianus

Identify Medeer in meadow

  • White underside including tail and small patch on the throat
  • Reddish-brown upper body
  • Length 5 feet
  • Male:antlers

Find Me

  • Forests, swamps, farmlands, and brushy areas

I Like to Eat

  • Green plants, berries, apples, grapes, nuts, acorns, grains, bark, twigs and buds

Biologist's Note

  • White-tail deer are overpopulating some regions, which causes starvation and a weakening of those particular herds

Cool Fact

  • When alarmed, a deer will raise its tail like a flag, communicating danger to other deer
 

Marsupial- mammals that take care of and carry their young in a pouch on their belly


Virginia Opossum - Didelphis virginiana

Identify MeOpossum in a tree

  • Heavyset body with gray fur
  • White face
  • Black ears
  • Long head, and pointed snout
  • Long whiskers and 50 teeth
  • Long, tapered, scaly tale
  • Length: 25 to 40 inches
  • Weight: 4 to 14 pounds

Find Me

  • Swamps, forests, farmland and in developed areas

I Like to Eat

  • Insects and dead animals; fruit seeds, snakes, mice, frogs, and garbage

Biologist's Note

  • They are very susceptible to frostbite: it is not unusual to see an opossum that is missing an ear, toes or the tip of its tail.

Cool Fact

  • Name comes from the Algonquian word apassum, meaning “white beast.”
 

Rodents- mammals that have a pair of continuous growing teeth in the upper and lower jaws


Beaver - Castor canadensis

Identify MeBeaver on ground

  • Thick, glossy brown fur
  • Large, scaly, paddle-like tail
  • Webbed feet and large, chestnut brown teeth
  • Rounded head and small ears
  • Length: 25 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 60 pounds

Find Me

  • Forested wetlands and tree-lined streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes

I Like to Eat

  • Mostly tree bark and leaves; also bay grasses and roots of aquatic plants

Biologist's Note

  • Their webbed feet and rudder-like tail allow beavers to swim about six miles per hour. Their large tails make a loud sound when a beaver dives underwater.

Cool Fact

  • To protect their lodges, beavers build dams across streams to flood the area and create deep, quiet ponds. These ponds allow beavers to safely transport food and logs through the water. Ponds formed by beaver dams are important habitat for fish and waterfowl.

Common Muskrat - Ondatra zibethicus

Identify Mesquirrel in tree

  • Dense brown fur with reddish-brown or black top hairs
  • Long black tail
  • Length: up to 25 inches

Find Me

  • Freshwater and saltwater marshes, swamps, and along the shores of ponds, lakes and streams

I Like to Eat

  • Sedges, cattails, small fish, crayfish, and frogs

Biologist's Note

  • The muskrat population remains stable despite hunting, disease, and predation. Muskrats reproduce quickly, which helps maintain their numbers.

Cool Fact

  • Ondatra is the Iroquois name for the common muskrat, and zibethicus means "musky-odored" in Latin, referring to the scent emitted by breeding males.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel - Sciurus niger cinereus

Identify Medeer in meadow

  • Light, steel-grey coat
  • Silver tail with black edging
  • Creamy to white underside, ears, and muzzle
  • Length up to 30 inches

Find Me

  • Mature hardwood forest stands along streams and bays, and in small woodlots next to agricultural fields

I Like to Eat

  • Acrons, nuts, and seeds frin oaks, maples, hickories, beeches, and pine trees

Biologist's Note

  • The Delmarva fox squirrel was listed as an endangered species in 1967

Cool Fact

  • The Dalmarva fox squirrel can weigh twice as much and grow twice as long as the common grey squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel - Sciurus carolinensis

Identify Mesquirrel eating acorn

  • Grayish body with some black, white, or brown fur
  • Whitish belly
  • Bushy tails that vary in color from pale gray to brownish
  • Length: up to 20 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds

Find Me

  • Mixed hardwood forests; parks, yards, and other wooded areas; towns and suburbs

I Like to Eat

  • Nuts and acorns; seeds, fruits, bulbs, and flowers, but also frogs, insects, bird eggs, and farm crops

Biologist's Note

  • Mating occurs twice per year, in December to February and again in May to June.

Cool Fact

  • The gray squirrel’s bushy tail has a number of uses, including balance, warmth and protection from the weather, and communicating with other squirrels.
 
raccoon on log

Last updated: April 16, 2018

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