Nocturnal animals are those that perform most of their daily duties, such as hunting and mating, under the cover of darkness. There are a wide array of different animals that hunt at night, each with their own set of characteristics and traits. In this article we’re we take a look at 13 of these nocturnal hunting animals, and learn a bit about each one of them.
Animals that hunt at night
The 13 animals listed below save most, if not all, of their hunts for after the sun goes down.
Scientific Name: Chiroptera
While they don’t turn into vampires, bats are nocturnal creatures that sleep during the day and hunt during the night. Despite their scary reputation, bats are actually beneficial animals and pollinators that that feed on flowers, fruit, and insects. They act as a natural pest control, as well as seed dispensers and pollinators.
Scientific Name: Panthera pardus
Leopards are athletic creatures that have dilated pupils and large eyes, all of which make them excellent hunters. They prey on a wide array of animals, including fish, warthogs, baboons, antelopes, rabbits, birds, and reptiles.
It’s common for them to drag their prey into a tree to prevent hyenas and other scavengers from stealing their catch. Like their smaller, domesticated cousin, the house cat, leopards will purr when they are content.
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Often seen as ornery critters that can cause havoc, raccoons are animals that hunt at night, feasting on insects, birds, crayfish, fruits, reptiles, frogs, seeds, and nuts.
Despite their nocturnal nature, it is not uncommon to see these masked bandits out during the day in urban environments. This is because, in areas heavily populated by humans, there are fewer predators for raccoons to worry about, according to Wildlife NYC.
Scientific Name: Vulpes
Foxes are nocturnal animals that spend their nights hunting prey, such as rodents, frogs, earthworms, birds, and rabbits. They also eat fruit and berries. Foxes are in the same family as dogs, but they have a lot more in common with cats.
Not only do they climb trees and have slanted pupils like cats, but they can also retract their claws, the same as cats, and they use their whiskers to navigate throughout their environment.
Scientific Family: Mustelidae
Badgers are rarely seen during the day and instead stay tucked away until the sun has set. While their eyesight is not the best, due to living mostly underground, they do have a good sense of smell and acute hearing.
They use their heightened senses to prey on moles, voles, mice, prairie dogs, gophers, fish, lizards, and insects. Badgers can be found throughout North America, Ireland, Great Britain, and Europe.
They can also be found in Japan, Scandinavia, and China. The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) is native to Southwest Asia, India, and Africa.
Scientific Name: Strigiformes
Most owl species are nocturnal, and they are naturally built to be silent and deadly. They have excellent hearing and vision, and their feathers and wings are designed for a quiet flight.
This means that their prey won’t know they are being hunted until it is too late. Owls prey on small mammals, including voles, mice, rabbits, and squirrels.
Their diet may also include birds, snakes, fish, lizards, and frogs. Owls are also fast fliers, with the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) reaching speeds of up to 40 mph.
7. Black-Footed Ferrets
Scientific Name: Mustela nigripes
These sweet-looking animals that hunt at night are generally solitary and use the underground tunnels made by prairie dogs, which are also one of their food sources.
The black-footed ferret sleeps a lot, around 21 hours a day, but when they are awake, they are quick and can travel up to 11 miles to find prey. They are also the only ferret species native to North America.
Scientific Name: Didelphidae
Opossums are marsupials spend their days sleeping in a hollow tree or den, and then spend the night forging for food. Their diet includes insects, fruits, fish, birds, grasses, and small mammals.
While these nocturnal animals do not hibernate, they do slow their activity during the winter months. Opossums may not look like the nicest of animals, but they are far from scary and actually provide natural pest control by regularly consuming ticks, cockroaches, and mice.
9. Tasmanian Devil
Scientific Name: Sarcophilus harrisii
Native to Tasmania, an island in Australia, Tasmanian devils are nocturnal animals that fill the daylight hours alone, sleeping in caves, burrows, and logs. At night, they emerge to hunt and scavenge for food.
They use their sharp teeth and long whiskers to help hunt prey and avoid predators. Tasmanian devils are relatively small, about the size of a small dog, and have either black or brown coarse fur. They may also have a white patch of fur near their chest.
10. Red Kangaroo
Scientific Name: Macropus rufus
While not all species of kangaroos are nocturnal, the red kangaroo does prefer the cooler nighttime temps. Red kangaroos are typically not meat eaters, and instead spend their nights consuming herbage, such as grass, leaves, and moss.
They will also eat insects and seeds. Red kangaroos can jump up to 6-feet high and can cover 25 feet in a single leap, according to National Geographic.
Scientific Name: Hyaenidae
Hyenas are social animals that will hunt in groups during the nighttime hours. Packs of hyenas will charge at their prey’s herd and then wait and watch the animals flee.
They do this to try and detect the weakest members of the herd, which are the ones they will go after. Hyenas are also scavengers and will sometimes feed on carcasses. On average, hyenas can live up to 25 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.
Scientific Family: Mephitidae
Like opossums, skunks are nocturnal animals that don’t hibernate but do slow down during the colder months. Despite their stinky reputation, skunks are beneficial creatures that consume insects and small mammals, such as beetles, grubs, rats, moles, and mice.
While skunks themselves do not store food, they will sometimes raid the food stashes of other animals.A fun fact about skunks is that it can take up to 12 days for their sulphur-compound spray to replenish.
Scientific Name: Lorisidae
The loris is a slow-moving, nocturnal mammal that spends its days resting and its nights hunting insects. These big-eyed creatures are found in woodland and tropical forests throughout the southeastern parts of Asia, as well as in Sri Lanka, and India.
The slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) is one of the few venomous mammals out there, and its toxic bite leaves behind a flesh-rotting venom. This nasty bite is typically reserved for fights with other lorises.