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5 Arkansas State Animals 

Arkansas’ densely forested timberlands and fertile lowlands are home to a diverse range of creatures, with each contributing to the state’s natural allure and ecological harmony. These Arkansas state animals, ranging from the white-tailed deer to the lively mockingbird, exemplify the best of the wildlife heritage the state has to offer. 

5 Arkansas state animals 

1. State Mammal: White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer in bushy park
White-tailed Deer in bushy park | image by Bill Chitty via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus

The white-tailed deer is one of the most well-known mammals in the United States, and it’s recognized as the official state mammal in several states, including Arkansas. This species is native to North America, and there is evidence that the early natives of the state used their hides for clothing. In addition, these deer were crucial to their survival as a source of food.  

As the state of Arkansas developed, there was an increase in both urbanization and hunting, which led to a decline in the deer population. This led to the beginning of conservation efforts in the early 20th century. Since Arkansas has a long history with white-tailed deer, which now number in the millions, it was chosen as the state symbol. 

2. State Bird: Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbird perching
Northern mockingbird perching | image by Becky Matsubara via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos

The mockingbird, which is a bird of medium size and has gray upperparts and white underparts, has been designated as the official state bird. Made official on March 5, 1929, the northern mockingbird is the official bird for a few other states as well. While they are native to Arkansas and very populous in the state, it may be their singing ability that makes them so endearing. Mockingbirds are able to sing complex songs all day long, and even mimic other birds and sounds from their environment.

As sweet as their songs may be to listen to, they have another reputation for being one of the fiercest nest defenders. They will squawk and dive-bomb any creature that comes to close to their nest. 

3. State Insect: Honey bee

western honeybee
Western honeybee
  • Scientific Name: Apis mellifera

Honey bees are one of the most well-known insects, and as a result, they’re frequently chosen to serve as the state insect of many states, including Arkansas. It’s not difficult to understand the reasoning behind this choice since this lovely species is pleasing to the eye due to its vivid coloring, but also because it plays an important part in the pollination of crops. 

Nonetheless, Arkansas chose the honey bee as its state insect because of its qualities of diligence, hard work, attention to home defense, and productiveness that mirror the virtues of Arkansas’s citizens. Numerous individuals also utilize and keep these animals for their honey-making abilities. Additionally, Arkansas is a significant honey producer, with many local apiaries selling honey for human consumption.

4. State Butterfly: Diana fritillary butterfly

Diana fritillary butterfly
Diana fritillary butterfly | image by pondhawk via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Speyeria diana

The Diana fritillary is a beautiful butterfly species that has been chosen to symbolize the state. This species is common in North American forests, and males can be recognized by the burnt orange coloration of their underwings and orange wing edges. Females are larger and more robust than males and have dusty underwings. 

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On February 28, 2007, the Diana fritillary was officially designated as the state butterfly because of its stunning appearance and distinctive features, both of which are valuable for promoting education and tourism. The butterfly was named in honor of Diana, the Roman goddess of light and life. As a result of their longer lifespan, Arkansans get more opportunities to see these beautiful insects. 

5. State Primitive Fish: Alligator gar

Alligator gar
The alligator gar | Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay
  • Scientific Name: Atractosteus spatula

The selection of a primitive fish as the official symbol of the state was advocated by Henry Foster, then 11 years old. This intriguing species, often called a “living fossil,” has ancestors that date back more than a hundred million years to the Early Cretaceous period. They have a rare combination of traits, including an intestine with a spiral valve similar to that of sharks and the ability to breathe both air and water. 

Their names come from their uncanny resemblance to the American alligator, particularly their broad snouts and sharp teeth. However, these ancient fish are threatened by habitat loss, and they were once called “trash fish” even though the native people of the state used them to make gar oil.

Sources:

  • “Official State Mammal,” D. Ware, Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Last Updated: April 17, 2023, encyclopediaofarkansas.net 
  • “Official State Butterfly,” L. A. Spencer, Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Last Updated: February 7, 2023, encyclopediaofarkansas.net