Michigan, the Great Lakes State, isn’t only renowned for its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture but also for its diverse and fascinating wildlife. Michigan residents also take pride in their state animals, each of which embodies some type of ecological significance within the state’s history or culture.
From the majestic American robin, soaring high with its melodious song, to the elusive and resilient white-tailed deer, gracefully navigating dense forests, each of these creatures holds a special place in the Great Lakes State’s heart.
4 Michigan state animals
In this article, we set out on a fun journey to learn more about Michigan’s official animals, looking into their ecological and cultural significance as well as the reasons for their selection as the state’s most respected symbols.
1. American robin
- Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
- Status: Michigan State Bird
The Great Lakes State officially recognized the American robin as its state bird in 1931. The robin’s popularity among members of the Michigan Audubon Society, who called it “the best-known and best-loved of all the birds in Michigan,” ultimately led to the bird’s designation as the state bird.
The thrush family includes the American robin, a migratory bird that travels across North America. You can also find these robins in many locations, from southern Canada to central Mexico and along the Pacific Coast. It’s recognizable by its reddish-orange breast, though it’s not closely related to the European robin.
It isn’t just Michigan, but also Connecticut and Wisconsin, where the American robin is officially recognized as the state bird. Its upbeat song and association with spring have won the hearts of many Americans, and they widely celebrate it for its cultural significance.
2. Brook Trout
- Scientific Name: Salvelinus fontinalis
- Status: Michigan State Fish
The brook trout, a native species of freshwater fish found throughout the Great Lakes State, was officially named the state fish in 1988. This trout belongs to the char genus Salvelinus and is part of the salmon family Salmonidae.
Brook trout populations rely on cold, clear, and oxygenated water for their survival. Unfortunately, human activities such as land development, forest clear-cutting, and industrialization have wiped out native brook trout from numerous waterways across North America.
Pollution, dam construction, and siltation have also been damaging their environments. Furthermore, the brown trout’s introduction has posed an even greater threat to the survival of the brook trout. Now, groups like Trout Unlimited and government agencies are working to revive wild brook trout and the ecosystems they depend on.
Restoration of brook trout in their original ranges is a primary goal of conservation efforts, along with enhancing water quality and eliminating obstacles to fish migration. In addition to being Michigan’s official state fish, the brook trout is also the official fish of eight other American states and the province of Nova Scotia in Canada.
3. White-Tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
- Status: Michigan State Game Mammal
Michigan officially recognized the white-tailed deer as its official state game mammal in 1997. It’s the most widely distributed wild ungulate in the Americas, being native to much of North America, Central America, and even some of South America.
The Great Lakes State’s wildlife and hunting culture widely recognizes the white-tailed deer as an important part, and this recognition may have played a role in selecting the animal as the state’s official game mammal. High deer populations, like those found in Michigan and several other states, make them a sought-after target for hunters.
Due to land conversion to agriculture and the clearing of coniferous trees, white-tailed deer populations have expanded their range northward. White-tailed deer are common in the state and play an important role in the state’s ecosystem and recreational hunting. Because of this, the white-tailed deer was chosen as the State Game Mammal.
4. Painted turtle
- Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta
- Status: Michigan State Reptile
In 1995, the painted turtle was officially recognized as Michigan’s state reptile. The painted turtle was proposed as the state reptile by a group of fifth graders from Niles, who had previously discovered that the state didn’t already have one.
The painted turtle, also known as the pond turtle or water turtle, is the most common native turtle in North America. Because of an anti-freeze-like substance in their blood, they’re able to survive in colder regions for longer periods of time than other animals.
Students probably voted for the turtle as the state reptile because of its unique appearance: olive to black skin with bright red, orange, or yellow stripes on its extremities. Native American folklore further strengthens the cultural significance of the painted turtle, making it appealing for state recognition.
The painted turtle has been recognized as the state reptile, joining the ranks of other states in the United States that have done the same.