Oklahoma’s massive size, around 69,050 square miles, undoubtedly fosters a wide range of ecosystems that are home to a diverse population of animals. There are more than 1000 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and other animals in Oklahoma, and to emphasize the value of each species to the state’s ecosystem, the state has designated several animals as Oklahoma state animals.
Let’s look at these symbolic animals that make Oklahoma more interesting and meaningful.
12 Oklahoma state animals
1. Wild turkey
- Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo
- Status: Oklahoma State Wild Game Bird
The Wild turkey is North America’s native upland game bird and the Oklahoma State Wild Game Bird, designated in 1990. It’s the ancestor of the domestic turkey and displays vibrant colors on its head and neck, and during courtship, you’ll see the males puff out their feathers and use gobbling, drumming, and spitting to attract females.
Wild turkeys are known to forage alongside other animals like deer and squirrels, and their nests typically contain 10 to 14 eggs laid in shallow dirt depressions. In Native American cultures, wild turkeys hold significant cultural and ceremonial value, and their feathers play a role in traditional rituals and clothing.
2. Mexican free-tailed bat
- Scientific Name: Tadarida brasiliensis
- Status: Oklahoma State Flying mammal
The Mexican free-tailed bat is a medium-sized bat with a unique feature – its tail isn’t attached to its uropatagium, and it was officially recognized as Oklahoma’s state flying mammal in 2006. These bats can fly at altitudes of up to 10,800 feet and have a horizontal speed of over 99 miles per hour, making them a common sight in North America.
Mexican free-tailed bats migrate extensively in North America, congregating in vast numbers at specific roosts each year, often marked by their unique scent.
3. Common raccoon
- Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
- Status: Oklahoma State Furbearer animal
The Raccoons are medium-sized North American mammals with distinctive gray fur, black mask-like markings around the eyes, and a bushy, ringed tail. In 1989 the raccoon was officially named the Oklahoma State Furbearer Animal.
Raccoons have a reputation for being smart, agile, and able to thrive in various environments, including urban settings. Oklahoma’s furbearer animal is a raccoon because the sport of raccoon hunting is both economically and recreationally significant there.
- Scientific Name: Bison bison
- Status: Oklahoma State Mammal
The American bison, designated as Oklahoma State mammal in 1972, is a massive mammal. Native to Oklahoma’s grasslands and woodlands, these creatures held great cultural significance for Native American tribes. You’ll notice these animals by their brown coat, shoulder hump, and shaggy hair around their heads.
In the past, vast herds of these creatures wandered the American prairie, playing a crucial role in the lives of Plains Indians. Overhunting caused an alarming decrease in their population, but thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have been successfully revived in recent years.
5. Scissor-tailed flycatcher
- Scientific Name: Muscivora forficata
- Status: Oklahoma State Bird
The scissor-tailed flycatcher is a remarkable bird with a distinctive appearance, featuring a long forked tail and an enchanting “sky dance.” The Oklahoma State Bird was officially chosen on May 26, 1951, thanks to the enthusiastic backing of school children, garden clubs, and Audubon Society chapters.
Its distinct look and special presence in Oklahoma made it the perfect choice. Additionally, it has cultural importance and can be seen on the Oklahoma Commemorative Quarter and FC Tulsa soccer team crest.
6. European honey bee
- Scientific Name: Apis mellifera
- Status: Oklahoma State Insect
As a result of the European honey bee’s importance in crop pollination and its overall contribution to Oklahoma’s food supply, it was designated the state insect in 1992. In the 1600s, European settlers brought honey bees to the New World, and today those bees play a crucial economic role in Oklahoma, where they pollinate over 90 crops worth an estimated $20 billion.
Honeybees produce honey, beeswax, bee pollen, and royal jelly, making them one of the most important insects in the human and natural world.
7. White bass
- Scientific Name: Morone chrysops
- Status: Oklahoma State Fish
Oklahoma’s official state fish is the white bass (also called a sand bass). Its natural habitat is the state’s many rivers, streams, and reservoirs, and it can be found throughout the state. White bass are distinguished by their dark blue-green backs, silvery sides, white bellies, and black horizontal stripes.
Despite their relatively small size, they’re well-known for their fighting prowess. White bass eats minnows, shad, crustaceans, and insects, and are a popular game fish in North America.
8. Collared lizard
- Scientific Name: Crotaphytus collaris
- Status: Oklahoma State Reptile
The collared lizard, also known as the mountain boomer, is the Oklahoma State Reptile, designated in 1969. This North American lizard can reach a length of a foot, and it’s easily distinguished by its bright yellow head and neck, which are striped with black.
Males have vivid patterns, while females are more subdued. The collared lizard, resembling tiny theropod dinosaurs, is famous for its ability to run on its hind legs. Collared lizard is the common name for this species because of the black bands that run along its neck.
9. Red-tailed Hawk
- Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
- Status: Oklahoma State Raptor
In 2018, the state of Oklahoma officially recognized the red-tailed hawk as its official raptor. The name of this magnificent bird of prey comes from the color of its tail, which is a reddish brown.
It’s a common sight across the open plains of Oklahoma, where it soars through the air or perches on fence posts to hunt for rodents and birds. The Red-tailed Hawk was selected as the state raptor to represent the resilience, elegance, and diversity of Oklahoma’s native flora and fauna.
10. Black swallowtail
- Scientific Name: Papilio polyxenes
- Status: Oklahoma State Butterfly
In 1996, the black swallowtail butterfly was named the Oklahoma State Butterfly. This migratory species lives in the state from May to October and is known for having black wings with yellow, blue, and red markings that make it stand out.
The black swallowtail is an important part of Oklahoma’s ecosystem because it helps plants pollinate each other. It also adds color and beauty to the state and gives people something to do and a chance to learn about how it affects the environment.
- Scientific Name: Rana catesbeiana
- Status: Oklahoma State Amphibian
Oklahoma officially recognized the bullfrog as its state amphibian in 1997. With a maximum length of 20 centimeters, this frog easily takes the title of North America’s largest. As a symbol of the value of all amphibians to Oklahoma’s ecosystem, the bullfrog was selected.
This animal is also a vital part of the state’s ecosystem and the fact that the bullfrog is the state amphibian shows that Oklahoma understands how important these creatures are to their environment.
12. White-Tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
- Status: Oklahoma State Game Animal
In 1990, the white-tailed deer was officially recognized as Oklahoma’s State Game Animal. They have distinctive brown coats in the summer that fade to gray in the winter, and the males develop massive antlers.
Over 200 pounds in weight, the white-tailed deer is a symbol of Oklahoma’s wildlife that’s both beautiful and highly sought after for hunting. Overexploitation nearly wiped out their population in the past, but careful management and conservation efforts brought their numbers back up to about 15 million in North America by the turn of the century.