South Carolina, a state covering more than 32,000 square miles, is home to an abundance of unique plant and animal species. It’s a paradise for birdwatchers and herpetologists, with more than 400 species of birds and more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians. But, there are many other types of animals living in the state. In fact, South Carolina has 14 state animals that have been designated.
14 South Carolina state animals
This article will introduce you to the South Carolina state animals and the significance they bring to this special part of the country, from the majestic Northern Right Whale, gracefully migrating along the coastline, to the elusive Carolina wolf spider, dwelling in its wooded habitats.
1. Carolina wren
- Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
- Status: South Carolina State Bird
In 1948, the Carolina wren, one of the most common species throughout the state, was officially recognized as the state bird. Known for its conspicuous white stripe over the eyes and rufous-red back, it replaced the Mockingbird because locals believed that it represented the state better.
The Federated Women’s Clubs pushed for this choice because they thought the bird’s ability to adapt, stay strong, and stay in one place in all kinds of weather was a good way to represent the spirit of the state.
2. Eastern tiger swallowtail
- Scientific Name: Papilio glaucus
- Status: South Carolina State Butterfly
South Carolina’s official butterfly is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a species that can be found naturally across the state. Known as a vital pollinator in orchards and gardens, this colorful butterfly is easily identified by the male’s black “tiger stripes” and the female’s blue speckled wings.
The fact that it was chosen shows appreciation for how it contributes to the state’s thriving biodiversity, as well as its widespread distribution and early depiction in local art.
3. Boykin Spaniel
- Scientific Name: Canis lupus familiaris
- Status: South Carolina State Dog
In 1985, the Boykin Spaniel was officially recognized as the state dog of South Carolina because of its versatility as a hunting dog. This medium-sized breed was developed by South Carolinian Lemuel Whitaker Boykin, giving its name. This breed was chosen as the State Dog to recognize its special place in the state’s history and its important role as a hunting and companion dog.
4. Striped bass or rockfish
- Scientific Name: Morone saxatilis
- Status: South Carolina State Fish
South Carolina officially adopted the Striped Bass, a perciform fish found along the Atlantic coast, as the state fish in 1972. Noted for its adaptability to inland waters and impressive size, often exceeding 20 pounds, it offers a thrilling challenge for anglers, making it a symbol of the state’s rich fishing culture.
The Striped Bass has deep roots in the state’s culture, and this designation helps to highlight its significance in Santee Cooper Lakes, site of world-class fishing and the internationally known Striped Bass Festival.
5. Carolina Marsh Tacky
- Scientific Name: Equus caballus
- Status: South Carolina State Horse
In 2010, South Carolina designated the Carolina Marsh Tacky, a rare horse breed with Spanish ancestry, as the official state horse. South Carolina has relied on these hardy horses for transportation, agriculture, and warfare since the American Revolution. They’re highly regarded for their historical significance and ability to thrive in lowland swamps.
With only about 400 Marsh Tackies left in the wild today, this designation recognizes and promotes the conservation of their important role in shaping the state’s history and heritage.
6. White-Tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
- Status: South Carolina State Animal
The White-Tailed Deer, an adaptable, medium-sized species widely distributed across North America, became South Carolina’s State Animal in 1972. Recognized for its characteristic white underside tail, it’s a significant part of the state’s natural beauty and wildlife.
The deer’s abundance, strength, and grace, coupled with its popularity among hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, led to its designation as the state animal, symbolizing the state’s rich biodiversity and outdoor tradition.
7. Carolina mantis
- Scientific Name: Stagmomantis carolina
- Status: South Carolina State Insect
In 1988, South Carolina officially recognized the Carolina mantis, a species of praying mantis, as the state insect. It represents the significance of entomology in agriculture, which is widely acknowledged for its role in successfully managing pest insects.
The mantis can be up to 2 and a half inches in length and has a wide range of distinguishable colors. Its presence in the state highlights its importance in preserving ecological balance and the value it adds to the state’s agricultural environment.
8. Bottlenose dolphin
- Scientific Name: Tursiops truncatus
- Status: South Carolina State Marine Mammal
The bottlenose dolphin is a common marine mammal found globally in warm and temperate seas, except in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Known for their high intelligence and playful behavior, they gained popularity through aquarium shows and TV programs like Flipper.
In 2009, they were designated as South Carolina’s official State Marine Mammal due to their frequent presence in the state’s waters and their significance in coastal ecosystems. Their ability to “strand feed” in marshes and tidal creeks further distinguishes them in the region, making them a beloved symbol of the state’s marine life.
9. Wild turkey
- Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo
- Status: South Carolina State Wild Game Bird
The wild turkey has been the official State Wild Game Bird of South Carolina since 1976 and was chosen for its significance as a native upland game bird in North America. Once nearly extinct, conservation efforts helped the wild turkey make a remarkable comeback.
With small, featherless, blue heads and dark brown to black feathers, they can be found in forests throughout the state. The National Wild Turkey Federation’s South Carolina chapter plays a crucial role in preserving and maintaining a robust population of these majestic birds.
- Scientific Name: Equus asinus × Equus caballus
- Status: South Carolina State Heritage Work Animal
The mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse, has been recognized as the official State Heritage Work Animal of South Carolina since 2010. The state’s agricultural history wouldn’t be complete without the contributions of the diligent, adaptable, and smart mule.
In 1981, a group of South Carolinians came together to honor the hardiness and sociability of donkeys and mules by forming the South Carolina Donkey and Mule Association. Mules have been an integral part of the state’s workforce for centuries, and today they’re celebrated for their work ethic and charming personalities.
11. Loggerhead sea turtle
- Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
- Status: South Carolina State Reptile
The state has recognized the loggerhead sea turtle (named for its disproportionately large head) as its state reptile since 1988. These marine reptiles can weigh more than 200 pounds and are well-known for their long-distance migrations and nesting habits on the state’s stunning beaches.
However, the loggerhead turtle is on the verge of extinction because of the destruction of its natural habitat, but their nesting grounds have been restored and protected thanks to conservation efforts by institutions like the South Carolina Aquarium and S.C.U.T.E.
12. North Atlantic right whale
- Scientific Name: Eubalaena glacialis
- Status: South Carolina State Migratory Marine Mammal
The majestic and endangered North Atlantic right whale has been South Carolina’s State Migratory Marine Mammal since 2009. These whales, which can reach a length of 50 feet and a weight of up to 120,000 pounds, gather off the state coast to mate and give birth. The Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act protect them because only a few hundred are left.
Early in December, they move from Nova Scotia and New England to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Conservation efforts try to make more people aware of this and protect these beautiful animals from ship collisions.
13. Wood duck
- Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
- Status: South Carolina State Duck
Since 2009, South Carolina has recognized the wood duck, a species known for its beautiful, multicolored plumage, as its official State Duck. The wood duck, a medium-sized species with striking colors and a distinctive white flare down the neck, is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful ducks in North America.
They’re common in wooded areas of rivers and shallow lakes, but you can also find them in ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes. With its elegant form and distinct characteristics, wood ducks are a symbol of the splendor and variety of the state’s wetlands.
14. Carolina wolf spider
- Scientific Name: Hogna carolinensis
- Status: South Carolina State Spider
The Carolina wolf spider, also called the giant wolf spider, is the largest of its kind in North America, and it was officially named the state spider in the year 2000. These spiders are mottled brown with a dark underside, and the females are known for carrying their egg sacs on their bodies during the incubation period.
Wolf spiders are expert predators that ambush their prey from underground burrows, using their venom to paralyze their prey while warding off infection. They may look dangerous, but they actually avoid people out of fear, not aggression.