With its breathtaking landscapes of rolling mountains, serene rivers, and dense forests, West Virginia’s natural beauty is undeniable. But the Mountain State’s true charm lies not just in its picturesque vistas, but also in the abundant and diverse wildlife that call this land home. Among these diverse species, six hold special significance and are named West Virginia state animals.
6 West Virginia state animals
The following list looks into the world of these symbolic animals and their significance to the state.
1. State Insect: Honey bee
Scientific Name: Apis mellifera
The honey bee is the official state insect of West Virginia and was designated in 2002. This species, an insect native to Afro-Eurasia, was chosen due to its significant impact on the state’s economy and ecosystem. Additionally, it plays an essential part in the pollination of important crops such as fruits, vegetables, and grasses.
Honey bees are eusocial insects known for their wax-made, perennial colonial nests and honey storage, making them vital for biodiversity. Their activities provide immense economic benefits, with honey production becoming a growing sector of West Virginia’s economy.
2. State Bird: Northern Cardinal
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
West Virginia adopted the Northern Cardinal as its state bird in 1949 because of the bird’s striking red plumage and beautiful song. This bird won the popular favor after a state-wide vote involving public school students and civic organizations.
A prominent figure in residential areas, the cardinal draws attention with its distinct color and sound. This species was once a popular pet, but it’s now protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 for being endangered. Its significance to the local ecosystem and culture was further demonstrated in 2016 by discovering its ability to suppress the West Nile virus upon infection biologically.
3. State Fish: Brook trout
Scientific Name: Salvelinus fontinalis
Designated as West Virginia’s official state fish in 1973, the Brook Trout is treasured for its fight spirit and is a favorite among anglers. This native species requires the purest water possible, which it can only find in the tiniest, coldest mountain streams.
Identified by its olive color and light-colored lower fins, the Brook Trout is also remarkable for its swift growth, averaging six to eight inches in length soon after birth. Being the only native trout species and playing such a crucial role in West Virginia’s aquatic ecosystem, it was named the state fish.
4. State Butterfly: Monarch butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
The Monarch Butterfly, officially designated as West Virginia’s state butterfly in 1995, is known for its vibrant orange and black wings and its fascinating migration cycle. As caterpillars, they feed on milkweed before transforming into butterflies that sip nectar from flowers.
With the approach of winter, they migrate to Mexico, and the Monarchs seen in the spring are the great-grandchildren of those that wintered in Mexico. Their unique multi-generational migration and their stunning appearance make them a symbol of resilience and beauty. These characteristics led to their adoption as the official state butterfly of West Virginia.
5. State Animal: Black bear
Scientific Name: Ursus americanus
The Black Bear was chosen by West Virginia’s students, teachers, and sportsmen as the state animal in 1973. Black bears, a species native to North America, are well-known for their shiny black fur and varied diet.
Bears like these are most commonly found in wooded areas, but they have occasionally been known to look for food in residential neighborhoods. Males can weigh up to 450 pounds, with record weights in West Virginia surpassing 600 pounds. It’s only fitting that the state animal of West Virginia is the Black Bear, as it represents the state’s abundant natural resources and beauty.
6. State Reptile: Timber rattlesnake
Scientific Name: Crotalus horridus
The Timber Rattlesnake, which was given the title of West Virginia’s official State Reptile on March 8, 2008, is an animal that plays an important role in the ecological system of the state. This poisonous rattlesnake is the only species of rattlesnake in the state, and its rattle consists of several individual segments.
It’s a beautiful representation of the wide variety of flora and fauna that can be found in West Virginia, as its back is marked with brown or black chevron-shaped markings. The Timber Rattlesnake is usually docile, generally found in the state’s remote, rocky, and mountainous regions. They chose it as the official state reptile of West Virginia due to its one-of-a-kind qualities and the important part it plays in the state’s ecosystem.