Texas is an excellent place for wildlife lovers, with over 140 different mammals calling the state home. Texas not only has some very unique animals, but they also have rare and at-risk species. Because of the wide diversity of species, this article will break down some of Texas’s wildlife into categories such as native vs. invasive, endangered, and state animals.
4 Categories of Wild Animals in Texas
1. Native Animals in Texas
Some of the native animals found in Texas are species that are seen across the entirety of the United States. This includes raccoons, coyotes, white-tailed deer, the Mexican free-tailed bat, and gray squirrels.
However, many native animals to Texas are unique and harder to spot in other states. Because of Texas’s proximity to Mexico, many species that cannot be found in most North American states migrate to southern Texas. This makes for a diverse grouping of native wildlife.
Texas rat snake
Scientific name: Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri
This non venomous rat snake can be found all over the state of Texas, and have been found as far as Louisiana and Arkansas. They can reach as long as six feet, and can act aggressive towards humans. However, their bites are relatively harmless.
Northern black-bellied whistling duck
Scientific name: Dendrocygna autumnalis autumnalis
These animals thrive in the warm climates of Texas and Mexico, and in recent years their numbers have been rapidly increasing. They prefer to nest on the ground near shallow water such as ponds. In northern areas they sometimes move further south for the winter.
The Texas Horned Lizard
This lizard (pictured above) belongs to a larger family of reptiles with spiky bodies. Total, the family comprises about 14 species that can be found in North America. However, the Texas horned lizard only ranges from Colorado to Kansas, then down into northern Mexico.
This lizard is sometimes referred to as a “horny toad” due to its flat body. When looking for one of these reptiles in Texas, look at arid habitats that have open areas. The Texas horned lizard prefers sparse plant cover rather than very wooded or forested areas.
The species nests and hibernates in the ground, so always look down for the best chance to spot one of these lizards as they may be sitting in loose sand or soil. The Texas horned lizard is listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List.
The white-nosed coati is a threatened species in Texas, primarily found in woodlands and canyons. They are widely found in Mexico and Central America but range up into southern Texas.
The coati belongs to the Procyonidae family, along with raccoons and ringtails. They’re small carnivorous animals that mainly feed on insects, small rodents, and lizards. The species is relatively social and lives in troops, mostly consisting of related females.
The Texas tortoise is another threatened species that are native to Texas. This unique tortoise has horned plates on its shell, making it stand out from other similar species. Although they can eat meat, they’re mostly known to be gentle animals that prefer eating vegetarian diets.
Unfortunately, the species has been exploited for the pet trade, leading to their status being listed as threatened in 1977. Since then, the species has been given protection by both the federal government and the state government in Texas to ensure the species does not further fall in population size.
This native Texas fox is about the size of a typical house cat with the distinctive fluffy tail and long snout characteristic of most fox species. You’re most likely to spot this fox in open landscapes like deserts or grasslands in Texas. Since they are carnivores and hunt small mammals, lizards, and amphibians, they generally prefer having ample space to roam.
Many ranchers in Texas report seeing the swift fox often as the species has adapted to hunt and live on cultivated landscapes and ranches. However, this is primarily only in the western third of the state.
Western ribbon snake
Scientific name: Thamnophis proximus
This type of garter snake is common in western regions like Texas, Mexico, and Central America. These snakes can be recognized by their three stripes. They are harmless snakes that only reach about 30 inches long.
2. Dangerous Animals in Texas
There are several dangerous species to keep your distance from in Texas. Although some of the following species are venomous, others simply pack a mean bite. Regardless, always be sure to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. This ensures your safety as well as the safety of the animals.
The top six most dangerous animals in Texas include:
- Snakes like the western diamondback rattlesnake and the timber rattlesnake
- Spiders like the black widow
- The American alligator
- Kissing bugs, also known as cone-nose bugs and chinches
- Mountain lions (primarily found in West Texas)
Even for species not mentioned here, remember that different animals carry diseases that can be transferred to humans. Therefore, always keep a safe distance to avoid disease transfer or injuries.
Scientific name: Crotalus atrox
This snake species is one of the most dangerous for humans, and responsible for the most snake bites in the United States. It’s extremely venomous and can reach up to 72 inches long.
In total, there are at least 10 species of rattlesnakes found in the state of Texas. Among these are the western diamondback, the Mojave rattlesnake, the prairie rattlesnake, and the desert rattlesnake to name a few.
Scientific name: Alligator mississippiensis
The American Alligator is a massive reptile native to the Southern U.S. While they are commonly associated with Florida or Louisiana, these creatures are just as likely to be found in Texas. They can reach over eight feet long and weigh half a ton.
Scientific name: Puma concolor
Cougars are one of the most widespread mammals in the country, and can be found from Canada to Texas and South America. Attacks by cougars aren’t common, but there have been instances of them going after lone hikers.
3. Endangered Animals in Texas
There are around 74 endangered species in Texas and around 148 threatened species in the state. Some of the most commonly known endangered species are birds, such as the whooping crane, the most endangered bird in all of the United States. Other endangered birds in the state include:
- Southwestern willow flycatcher
- Red-cockaded woodpecker
- Northern aplomado falcon
In addition to birds, several fish and amphibians are listed as endangered in the state, like the Houston toad, Texas blind salamander, and the Leon Springs pupfish.
Mammals such as the ocelot, red wolf, jaguar, and gray wolf are all on the endangered species list in Texas and are protected under both state and federal laws to outlaw hunting and habitat destruction.
Scientific name: Mustela nigripes
The black footed ferret is a small mammal native to North America that is currently endangered. While populations are increasing, ferrets newly introduced to the wild are more at risk for predator attacks.
Scientific name: Leopardus pardalis albescens
These medium sized wild cats are easily recognizable for their spotted coat and ringed tail. They are nocturnal and spend the night hunting small rodents and other animals. The subspecies of Ocelot found in Texas is federally endangered, and under a thousand are thought to still be in the wild.
Scientific name: Grus americana
This crane, named after the whooping noise it makes, is one of only two crane species native to North America. There are only about five hundred that have survived thanks to conservation efforts. The Whooping Crane is the tallest and rarest bird in North America
4. Invasive Animals in Texas
Over the years, different animals have found a new home in Texas due to human activity. These are now considered invasive species, and sometimes, these animals negatively impact the environment and native wildlife.
Some examples of invasive species in Texas include:
- Zebra Mussels
- Feral Hogs
- Red fire ants
- Black tiger shrimp
- Asian clams
- Asian carp
Many of the aquatic invasive species have made their way to Texas by boat from other countries that have fished these species and carried them into the United States, where they’ve been able to take over the new habitat.
Scientific name: Sus scrofa
Feral hogs have caused a lot of damage in Texas, and it is estimated that around two million can currently be found in the state. These invasive species can also pose a threat to humans as they have been known to attack without being provoked.
Scientific name: Cyprinus carpio
Texas waters are full of more than one kind of invasive Asian carp. They can harm the state’s fisheries and disrupt the natural food chain. Some carp species have even been known to jump out of the water and hit people or land in their boats.
List of Texas State Animals
Texas has eight official state animals! Since the state is so rich in wildlife, it was only suitable to have more than one official species representing them. The species chosen include:
1. Texas Small State Mammal: Nine-banded armadillo
Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus
The nine-banded Armadillo became the small state mammal in 1995. It earned the title after an elementary school’s mock election tied the armadillo with the longhorn for state mammal.
The longhorn subsequently became the large state mammal. They range from Oklahoma to Mississippi but are most commonly spotted in Texas.
This armadillo species is the only one native to North America, and can even be found up north in Oklahoma. They’ve gained a reputation in Texas for wandering in front of cars.
2. Texas State Bird: Northern mockingbird
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
The Northern Mockingbird is quite common in Texas, and officially became the state bird in 1927. It was nominated when the General Federation of Women’s Clubs suggested each state select a bird to represent them.
Governor Dan Moody approved this measure and Texas became the first state to select a bird mascot. Since the bird is found in all parts of the state, it was the obvious choice.
3. Texas Large State Mammal: Texas longhorn
Scientific name: Bos taurus taurus
The Texas longhorn was officially made the large state mammal in 1995 when the armadillo and Mexican free-tailed bat were named state animals. The longhorn has long represented the culture of Texas and the state’s connection to Mexican species.
This cattle species became popular in Texas in the late 1800s during cattle drives. Ten million longhorns were driven from Mexico and into Texas during the Civil War. Their horns can reach seven feet long from one tip to the other.
Longhorns became the state’s large mammal at the same time the nine-banded armadillo became the state’s small mammal.
4. Texas Flying State Mammal: Mexican free-tailed bat
These bats can only be found in Texas during the warmest months of the year; however, there is such a large population of the species seen throughout the summer months that it was named the flying state mammal in 1995.
5. Texas State Dog: Blue lacy
Although not wildlife, the blue lacy represents the state of Texas along with the other state species. The breed was named the state dog in 2005 after being popular for many years on ranches. The breed is great for herding, ranch work, and hunting, making them an obvious addition to any Texas ranch!
6. Texas State Reptile: Texas horned lizard
The Texas horned lizard was named the state’s reptile in 1993 due to its population size and overall popularity. Since the species is thorny on the outside with a docile and peaceful personality, the state legislature felt it was a great fit to represent Texas.
7. Texas State Insect: Monarch butterfly
Also adopted as a state animal in 1993 was the monarch butterfly. This species lays its eggs in Texas, making it a breeding ground for the insect. This is one of the factors that led to the butterfly being named a state insect.
8. Texas State Fish: Guadalupe bass
The Guadalupe bass has a fighting spirit and grew in popularity with Texas fishers making it an excellent choice for the state fish. The species is exclusively found in the fast-running streams and rivers in Texas. Texas legislature found that since the fish was thriving in the state’s waterways, it’s a true testament to how clean and pure their landscape is.
Summary of Texas’s Wild Animals
As a warm-weather state that shares a border with Mexico, Texas has a vast diversity in its wildlife. This makes it ideal for wildlife photographers, conservationists, and enthusiasts.
When exploring all that Texas has to offer, be sure always to keep a safe distance from wildlife to avoid injury or stress both for yourself and the species you’re observing. This is the best way to conserve all that Texas has to offer and maintain the crucial landscapes that these animals call home!