Maybe you’re vaguely aware that your state has an official bird. If that’s all you know, you’re missing out on a virtual zoo of official animal symbols. Apparently there’s so much demand for the designation of state animals that they’re now often broken down into taxa: Instead of or in addition to a state animal, states may have official reptiles, insects, crustaceans, or dog breeds. Some even break down mammals into further categories, like marine mammals and even migratory marine mammals.
Some of these lists of official symbols are so long that they can seem a bit much, but they can also be a fun way to learn more about the history and flora and fauna of our country. It’s easy to disregard the animals in our own backyards and think that exotic creatures like pandas and lions are more exciting. But these familiar creatures have just as rich a natural history, and they may also be in need of protection. The United States is full of animal diversity, which inspired Stacker to compile a list of each state's official mammals based on the Wikipedia list of state mammals (last updated February 2020). We researched one official mammal from each for quiz questions. See how many you can guess from our hints about their characteristics. Note that some states still haven’t jumped on the official mammal bandwagon, so for those, we’ve chosen a mammal that lives in the state that perhaps they ought to consider.
Even though it’s restricted to just mammals, the answers to our quiz represent an exciting diversity of species, from animals that weigh half an ounce all the way up to animals whose weight can be measured in tons. Some are endangered, while some are probably in your own backyard right now. All are part of rich ecosystems worthy of conservation.
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Alabama has two state mammals. One is the American black bear. The other is a large, gentle aquatic creature that feeds on underwater vegetation and lives in coastal and river environments. This animal and its kin are more closely related to elephants than whales.
- State mammals: American black bear, West Indian manatee
Alaska has two state mammals. One is the bowhead whale. The other is the largest member of the deer family. Its name is borrowed from a term in one of the Algonquian family of languages that means ‘eater of twigs,’ because it’s so big that it’s easier for them to browse trees and shrubs than bend down to eat grasses.
- State mammals: Bowhead whale, moose
Despite its name, this state mammal is not a feline; it’s more closely related to the raccoon. They’re experts at climbing—they can even climb vertical walls and cactuses—partly because their back feet can rotate 180 degrees, making it easy for them to climb back down.
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- State mammal: Ring-tailed cat
Most predators of this widespread American ungulate, including the grey wolf, have been eliminated from much of their range. This results in overpopulation and, along with human development taking over their habitat, the result is that this animal is increasingly seen in suburbs.
California has two officially designated mammals. The state marine mammal is a crustacean-eating animal that can grow 50 feet in length. The official state animal is a large mammal that’s so identified with the state that it’s got California in its name and appears on the state flag.
- State mammals: California grizzly bear, gray whale
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Colorado’s state mammal is related to a familiar type of domestic livestock and is the largest wild member of its family in North America. These animals have impressive horns that form curls in the males; these are not shed seasonally but retained throughout their lives.
- State mammal: Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Connecticut boasts an official mammal that is the largest of its family: Males can weigh up to 45 tons. The giant animal lives in deep oceans all over the world, with a name derived from the substance this endangered marine mammal was once hunted for.
- State mammal: Sperm whale
This state mammal is closely related to a much more familiar wild canine, one easily recognized by its red coat. This canine cousin differs both in color and by its ability to climb trees. Although elusive and rarely seen, they’re fairly common in the eastern and southern United States.
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- State mammal: Gray fox
Florida has three official mammals. Two are aquatic, while the state also recognizes a large land carnivore. It’s an endangered subspecies of a more widely distributed North American animal—once found throughout the southeast, only about 100 still remain in the wilds of Florida.
- State mammals: Florida panther, manatee, porpoise or dolphin
Georgia has two official mammals. One is the popular white-tailed deer. The other is a marine mammal that can grow up to 52 feet long on a diet of incredibly tiny crustaceans that they filter out of the ocean waters. They have characteristic patches of whitish rough skin on their heads that can be used to tell individuals apart.
Hawaii recognizes three mammals. Two of them are the humpback whale and the Hawaiian hoary bat. The third is the only marine mammal whose range is exclusively U.S. waters. While hunting their diet of marine creatures, they can dive more than 900 feet below sea level. This is an endangered species, with only around 1,000 left in the wild.
- State mammals: Hawaiian monk seal, humpback whale, Hawaiian hoary bat
Idaho has no state mammal, but here’s one they should consider: The state is home to a native North American ungulate that is the second fastest land mammal on Earth. They’ve also got stamina: They can maintain a fast speed for longer than a cheetah, and some herds make a yearly migration of 300 miles round trip.
- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Pronghorn antelope
This state’s official mammal is a common American ungulate that flashes the white underside of its tail when it sees a predator. The males have antlers that they shed and regrow every year.
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Indiana has no state mammal, but they could consider this one: A resident of rivers in the state, it has fur that repels water and can hold its breath up to eight minutes. Once designated as an endangered species in the state, it’s been removed from the list after a successful reintroduction project.
- State mammal: None
- Proposed: River otter
Iowa has no state mammal, but it could consider this one. What would be more distinctive as a state symbol than a black and white striped animal that defends itself with a terrible smell?
This state's mammal is also the official national mammal of the United States. They once roamed the continent in herds numbering in the millions but by the 19th century had been hunted nearly to extinction.
- State mammal: American bison
This state mammal is one of the most familiar in the eastern U.S., living in woodlands but also suburbs and cities. Although named after their typical color, they may sometimes have black fur. Research has shown that they are amazingly good at remembering where they have buried nuts.
- State mammal: Gray squirrel
Louisiana has its own subspecies of this large mammal that's found throughout North America. These opportunistic omnivores eat whatever they can find—from seasonal fruits to human garbage—and can weigh more than 600 pounds.
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- State mammal: Black bear
Maine has two state mammals. One is the moose, and the other is a breed of one of the most common household pets. With a long coat and tufted paws that help it walk on snow, it developed naturally to deal with harsh Maine winters and they’re said to be surprisingly fond of water.
- State mammals: Moose, Maine coon cat
Maryland’s state mammal is unusual in that it’s not a specific species or breed, but rather a coat color. This coat pattern is seen almost solely in females of this common type of pet, and it consists of distinct patches of white, orange, and black, similar to the coloration of the state’s official bird and butterfly.
- State mammal: Calico cat
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Massachusetts has a state marine mammal, the right whale, but its other official mammal is found closer to home—maybe even in your home. Like Maryland’s choice, it’s not a breed or species, but a common coat color. The law doesn’t define it specifically, but no need, because everyone recognizes this pattern of stripes.
- State mammals: Right whale, tabby cat
Although this common American herbivore is much beloved—it was the subject of a classic Disney movie—it's also considered a nuisance by gardeners and farmers whose plants it finds delicious, and their overabundance can change forest ecosystems.
Minnesota has no official mammal, but here’s one option: This wetland resident is the only mammal other than beavers that builds a home in the water. Its predators when on land include foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and humans that trap it for its fur.
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- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Muskrat
Mississippi has three official mammals. Two are the white-tailed deer and the bottlenose dolphin. The third is a small carnivore that’s found over much of the world including Europe, Asia, and North America, and is a common character in fairy tales and folklore. They’re adaptable animals with a varied diet so although they’re not often seen, they commonly live among us in suburbs and cities.
- State mammals: White-tailed deer, red fox, bottlenose dolphin
Missouri has no state mammal, but they do have a big cat native to North America that has several common names. Like many big predators, its range decreased along with increasing human settlement, and it was considered officially extirpated in this state. However, there are confirmed sightings, thought to be young males searching for territory.
This state’s mammal is a large opportunistic omnivore that can weigh up to 1,700 pounds. They consume a lot of plant material but also hunt for food—they particularly love salmon and can even catch small deer. They retreat to warm dens in the winter to hibernate and give birth to their young.
- State mammal: Grizzly bear
Adults of this state’s official mammal have solid brown coats, but the young have a dappled white pattern that helps camouflage them from predators.
This state’s pick is a subspecies of a horned mammal we’ve seen earlier in this quiz. They live in small herds and are adapted to their rocky desert habitat with agility in climbing and the ability to go for a long time without water.
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- State mammal: Desert bighorn sheep
New Hampshire has two state mammals. One is the ever-popular white-tailed deer, and the other is an animal that sometimes eats small deer, although its diet is more commonly rabbits and rodents. Once hunted as a predator on livestock, populations have rebounded since New Hampshire stopped allowing hunting in 1989. Their name comes from their characteristic short “bobbed” tail.
- State mammals: White-tailed deer, bobcat
New Jersey has no state mammal, but despite its reputation as a place of cities and factories, that’s not for lack of native fauna. One that’s particularly special is a small mammal that can glide through the air using a flap of skin that extends between its front and back legs.
- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Flying squirrel
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This large mammal is named after its color but in New Mexico is seen with other colors of coat including most commonly a cinnamon brown. Despite their large size (400 pounds is common), they're adept climbers that can scramble up a tree with surprising speed and ease.
- State mammal: American black bear
New York's state mammal is the largest North American rodent: It can be up to 65 pounds and 4 feet long. It spends most of its life in the water, with special adaptations for swimming including a flat tail, webbed hind feet, and ears and nose that can close underwater.
This state has two official mammals. One is the gray squirrel. The other is the only marsupial found in North America. They’re most renowned for their habit of “playing dead” when threatened. They can hang from branches using their prehensile tails and have a clawless toe that works much like an opposable thumb.
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- State mammals: Gray squirrel, Virginia opossum
North Dakota has no state mammal, but here’s a particularly interesting one that resides in the state: A member of the mustelid (weasel) family with a diet that’s mostly made up of prairie dogs, this animal was close to extinction when the last remaining population was taken into captivity in the 1980s. It’s now been the subject of a successful program of captive breeding and reintroduction.
- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Black-footed ferret
This common ungulate is the primary host for the tick that transmits Lyme disease. The prevalence of this disease has been found to correlate with the density of this animal's population in an area.
Oklahoma has four state mammals, including the bison, Mexican free-tailed bat, and white-tailed deer. The fourth is a familiar masked creature that has adapted to living among us in cities and suburbs. They’re nocturnal and will eat almost anything—including the contents of our trash cans.
- State mammals: Bison, Mexican free-tailed bat, raccoon, white-tailed deer
Oregon’s state mammal is renowned for its ability to transform the landscape using its ever-growing rodent teeth to cut down trees that they use to build dams. These create ponds where the animals build their underwater lodges. They were once important to the economy of the state when they were hunted for their fur.
This official mammal often bears twins or triplets and it’s estimated that its population in the state is now more than three times what it was before Europeans settled in North America and killed off most of its predators. Human hunters are now this creature’s biggest predator.
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Rhode Island’s state mammal is one of the most common marine mammals on the East Coast. These chubby cuties with dog-like snouts can sleep underwater and their pups can swim as soon as they are born. They only need to come up for air once in 30 minutes.
- State mammal: Harbor seal
South Carolina has a number of officially recognized mammals: the white-tailed deer, the right whale, and an official state dog, among others. Its official marine mammal is probably the most well known and beloved of them all. This beaked cetacean has a sophisticated system of communication with squeaks, clicks, and whistles and breathes through a blowhole on top of its head.
- State mammals: White-tailed deer, bottlenose dolphin, right whale
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This state honors a native canine that was once found only in the central U.S. and Mexico but has now expanded its range across the continent. This adaptable predator has learned to live among humans, even in cities, partly by changing its behavior to be more nocturnal. Although this proximity makes many fear for their pets, studies have shown that most of their diet is rodent, fruit, deer, and rabbit, not pets or trash.
- State mammal: Coyote
Tennessee has no state mammal but it could consider this one: The largest of the squirrel family (it can weigh up to 14 pounds), this creature resides in burrows that it digs. A widely celebrated bit of folklore is based on this animal coming out of its burrow in early spring. It has two common names, and a less common one: whistle pig, for the sound it makes.
- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Woodchuck/groundhog
Texas has three official mammals, two of which are the Texas longhorn and Mexican free-tailed bat. The third is the only member of its armor-covered family that lives in North America. They almost always have litters of four identical quadruplets, and they’re the only animal aside from humans that carries leprosy, so they’re used to study the disease.
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- State mammals: Nine-banded armadillo, Texas longhorn, Mexican free-tailed bat
Utah’s state mammal is one of the largest members of the deer family, with males as tall as 5 feet high at the shoulder. The males’ antlers drop off in the winter and grow back in the spring, at a rate of up to an inch a day.
- State mammal: Rocky Mountain elk
This state’s official animal is a breed of a domesticated mammal. The breed is named after the man who lived in Vermont and owned its founding sire. It’s known for its good temperament and versatility.
The state mammal of Virginia has ears more than an inch long, which is pretty big (hint, hint) for an animal that weighs less than half an ounce. It lives in caves and feeds on moths and other insects.
- State mammal: Virginia big-eared bat
Washington has two official mammals, one of which is the orca. The other is a rodent about the size of a cat with a long bushy tail. This species is found only on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. They live only in mountain meadows over 4,000 feet in elevation and spend the summer eating plants to store up fat for a winter hibernation that lasts seven to eight months.
- State mammals: Orca, Olympic marmot
West Virginia has no official mammal, but here’s a possible choice that would stand out. This semi-arboreal creature has an unusual diet in that it specializes in eating the inner layer of tree bark. But its most distinctive quality should be a dead giveaway: It is covered with up to 30,000 needle-sharp quills.
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- State mammal: None
- Proposed: Porcupine
Wisconsin has two state mammals, one of which is the white-tailed deer. The other is an expert digger that uses this ability to search for prey such as gophers and moles. They’re reportedly able to dig through 2 inches of concrete.
- State mammals: American badger, white-tailed deer
The nation's largest mammal has the official designation of Wyoming’s state mammal. Males can stand up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to a ton. They can interbreed with cattle, and the only genetically pure population lives in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.