Kentucky Animals: Pictures and ID Tips

picture of a Riverboat on the river in Kentucky

One quick look at a hydrological map of Kentucky shows an extensive water system with literally the entire state populated by a myriad of rivers and lakes. Along with a set of diverse ecosystems such as the Appalachian mountains in the east, the central rolling hills and grasslands, and the Mississippi River Valley on the western edge of the state, Kentucky is host to a large diversity of animals including birds and insects. this guide provides an introduction to Kentucky animals that includes pictures and identification tips for many of them. The buttons at the bottom of the page point to more detailed information. As time permits, the detailed list will grow.

picture of an Eastern Gray Squirrel, Kentucky animals
It’s tough to discuss Kentucky animals without first mentioning the state’s most famous mammals, thoroughbred horses. Lexington, the self-described capital of the thoroughbred world sits almost in the center of the bluegrass region. Like many states, Kentucky honors a variety of animals as official state symbols and the thoroughbred horse is designated as the official state horse. From large to small, the Eastern gray squirrel is designated as the official state game animal.

Perhaps the top ten most common native mammals that residents and visitors will see are:

  • White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
  • Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
  • Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
  • Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
  • Groundhog (Marmota monax)
  • Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
  • Coyote (Canis latrans)
  • American Beaver (Castor canadensis)
  • Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  • Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Interestingly enough, while larger predators such as bobcats and bears can be found in Kentucky, their geographical distribution remains uneven. Black bears, for example are mostly concentrated in the southeastern counties of the Appalachian region. Bobcats on the other hand, can be found in every county of the state.

Kentucky Animals: Amphibians and Reptiles

picture of a Mud Salamander
Amphibians and Reptiles fit nicely into the larger Kentucky animals kingdom, and Kentucky’s mild weather and diverse ecosystems support over one hundred such species. Close to one third of them are snakes, including non-venomous species such as the garter snake and the venomous copperhead and timber rattlesnake. The state also has several species of turtles, such as the eastern box turtle and the common snapping turtle. And lastly, lizards such as the five-lined skink and eastern fence lizard can be found in some parts of the state.

picture of an American Toad
In the amphibian category, salamander species lead the way with a combined thirty mole and lungless salamander species documented. According to Kentucky Woodlands Magazine

Salamander diversity varies throughout the Commonwealth. The Cumberland Plateau is home to 26 species, and many of Kentucky’s salamanders are only found in this region.

The picture shows a mud salamander, part of the lungless salamander group. The red body makes them easy to spot in clear water and close to the water’s edge.

The most common species of frogs are the American bullfrog, green frog, and southern leopard frog. Toads such as the eastern American toad (pictured), Fowler’s toad, and Great Plains toad can also be found in the state. And salamanders, such as the eastern hellbender, eastern mud salamander, and eastern newt, can also be found in some parts of the state.

Kentucky Birds

picture of a Cardinal, the state bird of Kentucky
Ebird reports that Kentucky birders in all one hundred and twenty counties have documented close to four hundred bird species. Cardinals, the official state bird, are year round residents, and are accompanied by close to three dozen additional birds that visit back yard feeders.

Year round birders can take their pick of birding hotspots throughout the state as Ebird also records over fifty different areas that regularly report around two hundred or more species.

picture of a Double-breasted Cormorant that has caught a fish
Bountiful water areas also means ducks and other water fowl can be found throughout the state during the winters. Larger water birds such as herons cormorants can often be found fishing at the local ponds. The picture shows a Double-breasted Cormorant with a fish.