Animals in Idaho offers the visitor magnificent mountains, forests, farmlands, and rivers in its landscapes. Idaho is home to a diverse wildlife population. There are well over 300 animal species living in the forests and over 100 species of fish living in the rivers and streams. The prairies and rocky areas of Idaho also serve as natural habitats for many of the state’s snakes and reptiles. The western rattlesnake, gopher, and North American racer can be seen on the prairies. We are going to look at 10 fantastic animals that you will not want to miss seeing if you are a visitor to Idaho.
You can find this beauty, the Prairie Rattlesnake, throughout the plains of Idaho, where it abounds – all 5 feet of them! It has a triangular head and body that are covered in dark blotches. As these blotches go down to the tail they start looking like rings. The Prairie Rattlesnake is thermosensitive. That means it can detect heat very well because it has a heat-sensitive pit on each side of its head, situated between the nostrils and the eyes. This snake enjoys the open grassland and prairies, but it has been known to enjoy forests as well. He will use his tail to make a rattling noise and this is intended to scare off his predators. The number of chambers in a snake’s rattle will depend on how often it has shed its skin. If a snake grows too big for its skin, it will shed that skin so it can keep growing. They usually shed two times a year. They enjoy all sorts of prey and this can include mice, small birds, gophers, small mammals, and prairie dogs. They hunt for these animals using their sense of smell, sight, and hearing. This rattlesnake uses its tongue to smell. It sticks its tongue in and out. They will hunt until they are within striking distance, then its venomous fangs fold down onto the prey. He will strike and inject venom into its prey and then wait for the animal to die. Then it will eat its prey whole. But it has to be careful because it can also be eaten by its predators. The Red-tailed Hawk and Golden Eagle will easily prey on it. During winter, it is too cold for the snake to be active which means they must bromate. This is a time of sluggishness and less activity. Snakes don’t sleep during brumation. They just become lethargic. They will bromate in dens, creeping under rocky outcrops or finding an underground hole, coming out when the weather starts warming up.
Wolverines are also known as carcajou or skunk bears. They look a bit like small bears so it’s difficult to think that this big creature is a member of the weasel family. It lives in cold parts of North America, particularly in the timbered areas. It grows about 41 inches long and has a bushy tail which grows to about 10 inches long. It stands 18 inches at shoulder height and weighs 66 pounds. It has short bowed legs, with semi-retractile claws that are long and sharp. It has short ears and strong teeth. It has coarse, long, blackish-brown hair, with a light brown stripe that extends from each side of the neck along the body. It has plenty of strength and fearlessness. It is a solitary hunter that searches for food at night, preying on all sorts of game, not afraid to attack deer, sheep, wolves, and small bears. They will scavenge the carcass of caribou, elk, and other animals. They mark their territory with their scent. It will range over long distances to find food. They are fantastic climbers and often are seen resting in evergreen trees. It might not be an endangered species yet, but its numbers are declining, particularly near human populations.
The Mountain bluebird is like a small thrush that is easily identified by its bright blue plumage – the brightest out of all the North American bluebirds. The female is mainly a grey color with a bluish tint over her wings and tail. They breed in grassland with scattered shrubs and thickets, tundra, and prairie forests. They also look for cavities to nest in and they spend the winters in grassland with trees, bush, lowlands, farmland, and different types of forest areas. During the breeding season, they are seen alone, in pairs, or even in family groups. Sometimes you can see them in flocks, as many as 30 at a time. They migrate north to the warmer areas and during this migration period, they will often stop to feed. They are omnivores, eating mainly insects. They also enjoy matter from certain plants such as fruits, berries, and seeds. A lot of Native Americans consider this beautiful bird to be a sacred symbol because of that majestic azure color like the ocean.
These spotted horses have been around for years and years. This one, the Appaloosa, has been capturing the hearts of young children and horse lovers for centuries; filling people with romantic and adventurous dreams. Not only do they have a striking appearance, but their personalities are so beguiling as well. They are gentle, friendly, and loyal, a true companion if you have even been fortunate enough to own one. They weigh around 1200 pounds, standing about 60 inches from the ground. Their bodies are muscular and their coat is mottled. They have striped hooves and sparse manes and tails. They live to be about 20 years. People referred to these horses as Palouse horses, but they later became known as Appaloosas. The base color of the Appaloosa can be blue roan, red roan, bay roan, gray, chestnut, palomino, chestnut, cremello/perlino, dun, grulla, buckskin, black, brown, dark bay, or bay. It certainly is an eye-catching horse. These animals in idaho eat food typical of a horse diet, i.e. fresh grass, top-quality hay, fruit, veggies, and grains. If they can’t be free to graze happily, they will need vitamins and supplements and minerals to keep them healthy and active. These wonderful horses became the state domestic mammal in 1975. The Appaloosa breed was virtually forgotten until an article in the Western Horseman magazine in 1937 made people interested again. It led to the formation of the Appaloosa Horse Club in 1938. Can you remember folk singer Fred Small’s song, “The Heart of the Appaloosa?”
The peregrine falcon became the state raptor of Idaho back in 2004. If you are anywhere in Idaho, look out for him soaring high above the Idaho fields and forests. This bird has the title of being one of the fastest birds in the world. It lives along the rivers and in the mountains. Sometimes it will nest on buildings in urban areas. It is unbelievable to think that a bird like this was almost totally eradicated from pesticide poisoning in the 20th century. But recovery efforts, fortunately, have seen it rebound. Who wants to lose out on seeing this spectacular flight of the bird which can see it swooping towards prey at 320 km an hour! The oldest recorded Peregrine Falcon lived to be 19 years and 9 months old. Did you know that the Peregrine falcon is also called the Duck Hawk? The color of this bird is bluish-grey with black bars on its whitish underparts. They reach around 19 inches in length. They mostly inhabit open rocky countryside. It feeds mostly on other birds. It likes to catch pigeons around the city as well as ducks and shorebirds will be swiped along the coast. It will every now and then eat small mammals, but seldom eats insects, and rarely carrion.
The grizzly bear is a well-known predator on the list of animals in idaho and actually can be called very dangerous if you provoke them. Adults can grow anything from five feet to eight feet and weighs as much as 800 pounds. He is large and ranges in color from a teddy bear color of light tan to almost white but he can be dark brown as well. Their ears are short. It has a kind of hump at the shoulder and it’s actually where there is a muscle attached to the bear’s backbone. This gives the bear extra strength for digging. Don’t go near a grizzly bear when it’s got its cubs with it – it can turn pretty aggressive if it thinks its cubs are being threatened. Grizzly bears feed on insects, grass, herbs, tubers, sedges, roots, and berries. It also enjoys salmon from the rivers, even deer, moose, mice, and ground squirrels. Grizzly bears used to inhabit all parts of Idaho, but now they are only found in the northern parts as well as being in existence near the Yellowstone National Park. They like forest areas that have meadows and grasslands. This big bear doesn’t really hibernate at all; they more enter a state of torpor. This is almost like hibernation but not really. It’s when their body temperature dips to about 35°C, and their heart rate slows to around 8-19 beats per minute.
Great Basin rattlesnake
Rattlesnakes are snakes that will only attack if disturbed. For instance, if you surprise it or provoke it, you are going to hear the rattle of its tail, and then you need to give it its space! You might have come across it sunning itself on rocks or near the road. If you do get bitten by a rattlesnake, consider it dangerous and needing to get to medical care straight away. They can be anything from 3 to 5 feet long. Their color matches the environment; it can be pale grey, light yellow, tan, or buff-colored. On the back, there are dark blotches with light color in the centers. There are two light stripes that extend diagonally across the side of the head but sometimes they are pale so as not to notice them. This snake is nocturnal. It will be active in the daytime when the weather is warm and not hot. It is not active in the cooler winter months. They have long and hollow but moveable fangs which are connected to the venom glands. If a fang becomes broken, it gets replaced. When it injects venom, it can actually control the amount of venom it injects. This snake eats mammals, including mice, rats, squirrels, hares, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, insects, and frogs. It finds its prey as it moves along. It has to watch out for birds such as hawks who consider it a tasty meal.
The Bison is another one of the animals in Idaho that is on the list of dangerous species. If you had to see the size of these animals in real life, you would understand that that makes perfect sense. Can you believe that the male bison weighs around 2000 pounds? They can grow to a height of six or seven feet. They are also known to be very territorial so if you are found wandering in places where you shouldn’t be, and its Bison’s territory, you can easily risk injury and even death. They are known to charge at a speed of up to 35 mph. One unique trait about the bison is its big hump on its shoulders along with its deep brown fur, long mane, and beard. Have you noticed how big the head of the bison is? They fight other bison by crashing their heads or horns together. Because of human intervention, the Bison has been confined mainly to wild parks and reserves. Your best bet of seeing these would be for a visit to the Yellowstone National Park. They love the open plains, savannas, and grasslands. They still need to look out for predators despite their size – these can be wolf packs and grizzly bears. They are herbivores and enjoy eating growing grasses and sedges – they constantly move as they eat. They like being in groups and communicating by hearing and smell. Bison can live to be about 20 years. Fortunately, the National Wildlife Federation is actively working to restore some populations of wild bison. Sometimes they are called buffalo, but in actual fact, they are not related to the true buffalo species of Asia and Africa.
The ring-neck duck are animals in Idaho that can live to between 15 and 2 years. Its length is 46 cm and its wingspan 63 cm. It weighs about 910 grams. You will recognize them by the two white rings that surround their grey bill. Their heads are shiny and black with a black back and a white line on their wings. Their breast is white. They have a cinnamon-colored neck ring which is not always easy to notice. The bird is often called a “ring bill”. In Idaho, they like to inhabit wooded lake areas or rivers, ponds, bays, freshwater marshes, or floodplains. These gorgeous ducks are active in the daytime and spend their time feeding and resting or sunbathing. They are social birds and can be seen in flocks, sometimes around 40 in a flock. They migrate to escape the winter months and during this migrating season, it is possible to witness around 10,000 birds at one time. They feed by dabbling at the surface of the water or else they will dive down to depths of about 10 meters. They aren’t noisy birds but when disturbed or when flying, the females might produce a high-pitched growl sound. These birds are omnivores, feeding mainly on aquatic plants like wild rice, coontail, leaves, and stems, water lilies, and algae, etc. Sometimes they eat snails, insects, and leeches.
The woodland caribou should not be confused with the more abundant barren-ground caribou. They used to range all over the USA, but now this magnificent creature is confined to extreme north of Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains. The woodland caribou is also known as boreal woodland caribou, forest-dwelling caribou, or boreal forest caribou. This is the largest of the caribou subspecies. It is dark-colored with a small mane and antlers. Unfortunately, these magnificent creatures have become a rare sight but fortunately, work is being done to try and increase their numbers. These animals in Idaho love feeding on lichen-rich mature forests. You will find them in marshes or bogs, in fact, near any bodies of water. This creature is very sensitive to disturbance of its natural habitat or being encroached on by industrial development. They also have to watch out for their natural predators which are lynx, wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears. They don’t mind cold temperature and have adapted to a thick long coat and blunt muzzle with short ears and tails. They communicate with clicking sounds and grunts. They have an excellent sense of smell so they can dig out food from the snow. They are smart, cunning, and elusive creatures, freezing to absolute stillness in times of danger. They can run at speeds of around 35 mph. It can weigh around 210 kg.
Animal lovers who enjoyed reading about the Animals in Idaho, will love:
- Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
- Camas National Wildlife Refuge
- Tubbs Hill Park and Nature Trail
- Caribou Targhee National Forest
- Sawtooth National Forest
- Boise National Forest
- Lake Minidoka and Lake Walcott Wildlife Refuge
Also take a look at our Wildlife in North America blog.