Mammals of New York

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They look like mice, but they are not rodents at all. These elusive little creatures are difficult to identify. To tell them apart from mice and rats, look for tiny eyes, and apparent lack of external ears. To tell different shrews apart? Pay attention to the details. 

Mice and ratsMice and Rats

Although commonly found around the house or farm as pests or pets, some of these critters are native to the woods and meadows of upstate NY. These rodents can be found indoors or out. Don’t confuse them with Shrews or even Moles. 


Most mole sightings are of dead moles. It is not surprising considering they are underground dwellers that rarely greet us on the surface. We have three species in NY State. Identifying them should be fairly easy. 


Easy to identify by their winged forelimbs, large ears and nocturnal behavior. They are generally small and almost exclusively insectivorous. In fact, they play a large role in controlling insect populations in the world. Bats are known to carry rabies in NY State and should not be handled. 


These rodents are easily identified by their large bushy tails, streamlined bodies and food hoarding habits. The groundhog is a squirrel, but not very streamlined. Click here to identify that squirrel that has been stealing all of your birdseed.  

Rabbits of New YorkRabbits

As nature’s “prey of choice”, rabbits have many adaptations to escape hungry predators. Their large ears, short tails, strong hind legs, and ability to multiply rapidly are all strategies to proliferate when found on so many menus. There are three varieties of rabbit in our area. 

Weasel-like animalsWeasel-like mammals

These animals all have long, slender bodies, stubby limbs, triangular heads and whiskers. They are excellent hunters. These are arguably the most playful, yet elusive of NY’s mammals.

Opossum - MarsupialOpossums

There’s only one marsupial in NY state. With its grayish-brown fur (often appearing frosted), white face, pink nose and prehensile (grasping) tail, the Virginia Opossum is quite an odd creature in this region. 


There is only one type of Raccoon in New York State, but it is found practically everywhere. There’s probably one outside your window right now; watching you.


There is only one type of porcupine in New York State: The North American Porcupine. We’ve compiled some facts about this animal’s infamous quills.


We have one species of skunk in New York State. It has bold black and white fur and can spray its stink 15 feet with amazing accuracy.

Beavers and aquatic rodentsBeaver-like animals (Aquatic Rodents)

These aquatic rodents can be difficult to tell apart at first glance, especially if they are in water. Of course we cover the American Beaver here, but also a “rat” that’s not a rat, and one troublesome invasive species.

Big Cats and dog-like animalsCat and Dog-like animals

They are either related to cats or dogs or look similar enough to be grouped together for identification purposes. Foxes are included in this group. Some of these are considered to be extinct in NY State or are federally endangered.  

Large mammalsLarge mammals

These are the largest mammals you will find in Upstate NY. Includes bears, deer, and moose. All the animals in this groups can easily hurt you.

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