A class of warm-blooded animals with fur or hair on their bodies. Mammals are vertebrates. The young are born live and feed on milk from their mothers. There are 121 species of mammals in North Carolina, 21 of which are state or federally listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. See Protected Species of North Carolina guide (PDF) for more information.

Learn more about the state's nongame and endangered wildlife.

Wildlife in North Carolina are classified as the following: game, big game, nongame, furbearer.

More information on some of our state's mammals is provided below.


Squirrel, Carolina Northern Flying

Federally/State Listed-Endangered

Wolf, Red

State Listed as Threatened


A class of vertebrate animals that breathe with gills and swim with fins. Most fish are “cold-blooded” where body temperature can fluctuate as surrounding water temperatures change. Many species, although not all, are covered in scales. Most fish can survive only in the water suitable for a species form and function which is why trout are more likely to live in cold mountain streams. North Carolina is home to 234 fish species that utilize mostly freshwater habitats at all, or some life stage. Of these, 223 are described species and another 11 are not fully described, yet are different from the described species.

Of the 234 freshwater fish species known in North Carolina, there are 57 species that are state or federally listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. Please see the Protected Species of North Carolina guide for more information.

Catch a personal best? Visit our Fishing Records to see if you qualify for a citation certificate or state record.

Fishing in saltwater? Please visit the Division of Marine Fisheries Fish ID page  for saltwater fish species.

Below are some fish species that may be encountered in the diverse waters of North Carolina.




















North Carolina is home to more than 475 wild bird species - thanks in part to the state's diverse habitats that range from the high mountain peaks to coastal marshes. Unlike other wildlife species, the number of bird species in the state is constantly changing because many species leave the state and go elsewhere, depending on the time of year. For this reason, bird species are broken down into 1) residents (live in the state year-round); 2) summer visitors (found only in the summer months; usually breeding in North Carolina); 3) winter visitors (spend the winter months in the state); 4)  transients (species passing through the state during spring and fall migrations as they travel to breeding grounds elsewhere); and, 5) stragglers (birds that are not normally found in the state but are here for unknown reasons). 

Like to bird watch? Visit our Bird Watching in North Carolina page for more information.

Below is a list of some bird species that frequent the Tar Heel state.







Loggerhead Shrike

State Listed as Special Concern






Snowy Egret

State Listed as Special Concern






Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Federally Listed as Endangered




Least Tern

State Listed as Special Concern


Amphibians-Frogs & Toads

North Carolina is home to 31 species of frogs and toads. Virtually every part of North Carolina has at least one frog or toad species. Frog and toads belong to a group of tailess amphibians known as "anurans," which have hind legs modified for jumping. In addition to frogs and toads, other amphibians include salamanders and caecilians (a group of tropical, worm-like amphibians). Most frogs and toads have moist skin and webbed, unclawed toes. Some species, such as bullfrogs, have smooth skin and elongated hind limbs. Other, like toads, have warty skin, stout bodies and relatively short hind limbs. Some species can change colors depending on environmental conditions or time of day they are active. 

"Amphibian" literally means "both lives" and refers to the fact that most frogs and toads have an early, gill-breathing larval (tadpole) life stage and later, air-breathing adult life stage.

Frogs and toads play important roles in natural ecosystems. They consume countless insects and other invertebrates. Large species, like bullfrogs, consume vertebrates like other frogs, toads, snakes and turtles. Frogs and toads, in turn serve as an important food source for many fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.









Carolina Gopher Frog

State Listed as Endangered

River Frog

State Listed as Endangered



Mountain Chorus Frog

State Listed as Special Concern

Ornate Chorus Frog

State Listed as Endangered

Cope's and Northern Gray Treefrog

Common-State Listed as Special Concern

Pine Barrens Treefrog

Official State Frog of NC

Amphibians - Salamanders

North Carolina is home to more than 60 species of salamanders, which is more than any other state in the southeastern United States. Salamanders are tailed amphibians and although closely related to frogs, they look more like lizards with slender bodies, blunt snouts and short limbs. While they look similar, salamanders and lizards are very different. Salamanders are amphibians whereas lizards are reptiles. Salamanders have a wide variety of reproductive techniques. Some lay eggs in water that develop into larvae and eventually adults; some retain larval characteristics in adulthood; and still others have direct development with no larval stage at all. Visual differences include: salamanders have skin that is smooth and moist, without scales. Lizards have dry and scaly skin, much like snakes, which are also reptiles.

Some salamanders have lungs; others have gills; some only breathe through their skins; and some employ all methods. In North Carolina, salamanders also range in size from very large (more than 2 feet) to very small. They can be found in a wide variety of habitats and across the state, depending on the species.

Common Salamanders of Western North Carolina ID Chart (PDF)
Lungless Salamanders of Western North  Carolina Flow Chart (PDF)


Eastern Hellbender

State Listed as Special Concern


State Listed as Special Concern

Neuse River Waterdog

State Listed as Special Concern

Eastern Newt

(Red-spotted Newt)


Mole Salamanders

Eastern Tiger Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Mabee's Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Marbled Salamander

Official State Salamander of NC

Mole Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern



Dwarf Salamanders

State Listed as Special Concern

Four-Toed Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern

Green Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Junaluska Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Long-tailed Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Southern Zigzag Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern

Wehrle's Salamander

State Listed as Threatened

Weller's Salamander

State Listed as Special Concern


The American alligator ranges from coastal North Carolina to southern Florida west to central Texas. In North Carolina, they inhabit freshwater areas mostly east of Robeson County northward to Gates County. The largest populations live in the coastal counties of Brunswick, New Hanover, Craven, Columbus, Onslow and Pender. Alligators are also seen in other areas of eastern North Carolina, and are even sometimes found on coastal beaches.

See an alligator in the wild? Let the Wildlife Commission know. Learn more about the agency's Alligators in NC iNaturalist Project.

American Alligator


North Carolina is home to 11 species of lizards, none of which are venomous or poisonous. Lizards typically have rounded torsos, elevated heads on short necks, four limbs and long tails. Three species of glass lizards are legless and often mistaken for snakes. Like other reptiles, lizards are cold-blooded (ectothermic), so they rely on their environment to warm their bodies, using the heat of the sun to raise their body temperature. For this reason most lizards are active during the day and can be found basking on rocks, fences, ledges and other places that generate warmth. Below is a list of the lizards found in North Carolina.



North Carolina is home to 38 snake species. Of those 38 species, only six are venomous, and of those six, only one, the Copperhead, is found statewide. In many areas, including most of the larger urban regions, it is the only venomous snake. The Timber Rattlesnake is found primarily in the Coastal Plain and Mountain regions, although some Piedmont populations are also present. The other four - Pigmy Rattlesnake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth and Eastern Coral Snake - are found primarily in the Coastal Plain. Snakes are shy creatures that pose little to no threat to humans when left alone. Most people are bitten when they try to pick up a snake, step on one accidentally or try to kill it.

Snakes are an important part of our environment, keeping populations of pests such as rodents, slugs, and insects in check. Plus, snakes are a food resource to other animals such as foxes, raccoons, bears, eagles, hawks, and owls.

Like all wildlife species, snakes should be admired and respected, and left alone. Killing a snake is not only unnecessary but also could be illegal. Four of the six venomous snakes, as well as several non-venomous species, found in North Carolina are protected and none should be handled or disturbed without an Endangered Species Permit issued by the Wildlife Commission.

The Commission does not send people out to trap and remove snakes since removing one snake is not going to prevent another one from taking its place. A few tips that people can follow to make their backyards less hospitable to snakes can be found in the Co-Existing with Snakes document (PDF).



Pine Snake

State Listed as Threatened

Southern Hognose Snake

State Listed as Threatened



Carolina Swamp Snake (Black Swamp Snake)

State Listed as Special Concern



North Carolina is home to only one species of venomous watersnake - the cottonmouth. In North Carolina, the cottonmouth, also called a water moccasin, is predominantly found in the Coastal Plain and on some parts of the Outer Banks. RANGE MAP
Many non-venomous watersnakes (see list above) are mistaken for cottonmouths and killed needlessly.


See a rattlesnake in the wild? We want to know! Download our Rattlesnake Sightings Wanted brochure for more information.

Eastern Coral Snake

State Listed as Endangered

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

State Listed as Endangered

Pigmy Rattlesnake

State Listed as Special

Timber Rattlesnake

State Listed as Special Concern


North Carolina is home to 21 turtle species. Of these 21 turtle species, 11 are protected because of a law, which went into effect on July 1, 2003, that prohibits the "commercial taking" of 11 species and three subspecies of turtles and terrapins in the families Emydidae and Trionychidae. The three subspecies include the Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell, Cumberland Slider and Florida Cooter. These are large basking turtles, sliding turtles and terrapins. "Commercial taking" is defined as the taking, possession, collection, transportation, purchase or sale of five or more individual turtles or terrapins from either of these two families. Learn more in our Protected Species Identification handout (PDF).

In North Carolina, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle is the most common sea turtle species although four others regularly visit the coastal waters of the state: Kemp's Ridley, Leatherback, Green and Atlantic Hawksbill. Although most nests found on North Carolina beaches are Loggerheads, all but the Atlantic Hawksbill have been found to lay nests at least occasionally.  All sea turtles are protected under both state and federal threatened or endangered species laws. The Loggerhead and Green sea turtles are federally listed as threatened. The Kemp’s Ridley, Atlantic Hawksbill and Leatherback sea turtles are federally listed as endangered.

Learn more about the sea turtles that visit North Carolina's coast, along with tips on how to help sea turtle populations by reading the "Help Protect Sea Turtles" document. (PDF)

Find an injured, dead or stranded sea turtle? Call the N.C. Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network hotline: 252-241-7363



Bog Turtle

Federally and State Listed as Threatened

Eastern Chicken Turtle

State Listed as Special Concern

Diamondback Terrapin

State Listed as Special Concern

Eastern Spiny Softshell

State Listed as Special Concern



Stripe-Necked Turtle

State Listed as Special Concern




Atlantic Hawksbill
Federal & State Listed as Endangered

Green Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Threatened

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Endangered

Leatherback Sea Turtle
Federal & State Listed as Endangered

Federal & State Listed as Threatened


A crustacean is an invertebrate animal with a hard exoskeleton and at least five pairs of jointed legs on the thorax. Crabs, lobsters, shrimp and crayfish are all crustaceans. 

Crayfishes look like miniature lobsters, with a front pair of strong pinching claws, an armored body, and a broad tail. Like lobsters, crayfishes have 3 main body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen and a hard exoskeleton that protects their soft tissues and organs. The front part of the body is rigid, but the back part, the abdomen or tail, has movable segments. Crayfishes inhabit streams, ponds, lakes and swamps throughout North Carolina. Stream dwellers prefer fast-moving and highly oxygenated rivers and streams of the Mountains and Piedmont regions. In slower streams, as in the Coastal Plain, crayfishes hide under rocks and logs for protection. Crayfishes can also be found in ponds, lakes, and in standing water in roadside ditches.

Agency biologists discover and describe new species of crayfish every year and also document the spread of exotic crayfishes in the state. As more surveys are completed, biologists continue to document the range expansion and also the contraction of some of North Carolina’s crayfishes.

Learn more about crayfishes in North Carolina by reading the Crayfish Wildlife Profile. (PDF)

Learn more about each species below. Species are alphabetized by common name.

Appalachian Brook Crayfish

Atlantic Slope Crayfish

Big River Crayfish

Broad River Spiny Crayfish (State Listed as Threatened)

Broad River Stream Crayfish

Cambarus (Depressicambarus) latimanus (no common name)

Cambarus (Puncticambarus) (No common name)

Carolina Foothills Crayfish

Carolina Ladle Crayfish

Carolina Needlenose Crayfish

Chattahoochee Crayfish

Chauga Crayfish

Chowanoke Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Croatan Crayfish

Devil Crayfish

Digger Crayfish

Edisto Crayfish

French Broad River Crayfish (State Listed as Threatened)

Grandfather Mountain Crayfish

Greensboro Burrowing Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Hiwassee Crayfish

Hiwassee Headwaters Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Knotty Burrowing Crayfish

Little Tennessee River Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Longnose Crayfish

Mitten Crayfish

New River Crayfish

North Carolina Spiny Crayfish (State Listed as Special Concern)

Pamlico Crayfish (State Listed as Threatened)

Red Burrowing Crayfish

Red Swamp Crayfish (non-native)

Reticulate  Crayfish

Rocky River Crayfish

Rusty Crayfish (non-native)

Sandhills Crayfish (State Listed as Threatened)

Santee Crayfish

Sickle Crayfish

Spiny Stream Crayfish

Spinytail Crayfish

Surgeon Crayfish

Tennessee River Spinycrayfish

Tuckasegee Stream Crayfish

Upland Burrowing Crayfish

Valley River Crayfish

Virile/Northern Crayfish

Waccamaw Crayfish (State Listed as Endangered)

White River Crayfish


Mollusks are a group that includes snails, slugs and mussel. They are invertebrate animals with soft, unsegmented bodies. Most have hard, external shells. North Carolina is home to more than 60 species of freshwater mussels. Unfortunately, 50% of these species are designated Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern within the state. The Wildlife Diversity Program strives to prevent species from becoming endangered through maintaining viable, self-sustaining populations of native wildlife, with an emphasis on species in decline. Public education is a major component of this effort. The following videos provide an overview of the mussel work conducted by agency biologists: 

Native Freshwater Mussel Program (an overview of the Conservation Aquaculture Center in Marion, which is used to propagate freshwater mussels for re-stocking into public waters) 6:10

Native Freshwater Mussel Survey (surveying for the Atlantic Pigtoe in the Deep River) 3:15


Management Recommendations for Freshwater Mussels

Life History of Freshwater Mussels

Shell Anatomy

The following list provide detailed information about North Carolina's freshwater mussel species. Species are listed by common name in alphabetical order.

Note: When you see an example like (Conrad, 1834), this indicates the namer of the species and date of the description with that species name.

Alewife Floater  (State Listed as Threatened)

Appalachian Elktoe  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Atlantic Pigtoe  (Federally and State Listed as Threatened)

Barrel Floater  (State Listed as Endangered)

Brook Floater (State Listed as Endangered)

Cape Fear Spike  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Carolina Creekshell  (State Listed as Endangered)

Carolina Fatmucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Carolina Heelsplitter  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Creeper  (State Listed as Threatened)

Cumberland Bean Pearlymussel   (State Extirpated)

Cumberland Moccasinshell   (State Extirpated)

Dwarf Wedgemussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Eastern Creekshell

Eastern Lampmussel  (State Listed as Threatened)

Eastern Pondmussel  (State Listed as Threatened)

Green Floater  (State Listed as Endangered)

Kidneyshell   (State Extirpated)

Littlewing Pearlymussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Mountain Creekshell  (State Listed as Threatened)

Notched Rainbow  (State Listed as Threatened)

Oyster Mussel   (State Extirpated)

Pheasantshell   (State Extirpated)

Pimpleback   (State Extirpated)

Pistolgrip   (State Extirpated)

Pod Lance  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Purple Lilliput   (State Extirpated)

Purple Wartyback  (State Listed as Endangered)

Rainbow  (State Listed as Threatened)

Roanoke Slabshell  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Savannah Lilliput  (State Listed as Endangered)

Slippershell Mussel  (State Listed as Endangered)

Spike  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Tar River Spinymussel  (Federally and State Listed as Endangered)

Tennessee Heelsplitter  (State Listed as Endangered)

Tennessee Pigtoe  (State Listed as Endangered)

Tidewater Mucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Triangle Floater  (State Listed as Threatened)

Wabash Pigtoe   (State Extirpated)

Waccamaw Fatmucket  (State Listed as Threatened)

Waccamaw Spike  (State Listed as Threatened)

Wavyrayed Lampmussel  (State Listed as Special Concern)

Yellow Lampmussel  (State Listed as Endangered)

Yellow Lance  (Federally and State Listed as Threatened)


Species Classifications


"Endangered" status includes any native species whose continued existence as a viable component of the state's fauna is determined to be in jeopardy and/or is designated "Endangered" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.


"Extirpated" status is in reference to a population, no longer present as live individuals in a particular area.


A status of "Threatened" includes any native species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state and/or is designated "Threatened" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.

Special Concern

The "Special Concern" designation applies to any species that is determined to require monitoring.


“Nongame” status includes species that are not classified as game or furbearer. These species are regulated by the NCWRC.


“Game” status includes species that can be hunted in North Carolina.

Big Game

“Big Game” status includes species that can be hunted and must be registered with the NCWRC upon harvest.


“Furbearer” status includes species that can be trapped in North Carolina.

Inland Game Fish

"Inland Game Fish" may be taken only with a hook and line for exceptions see General Regulations For Inland Game Fish.

Nongame Fish

"Nongame Fish" status includes any fish not classified as a game fish when found in inland fishing waters and includes shellfish and crustaceans.

Protected Wildlife Species of N.C.