North America is a land of varied landscapes that stretches from the Arctic in the north to the narrow landbridge of Central America in the south. The wildlife of North America, like its habitats, is diverse and includes animals such as bison, pronghorn, brown bears, bald eagles, hummingbirds, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, rattlesnakes, cougars, and American alligators.
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The American beaver (Castor canadensis) is one of two living species of beavers that belong to the Family Castoridae—the other species of beaver is the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber). The American beaver can reach weights in excess of 30 kg, making it the world's second largest rodent. Only the capybara of South America is larger. American beavers are stocky and have a compact body and short legs. Beavers are aquatic rodents and have a number of adaptations that make them adept swimmers including webbed feet and a broad, flat tail covered with scales. Beavers have a pair of glands located at the base of their tail.
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The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is among the largest and most powerful of all land carnivores. Brown bears have non-retractable claws that they use primarily for digging. They can run at a considerable clip despite their large size and are know to reach speeds of up to 35mph. Brown bears have a coat of black, brown or tan fur with longer outer hair often of a different color. They have a sizable mass of muscle on their shoulders that gives them necessary strength to dig.
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The American moose (Alces americanus) is the largest member of the deer family. Moose have a large, heavy body and long legs. They have a long head, flexible upper lip and nose, and large ears. They have a dewlap that hangs from their throat. Their fur is dark brown (almost black) and fades during the winter months. Males grow large antlers in the spring and shed them in the winter. Male moose grow the largest antlers known in the animal kingdom.
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The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is a subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Adult Arctic wolves are between 25 and 31 inches in height (measured at shoulder) and reach weights of up to 175 pounds. Females tend to be smaller and lighter than males. They measure between 3 and 5 feet from head to tail. Their thick coat is off-white. Arctic wolves live in groups of 7 to 10 individuals. Occasionally, Arctic wolves form groups of larger numbers (up to 30 individuals).
Photo courtesy USFWS.
The black-footed ferret (Mulstela nigripes) is North America's most endangered mammal. Black-footed ferrets have light yellow-buff fur and a pale underside, a white face, snout and throat, and black feet. They also have a black mask around their eyes.
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Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), also known commonly as reindeer, are members of the deer family that inhabit boreal forests and tundra of North America, Siberia, and Europe. There are four subspecies of caribou and each of the subspecies differs slightly in its coat color and size. Coat color of caribou may be dark brown to nearly white depending on season and subspecies. Woodland caribou have deep brown fur in summer, whereas they have nearly white fur in winter.
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The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has a black body with white spots and bright orange wings with black borders and veins (some white spots are dappled in the black wing areas too). Monarchs are poisonous due to toxins in the milkweed plant (milkweed is a foodsource for the monarch caterpillar) and their bright coloration serves as a warning to potential vertebrate predators.
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Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds that grow to lengths of 75mm-90mm (3.0in-3.5in) and weights between 3.4g-3.8g (0.11oz-0.13oz). Both sexes have metallic green feathers on their back and white feathers on their belly. Males have irridescent ruby colored feathers on the throat. Both sexes have a forked tail and a long thin bill. Ruby-throated hummingbirds beat their wings an astonishing 53 beats per second and when they do, they produce a characteristic 'humming' or 'whirring' sound. They are able to hover and even fly backwards.
The Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is a small, gray-plumed songbird, easily recognized for the crest of gray feathers atop its head, its big black eyes, black forehead, and its rust-colored flanks. They are quite common throughout the eastern part of North America, so if you're in that geographical region and want to catch a glimpse of a Tufted Titmouse, it may not be that difficult to find. They are considered to be year-round residents throughout their range. Male and female titmice have similar plumage, which makes identification a little bit easier, and titmice can be tempted to backyard bird feeders, so you may not have to go far at all to see one.
Photo © Woody Pope.
The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is an intriguing creature with bony armor and leathery skin covering its body. Eight to ten bony bands encircle its midriff, enabling it a certain amount of flexibility. This armadillo species is about the size of a small dog, reaching lengths of 14 to 22 inches and wieghts of 5 to 14 pounds. The armadillo has a tail that can grow to a length of about 18 inches.