- South Carolina
You’ll have to be a night owl yourself to meet these mysterious animals of the night.
The USA enjoys nearly every landscape possible under the sun, from craggy peaks to rolling prairies, from arid deserts to tropical rain forests. However, it is at night when the landscape truly awakens and becomes something magical. Nocturnal creatures wander out of their burrows, dens and other hiding spots to explore their surroundings and find something to eat.
The USA is home to a wide variety of bat species. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of Mexican free-tailed bats, join the crowds on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. As the sun sinks low in the horizon, a cloud of up to 1.5 million bats emerge from underneath the bridge. Renovations to the bridge in 1980 unintentionally made it the ideal bat roost, and it now harbors the largest urban bat colony in the world.
Find a spot on Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, to see up to 1.5 million bats take flight every evening.
Though you may sometimes spot them in the daytime, coyotes prefer to be out after dark. It is after nightfall that you may hear their echoing howls and yips cutting through the inky night. Coyotes are found in many environments including forests, mountains, deserts and even cities across the USA. (Keep your eyes peeled for them in National Parks like Yellowstone in Wyoming, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.) Indigenous to North America, the coyote is a common character in Native American folklore, usually fulfilling the archetype of wily trickster. The role suits coyotes, given that they are very cunning hunters.
Spend a night camping in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and you might hear the howl of a coyote in the distance.
3. American Red Foxes
Another common animal in Native American storytelling is the American red fox. Some tribes describe the red fox as they do the coyote — crafty and up to no good — whereas others see the animal as a noble, judicious messenger. These remarkably smart, quick-moving animals can be spotted in many areas in the eastern USA, like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. To catch a glimpse of one, be alert and be patient. These beautiful animals shy away from crowds and noise.
The American red fox can be spotted all across the eastern USA.
4. Flying Squirrels
Though its name suggests otherwise, the North American flying squirrel cannot actually fly. Instead, these tiny creatures glide through the air using the skin between their arms and legs like a parachute, allowing them to travel distances of up to 45 meters in a single glide. These critters never come out during the day, so they are tough to see. But if you spot a Southern flying squirrel, you are bound to see more! They are social animals that prefer to travel in groups. Northern flying squirrels can be found in woodland areas like Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California.
Flying squirrels are small and nocturnal, making them very tough to spot. But if you’re lucky enough to see one, keep a look out for others!
5. Nine-Banded Armadillos
At dusk, nine-banded armadillos emerge from their burrows and start looking for something to eat. Resembling little armored tanks, these strange-looking creatures feast on bugs (though they won’t spurn fruits and plants). Over the past 100 years or so, the armadillo has moved northward from South America into the southern USA. Look for them in Congaree National Park, South Carolina, where the swampy forest floor offers the armadillo a never-ending buffet of delicious grubs. You’ll also spot them in places like Florida and even as far north as Nebraska and Indiana.
You’ll find these odd-looking critters throughout much of the southern USA — this guy lives on the Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.
Raccoons are curious creatures and known to cause trouble. They’ll do just about anything for something to eat, from rummaging through trash bins to cozying up inside your tent for a midnight snack. Luckily, their adorable looks make them easy to forgive. These mayhem makers are known for their dexterous hands and the brown-colored patches of fur on their faces, which resemble a mask. These masked bandits can be found almost everywhere in the USA. Be sure to keep your distance, though.
Don’t let that adorable face fool you. Raccoons are known for causing trouble.
Cougars may go by many names — panther, puma and mountain lion — but they are well known for one thing: Being fierce. These big cats sit at the top of the food chain, often dining on big-game animals like deer and elk. The ferocity of the cougar is only dampened by the fact that the cat cannot roar — it can only purr, like a house cat. Cougars generally keep to themselves, patrolling areas in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and other southern U.S. states under the cover of night. You might also catch sight of one in Yosemite National Park in California or Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Like most cats, cougars prefer to be out and about after dark when they can catch their prey off guard.
Bird watching at night and in the early evening might seem like a strange idea, but it might be worth it to see one of the USA’s many species of owl. These majestic birds prefer to hunt under the cover of darkness, using their incredible hearing to locate their next meal. There are over 19 species in North America, ranging from the white and wintry snow owl in northern areas like Acadia National Park, Maine, to the great horned owl, which can be found in Glacier National Park, Montana.
You’ll never hear this guy coming: Owls’ wings are designed to reduce noise during flight.