If you think Appalachian bears are big animals, you haven’t seen anything yet. The grandest of all the mountains, the majestic elk, is the master of the mountains. Though their numbers have dwindled over the years, you still have a good chance of spotting an elk in the fall, when many leaf lookers take to the hills.

Appalachian owls are a mystifying breed.

When asked about owls, most people mention the easily recognizable soft cooing heard at dawn or dusk. Others describe the wide-open pair of golden yellow eyes the birds possess or their ability to turn their heads 180 degrees. But aside from nature shows, most people who live in or visit Appalachia won’t get to know these mysterious birds nearly as well as other animals.


Go see the beauty in the little beasts Virginia is known as the birthplace of the nation, home to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Virginia also has the first English settlement on the continent, a little fort called Jamestown. But Virginia is perhaps best known as the place for lovers, as its advertising campaign went viral long before anyone knew what “going viral” meant.
Native and transplant Appalachians alike agree that the best way to go through life is to share. We share our bounty and our hand-me-down recipes. We share the road and share the trails. And, to stay safe and mountain-friendly, we share our space with humans and critters alike -- including bears. You may see bears roaming mountain cities and towns, but that’s usually only by accident or when the bears are hungry or thirsty. They are great hunters and foragers, so, more often than not, their appearances in your yard or in the neighborhood park are due mainly to drought or food shortages in their forest habitats.
Along the Appalachian Trail, you can encounter many types of animals and birds. While smaller animals are more commonplace, clever foxes usually remain out of sight. It’s not that they aren’t curious; it’s that they’re cautious. Appalachian foxes have grown wary of humans. You still may surprise a fox in the wild, but they’ll seem more afraid of you than you are of them.

Crayfish are among the many species under attack by extensive development and mining in the Southern Appalachians.

Because the Southern Appalachians never glaciated, the region contains some of the most bio-diverse plant, animal and insect life outside of the tropical rainforests. Many species, including humans, have thrived in the mountains’ consistently high-quality environmental conditions.Crayfish species

A hard-worker with a wagging tail

From mines to “Mule Day” Mules are domesticated hybrid animals, the product of a male donkey and a female horse. Used as pack animals and draft animals, mules are infertile but strong. They are more durable and require less food than a similarly sized horse or donkey. In some respects, a mule is the superior animal for working.
They came from the Andes to conquer the Appalachians. It’s no surprise that you can find llamas and alpacas in the Appalachians. These are mountain animals, after all, accustomed to cold weather and rugged conditions. Both species originated in the high mountainous plains of South America: in Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Domesticated by the Incas, they have been bred for gentleness.

A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal. (Proverbs 12:10)

Animals have been part of Appalachian households since the very early settlers populated the mountain terrain. Mules helped clear the wooded land and plow the meager fields. Horses carried their owners from place to place. Cattle, goats and sheep clothed and fed generations. And let’s not forget the chickens.