The Adirondack Mountains are home to a vast array of wildlife, from tiny chipmunks and moles to massive moose, cougars and black bears. Birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects abound in the Adirondacks, making the region an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts of all passions and pursuits.
The Adirondack Park’s 6.1 million protected acres include more than 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a wide variety of habitats, including wetlands and old-growth forests, so there are endless locations to explore. The animals you encounter will vary according to the place and time of year, but some of the creatures you may find include:
These majestic and iconic animals, which can stand more than six feet tall and weigh more than a half ton, are the largest land mammals in New York State. They are slowly repopulating the region after overhunting and deforestation decimated their numbers over the last two centuries, and it is now a misdemeanor to kill a moose in New York. They are most active at dusk and dawn, and moose sightings often occur in the fall, during the mating season.
Another rare sight, bald eagles do exist in the Adirondacks, after disappearing from the area during the 1960s but then making a resurgence from the 1970s onward. They are a protected species on New York States “threatened” list, but continue to multiply within the Adirondack Park. These incredible birds, which can live 20 to 25 years, are sea denizens that primarily prey upon fish, small waterfowl and other water-centric wildlife. Popular local areas to observe them include Schroon Lake, Lake George’s Long Island, Anthony’s Nose and Kitchel Bay, and Ausable Point in Peru.
One of the most readily recognized waterfowl breeds that inhabit the Adirondacks are loons, known as the “spirit of Northern Waters,” which breed in the region and winter in open lakes and along the coast. Its distinctive call has become an inseparable aspect of the Adirondacks’ charm, most frequently heard near nesting areas and by wintering places in late winter and early spring.
A common Adirondack denizen—and frequent prize of hunters—is the whitetail deer, recognized by the characteristic white underside of its tail, which it raises when alarmed to warn a predator that it has been detected. They are often found on the edges of forests and in open areas by roadways, farm fields or waterways, and can usually be spotted year-round in the early morning or early evening. They’re incredibly agile, able to swim, run up to 35 to 40 miles per hour, and jump over an eight-foot fence.
You’re more likely to come across a black bear in the Adirondacks than anywhere else in New York State, as an estimated 50% to 60% of the state’s 6,000 to 8,000 black bears live in the Adirondacks. They’re massive animals, with adult males averaging 300 pounds and females averaging 170 pounds. They hibernate during the winter, but can be found other times in areas increasingly close to human populations. Relatively intelligent, many have learned to seek out human food, and may be found rummaging through trash cans, bird feeders and hen houses in areas where homes meet forest.
Roughly the size of house cats, striped skunks are a very common Adirondack creature immediately recognized by its black fur and bright V-shaped white stripe, as well as the pungent defensive spray they emit when threatened. They inhabit open areas like pastures and fields, but are also fond of shady residential areas with plush lawns. Skunks are nocturnal and hunt in the evening for nuts, grasses, berries, insects, grubs, worms, rabbits and other small animals, and are quite fearless, so it’s best to avoid them or risk being sprayed.
These hunting birds are famous for their unbelievable speed, reaching up to 180 mph when chasing prey. After dying off in the 20th century due to the pesticide DDT, a ban on the substance in 1971 spurred a slow regrowth of populations in the Adirondacks. As of 2015, there were 15 confirmed active nesting pairs in the Adirondack Mountains and along Lake Champlain and Lake George. An average of 1.2 young/breeding pairs were produced by those 15 pairs.
Smaller than wolves but similar in terms of their dog-like appearance, coyotes average between four and five feet in length and between 35 and 45 pounds in weight. These pack animals have steadily grown in number in the area since the 1930s, generally preferring to remain in wooded areas. They don’t usually become aggressive with humans, but have been known to make meals of small pets left outside unprotected.
Also known as the fisher cat, fishers are a medium-sized member of the weasel family. Males average a length of 35 to 47 inches, weighing seven to 13 pounds, while females average 30 to 37 inches, weighing only three to seven pounds. Their most recognizable features include a broad head, narrow muzzle and long, bushy tail. They are predators with sharp, retractable claws, and are skilled hunters, notorious for their ability to hunt porcupines. They mainly prey on smaller creatures like rabbits, squirrels, mice and birds, but are omnivores willing to also eat beechnuts, acorns, apples and berries. They make their dens in natural cavities, like trees, logs and rocky outcroppings.