Discover the hidden world that comes alive after dark throughout Georgia. From mysterious owls to stealthy raccoons, this article will explore fascinating nocturnal creatures that call the Peach State their home.
Table of Contents
Nocturnal Animals In Georgia
- Scientific Name: Castor canadensis
In the past, beavers were almost gone from Georgia. Still, in the 1940s, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service started a successful program that managed to bring their populations back.
Today, beavers are the biggest rodents found in Georgia. Found statewide, they can be recognized by wide flat tails used in dam building and for producing alarm warnings.
These furbearers are prevalent around wooded ponds, lakes, and rivers. Those living in urban areas will often make homes in ponds, roadside ditches, and human-made water spots.
Beavers in Georgia are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are mostly active at night; they breed in the state from October through March.
2. Virginia Opossums
- Scientific Name: Didelphis virginiana
Opossums live all across Georgia, including in rural, suburban, and urban places.
These cat-sized creatures weigh 4 to 7 pounds and are about 6 to 8 inches tall at the shoulder, with females being smaller. Their unique fur, white at the base and black-tipped, provides a grayish-white appearance, while their hairless tails are well-suited for grasping.
Opossums feed on insects, fruits, crayfish, and more, making them highly adaptable to various habitats, from woodlands to residential areas. In Georgia, they breed from February to June.
- Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
One of Georgia’s most-known nocturnal animals, raccoons can be seen everywhere in the state. These creatures mate there from December to June, peaking in February and March.
During the day, they sleep in hollow trees, logs, or abandoned dens and become active at night, reaching peak activity during dark hours. While not true hibernators, they can sleep for extended periods in the cold winter months.
Known for their grayish-brown fur, black-ringed tails, and distinctive black mask around their eyes, raccoons are often spotted in urban areas, rummaging through garbage cans at night. These charismatic mammals have a well-developed sense of touch they use during feeding.
4. Southern Flying Squirrels
- Scientific Name: Glaucomys volans
Southern flying squirrels are present throughout Georgia. Strictly nocturnal and seldom seen, they can be recognized by a distinctive gliding membrane (a flap of loose skin that extends from wrist to ankle) these squirrels use to glide between trees.
They also have olive-brown fur on their upperparts and white on the underparts. Flying squirrels breed twice a year and prefer woodlands for their nests.
Typically the size of a roof rat, they have a diverse diet including nuts, seeds, fruits, and even insects. In Georgia, people may often encounter squirrels when the critters decide to visit the attics of their homes. Once inside, they will set up nests and litter boxes.
Southern flying squirrels are also found in Ohio; read about other nocturnal animals of the state here.
5. Big Brown Bats
- Scientific Name: Eptesicus fuscus
Big brown bats, one of the larger bat species, are commonly found throughout Georgia. They are year-round residents in Georgia, hibernating during winter in groups of up to 100 animals in secure roosts like caves, mines, or buildings.
They are common across the state, adapting well to various habitat conditions, contributing to their widespread presence. Big brown bats play a crucial role in pest control, with a diet focused on night-flying insects, including agricultural pests like beetles. Nocturnal by nature, they become active usually 1-2 hours after sunset.
6. Barn Owls
- Scientific Name: Tyto alba
One of the most widely distributed species of owl in the world, barn owls are permanent residents of Georgia.
These medium-sized owls have heart-shaped heads, cinnamon and gray upperparts, and white underparts. They often have a “ghostly” appearance, especially if seen at night, around open habitats, including grasslands, marshes, and agricultural areas.
Barn owls do not hoot and make bone-chilling screams instead. They hunt for rodents during the night and roost in nest boxes, caves, tree hollows, and old buildings.
Other state owls include great horned owls, barred owls, eastern screech-owls, long-eared owls, short-eared owls, and northern saw-whet owls. Read about them and other common night birds found in Georgia.
7. White-tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
White-tailed deer are the state’s official mammals, due to efforts from elementary school students of the Reese Road Leadership Academy. Found throughout Georgia, they are common in various habitats, from forests to coastal marshes.
Once almost extirpated, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources estimates a current population of 1 million animals. The deer have two distinct coats, a reddish tan for spring/summer and a more insulating grayish tan for winter.
Recognizable by white patches on various body parts, especially their large tails, these nocturnal creatures are active year-round. White-tailed deer, weighing around 175 pounds for males and 120 pounds for females, display adaptability in their diet, consuming herbs and fruits, and even surviving on woody leaves when necessary.
Read More: Pennsylvania’s most common nocturnal animals
8. American Black Bear
- Scientific Name: Ursus americanus
Before the 18th century, bears were common in Georgia, but habitat loss and unrestricted hunting led to a serious decline. Now, with effective wildlife management, the bear population has recovered to approximately 5,100 statewide.
Black bears in Georgia are usually located in three specific areas. They are commonly found in the North Georgia mountains, along the Ocmulgee River drainage system in the central part of the state, and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeast.
One of Georgia’s largest mammals, American black bears boast a variety of fur colors, with black or dark brown being the most common. They possess excellent eyesight and a remarkable sense of smell, while their good climbing and swimming skills enable them to thrive in diverse habitats.
- Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Although not native to Georgia, coyotes are present in all 159 counties of the state. Extremely adaptable to their environment, they are common in areas ranging from rural to urban, and they get most active around sunset and sunrise.
Coyotes look like medium-sized dogs, weighing between 25 and 45 pounds, with mottled fur and a bushy tail. They communicate using high-pitched cries, shrieks, barking, and whining or yips, particularly noticeable during the evening hours.
These slender, grayish-brown animals are opportunistic eaters, preying on small mammals, deer fawns, and occasionally adult deer. They may also target domestic poultry and livestock.
10. Red Fox
- Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Red foxes are commonly found in all of Georgia except the lowest portions of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Common around farmland and diverse woodland habitats, they are one of two fox species found in the state (the other being the gray fox).
Red foxes measure similarly to small dogs and if you see them in the wild, you will notice distinctive red or orange coloration and a long, bushy tail with a white tip.
They hunt for mice, meadow voles, and rabbits, but also consume insects, birds, eggs, fruits, and berries, in addition to scavenging carrion and garbage when available. These animals are primarily active at night and can be occasionally found in residential neighborhoods, taking advantage of available food and shelter options.
Georgia is home to a remarkable array of nocturnal creatures. This article highlighted 10 animals that inhabit the state at night, delving into the lives of American black bears, beavers, coyotes, possums, raccoons, and others.