Discover the hidden world that comes alive after dark throughout Michigan. From mysterious owls to stealthy raccoons, this article will explore fascinating nocturnal creatures that call the Great Lakes State their home.
Table of Contents
Nocturnal Animals In Michigan
1. Virginia Opossum
- Scientific Name: Didelphis virginiana
Relatively new to Michigan, opossums can be seen in the Lower Peninsula at night. They have expanded to the north, establishing populations in the lower parts of the Upper Peninsula as well.
However, living there comes at a cost as Michigan’s harsh winters often result in them losing parts of their ears or tails to frostbite due to inadequate fur insulation.
These 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 Michigan, the breeding season lasts from January to October, with February and March being the most active months.
- Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Raccoons can be seen in Michigan everywhere. These nocturnal creatures mate there from February to June, peaking in 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.
- Scientific Name: Castor canadensis
Beavers are the largest rodents found in Michigan. Widespread throughout the state, they can be recognized by wide flat tails used in dam building and for producing alarm warnings. They’re aquatic creatures with webbed feet that can live up to 24 years!
These furbearers are prevalent around wooded ponds, lakes, and rivers. Beavers are herbivores who feed on trees, plants, and even crops. Breeding occurs mainly in January and February, with kits leaving the lodge after 2 weeks.
4. Northern Flying Squirrel
- Scientific Name: Glaucomys sabrinus
Michigan is home to two species of flying squirrels. The northern flying squirrel resides in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula, while its close relative, the southern flying squirrel, is found mainly in the southern Lower Peninsula.
These nocturnal creatures prefer mature forests, parks, and other woodland habitats. Northern flying squirrels have a diverse diet. This includes seeds, nuts, and fruits from various trees and shrubs, along with lichens, fungi, arthropods, eggs, and even birds.
Despite their name, these tree squirrels don’t truly fly; instead, they gracefully glide with the help of a patagium – a fold of skin – showcasing a light brown hue with pale underparts. They maintain yearlong nocturnal activity, making them fascinating creatures to observe in Michigan’s wilderness.
Northern flying squirrels are also found in California; read about other nocturnal animals of the state here.
5. White-tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
White-tailed deer are found in every county in Michigan, inhabiting just about every place, including urban and suburban areas.
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 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.
6. Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Majestic great horned owls, among the largest birds in Michigan, measure nearly two feet long, weigh up to 3.5 pounds, and can be found throughout the state year-round. These birds inhabit various places, including mountains, grasslands, conifer forests, and chaparrals.
Known for their diverse diet, great horned owls are aggressive hunters feeding on rabbits, hares, rats, mice, voles, other small mammals, larger mid-sized mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. They utilize their acute hearing and excellent eyesight for nighttime hunting, flying almost silently to surprise their prey.
If you happen to encounter a great horned owl, you’ll notice distinctive features like long earlike tufts, intimidating yellow eyes, and a deep hooting call. Due to their excellent camouflage, spotting these nocturnal owls in the wild is usually a challenging task.
Other owls of the state include barn owls, barred owls, long-eared owls, short-eared owls, and northern saw-whet owls. Read about them and other common nocturnal birds found in Michigan here.
7. Big Brown Bat
- Scientific Name: Eptesicus fuscus
The big brown bat, widely distributed in Michigan, thrives in various North American environments. This species, with a wingspan of 12.8–13.8 in, was first described in 1796.
Big brown bats play a crucial role in pest control, with a diet focused on night-flying insects, including agricultural pests like beetles. These bats roost in caves, tunnels, tree cavities, and human structures during the day. Nocturnal by nature, they become active usually 1-2 hours after sunset.
8. American Black Bear
- Scientific Name: Ursus americanus
One of Michigan’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.
The only bear species found in Michigan, they can be spotted in the Upper Peninsula with some smaller populations in the northernmost parts of the Lower Peninsula, typically around large continuous hardwood or conifer forests.
These opportunistic eaters primarily consume berries, nuts, and plant matter but may turn to human-related food sources, becoming nuisance bears. During the breeding season in June and July, males are territorial and mate with multiple females.
Read More: What animals can you see at night in SC?
- Scientific Name: Canis latrans
If you live in Michigan, you’ve either encountered a coyote or know someone who has, as these nocturnal animals are pretty common in the state. Found throughout Michigan in areas ranging from rural to urban, they get most active around sunset and sunrise.
These slender, grayish-brown animals with an average size of 30-45 pounds are opportunistic eaters, preying on small mammals, deer fawns, and occasionally adult deer. They may also target domestic poultry and livestock.
Read More: Examples of nocturnal animals in Georgia
10. Red Fox
- Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Red foxes are widespread in Michigan, inhabiting both the Upper and Lower peninsula. 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.
- Scientific Name: Lynx rufus
Michigan is also home to the bobcat, a native species and one of seven wild cats in North America. They are usually found in the Upper Peninsula and the northern part of the Lower Peninsula.
In the late 1800s, due to logging in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, bobcats almost disappeared from that area. Thankfully, in recent years, people have been spotting more bobcats in the area with state officials saying their populations are now steady enough to allow hunting and trapping in that region.
They vary in color from grayish brown to reddish brown and have distinctive black spots on their legs and lower sides. Bobcats typically measure 16-22 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 12 to 25 lbs.
They prefer heavily forested areas and feed on cotton rats, mice, cottontail rabbits, and squirrels. They occasionally include white-tailed deer in their diet during hunting season or the fawning season.
Michigan is home to a remarkable array of nocturnal creatures. This article highlighted 11 animals that inhabit the state at night, delving into the lives of American black bears, bobcats, beavers, coyotes, possums, raccoons, and others.