Discover the hidden world that comes alive after dark throughout South Carolina. From mysterious owls to stealthy raccoons, this article will explore fascinating nocturnal creatures that call the Palmetto State home.
Table of Contents
Nocturnal Animals In South Carolina
- Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Raccoons can be found throughout the United States and are present in all areas of South Carolina. Their populations are most abundant along the coastal regions and gradually decrease as you move inland.
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.
The most prized raccoons are from the Piedmont and Mountain regions, known for their darker and fuller pelts. In the Coastal Plain, raccoon pelts tend to have a reddish or yellowish hue, which reduces their value.
2. Virginia Opossum
- Scientific Name: Didelphis virginiana
South Carolina’s nocturnal opossums are found throughout the state. 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. They are common in South Carolina, but their fur is not highly valued, and they are often caught incidentally while trapping for other animals.
- Scientific Name: Castor canadensis
The beaver, North America’s largest rodent, has a distinctive feature like a wide flat tail used in dam building and for producing alarm warnings. They’re aquatic creatures with webbed feet that can live up to 24 years!
Once nearly extirpated from South Carolina, they were reintroduced in the Pee Dee region in the 1940s and are now expanding their range. Today, beavers are present in all 46 South Carolina counties.
Beavers dwell in swamps, ponds, and streams, constructing dams and lodges. These herbivores feed on trees, plants, and even crops. Breeding occurs mainly in January and February, with kits leaving the lodge after 2 weeks.
- Scientific Name: Canis latrans
If you live in South Carolina, you’ve either encountered a coyote or know someone who has, as these nocturnal animals are pretty common in the state.
These slender, grayish-brown animals with an average size of 30-45 pounds can thrive in various habitats, from mountains to suburban areas. South Carolina’s coyote population originally established itself in Pickens and Oconee counties in the late 70’s.
Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, preying on small mammals, deer fawns, and occasionally adult deer. They may also target domestic poultry and livestock. It’s important to note that coyotes can interbreed with domestic dogs, but the survival rate of the offspring is low.
5. Nine-banded Armadillo
- Scientific Name: Dasypus novemcinctus
Nine-banded armadillo can now be found in all 46 counties of South Carolina. These nocturnal creatures, often called “Armored pigs,” have armor-like skin, deer-like ears, and a long, scaly tail.
They forage by smell, grunting like pigs, and use their sticky tongue to capture prey with peg-like teeth. During the summer, armadillos are most active from twilight until early morning, avoiding extreme temperatures.
They cause property damage by digging for insects, grubs, and earthworms; to protect your property, consider creating barriers around gardens and flower beds.
6. White-tailed Deer
- Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
In South Carolina, the white-tailed deer exhibits distinct characteristics with two seasonal coats. The spring/summer coat is short and reddish tan, while the winter coat offers insulation with long, grayish hairs. Notably, white patches are found on various parts of their body, and their large white tail is a distinctive feature.
These nocturnal creatures vary in size, with adult males averaging around 175 pounds and females about 120 pounds. White-tailed deer can be found statewide in SC.
These adaptable animals have a diverse diet, including wild herbs, fruits, and crops. They can even survive on woody tree and shrub leaves when other food is scarce, with acorns becoming a staple during the fall and winter.
7. Eastern Screech-Owl
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
Eastern screech owls are small and stocky owls with big heads, large yellow eyes, small ear tufts, and horn-colored beaks. Out of all North American owls, they are the most strictly nocturnal.
Eastern screech-owls are permanent residents of SC typically found in woodlands, especially near water and at lower elevations.
They are most vocal close to sunset and become quieter as the night progresses. Their calls are more frequent around full moons and before storms. Key calls to listen for include the characteristic “whinny” and trilling tremolo calls.
Other nocturnal owls found in NC include the great horned owl, barn owl, barred owl, northern saw-whet owl, and short-eared owl. Read about other nocturnal birds found in South Carolina here.
8. American Black Bear
- Scientific Name: Ursus americanus
Black bears, South Carolina’s largest land mammals, 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.
Males typically outweigh females, with adult males ranging from 150 to 350 pounds and sometimes exceeding 500 pounds in abundant food conditions. Black bears thrive in extensive forested areas rich in mast-producing hardwoods and shrubs, alongside wetlands like swamps and bays.
In South Carolina, there are two resident black bear populations, one in the mountains and upper Piedmont, and another in the coastal plain.
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 come out at night in CA?
9. Red Fox
- Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Introduced to the state in the 16th century from New England and Europe, red foxes are present throughout South Carolina, with the highest populations concentrated in agricultural regions.
They are one of two fox species found in the state (the other being the gray fox) and measure similarly to a small dog. 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
The bobcat is another nocturnal animal found in South Carolina. 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, with the highest populations in the bottomland forests of the lower Coastal Plain. The Piedmont habitats with a mix of forest and clearcut areas also support stable bobcat populations.
Bobcats 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.
While commercial harvesting of bobcats is allowed in South Carolina, hunting with hounds has become uncommon. Bobcats are sometimes wrongly blamed for livestock loss, often due to predation by feral or free-ranging dogs.
Read More: Examples of nocturnal animals of Ohio
South Carolina is home to a remarkable array of nocturnal creatures. This article highlighted ten animals that inhabit the state at night, delving into the lives of American black bears, bobcats, beavers, coyotes, nine-banded armadillos, raccoons, and others.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to read our guide on North Carolina’s nocturnal animals