bobcat standing on branch
October 9, 2023

The Smoky Mountains are full of wildlife diversity, with roughly 65 species of mammals, 200 types of birds, 80 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 67 types of fish. There are some common animals that you’re likely to see when you visit the national park, such as white-tailed deer, salamanders, turkey, and black bears. However, there are also a lot of animals that are more rare to see. Here’s a list of nine types of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains you’re least likely to see when you visit.

1. Northern Flying Squirrel

northern flying squirrel on tree

The northern flying squirrel is one of only three species of flying squirrels in North America. The northern flying squirrel is considered an endangered species, so it is pretty rare to see this type of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains. Because these animals are nocturnal, it is especially difficult to spot them in the wild. The northern flying squirrel is a small tree squirrel with soft brownish-gray fur and a white belly. The most distinctive feature of this animal is its loose folds of skin on each side of its body extending from the wrist to the ankle. The northern flying squirrel prefers higher elevations in the mountains.

2. Gray Bat

Another endangered species of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains is the gray bat. This animal used to flourish in caves across the southeastern United States. However, the gray bat population has severely declined due to human disturbance. Today, 95 percent of gray bats hibernate in only 15 caves. The gray bat prefers to live in caves, but in warmer months can also sometimes be found on the underside of bridges and in tunnels. As the name suggests, this animal is known for its dark gray fur on its back. The gray bat has a wing membrane that connects to its ankle. This species is small and typically weighs only 7 to 16 grams.

3. Long-Tailed Weasel

long-tailed weasel hiding in tall grass

The long-tailed weasel, also known as the bridled weasel, makes its home in most of North America. This is a fairly common resident of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has been recorded at all elevations. Even though there are a lot of long-tailed weasels in the national park, they are not often seen. That’s because these creatures are small, fast, and prefer habitats with lots of cover. You’re not likely to see a long-tailed weasel out in the open like other types of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains.

4. Red Fox

The red fox is the most widespread type of fox in North America. This animal is nocturnal, which is one of the reasons why it is not commonly seen in the Smoky Mountains. The red fox has a dog-like face, a white tip on its tail, and black legs. While the most common color is red, the red fox can also be gray, black, or even white. The red fox has been spotted near Cades Cove and makes its home all over the national park.

5. Gray Fox

gray fox

The gray fox is another type of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains that is abundant in the national park but rarely seen. As the name suggests, the gray fox is typically gray in color; however, it can also be brown or red. This type of fox has a black tip on its tail and a more cat-like face. This species is nocturnal and avoids humans, which is why it is not often seen in the park. The gray fox can grow to about 20 to 25 pounds.

6. Northern Long-Eared Bat

The northern long-eared bat is federally listed as a threatened species. As the name suggests, this type of bat is distinguished by its long, rounded ears. The northern long-eared bat has dull brown fur with a slightly paler belly. This animal prefers caves and mines but also sometimes makes its home in man-made structures. There aren’t many northern long-eared bats living in the Smoky Mountains, which means you’re not likely to see one in the national park, although it’s not impossible.

7. Northern Pine Snake

northern pine snake

The northern pine snake is one of nearly two dozen species of snakes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a large, non-venomous snake with a white, tan, or yellowish color and dark brown or black markings. These markings begin as heavy mottling on the head and become more distinct blotches toward the tail. The northern pine snake averages about 4 to 5 feet in length. This is a burrowing species, which means it spends much of its life underground. That’s why it’s so rare to see this type of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains.

8. Bobcat

Though you’re not likely to spot one in the wild, there is a large population of bobcats in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These animals are solitary, reclusive, and mostly nocturnal, and they tend to stay away from humans. The bobcat weighs 15 to 35 pounds and is easily distinguishable by its spotted coat, stubby tail, and hairy tufts on its ears. This is thought to be the only type of feline that lives in the national park.

9. Mink

American mink

The mink is a semi-aquatic mammal that’s most known for its shiny, dense fur. This animal has a long, slender body with short legs, a small head, and bushy tail. The fur ranges from brown to nearly black and typically has a white patch on the chin and white scattered on the throat. The mink is primarily nocturnal but sometimes comes out at dawn and dusk. This type of animal is abundant in the Smoky Mountains, but it is hard to spot. The mink lives near permanent water sources such as lakes and rivers and makes its dens in banks, hollow trees, and under tree roots.

Viewing Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

These are some types of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains that you’re least likely to see when you visit. Seeing wildlife is one of the main reasons people visit the national park. If you’re hoping to spot some Smoky Mountain wildlife, make sure you follow these wildlife viewing safety tips for the safety of yourself and the animals.