As the United States and Canada are some of the most developed countries in the world, natives and foreigners alike tend to focus on the urban attractions in this part of the world, particularly in the United States. New York’s Times Square, the French Quarter of New Orleans, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and the Las Vegas Strip are some of the most popular tourist attractions in the U.S. However, the abundance of urban attractions in the U.S. and Canada often causes people to overlook the amazing natural beauty that can be found in this region of the world. In particular, the U.S. and Canada are home to some incredible animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
The U.S. and Canada have varied landscapes, biomes, and geographic features ranging from mountains to deserts to rainforests. This great variation in landscape and climate forces life in this part of the world to adapt in many different ways. The result is a wide variety of unique and interesting animals. And, while visiting New York City is pretty cool, I’d argue that getting to see one of these incredible creatures in real life is even cooler.
So, this article is dedicated to the 7 coolest animals that can only be found in the U.S. and Canada. And, after reading this, maybe you’ll plan your next vacation around spotting wildlife rather than heading straight for the city.
1. Mountain Goats
The mountain goat is also known as the Rocky Mountain goat because they’re found in the U.S. Rocky Mountains. However, that’s not the only place you’ll find them. These fluffy goats can be found from the continental U.S. all the way up into Canada. They can be found in states like Idaho, Montana, and Washington. However, if you live in one of those states and you’ve never seen one, that’s probably because they prefer to stay in high-altitude regions far away from humans (and far away from most other animals).
Mountain goats have cloven hooves with two toes that can be spread wide apart to help their balance. This gives them the ability to walk (or even jump) extremely steep slopes. These amazing animals have long beards and beautiful white coats that protect them from the cold and snow.
There’s a reason that Groundhog’s Day is a holiday that’s only celebrated in the United States and Canada: this adorable creature only lives in those two countries. Did you know that a groundhog is also known as a woodchuck. That’s right; they’re the inspiration behind the famous proverb: “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” Combine those two examples with the iconic Bill Murray film Groundhog’s Day and the groundhog is basically a cultural icon.
There are about a thousand different names for groundhogs (including woodshocks, land beavers, moonacks, thickwood badgers, groundpig, whistlepigs, and red monks) but, technically, they belong to a group of large ground squirrels called marmots. They primarily eat wild grasses and other small plants, and they’re only found in the U.S. and Canada.
No, the nene is not named after a famous dance craze from the one-hit-wonder Silentó. “Now watch me whip / Now watch me nae nae” Remember that? Well, that song has nothing to do with the Hawaiian goose that we’re here to talk about today. This bird’s name was given to it by the native Hawaiian people who heard its soft call.
Apart from its amazing name, this goose is fairly average except for the fact that they can only be found in the state of Hawaii. And, while you could’ve found them all over the state years ago, today, their range is restricted to the islands of Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Maui, and Moloka’i. As this bird’s population declines, there are conservation efforts being put forward to ensure that this bird doesn’t disappear from Hawaii, thus disappearing from the world entirely.
The fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, pronghorn are capable of running around 60 miles per hour when they’re fully grown. And, while that’s not quite as fast as the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah, a pronghorn can sustain its top speed for longer than a cheetah can. And, as their name suggests, they have two pronged blades of bone jutting out of their skulls.
Before someone calls me out, I need to disclose that you can find pronghorn in some parts of Mexico, specifically, in Baja California Sur and Sonora. However, the Baja California pronghorn is, unfortunately, critically endangered and you’re probably not going to see one in the wild.
5. North American Beaver
Beavers have to be among the most impressive animals in the world. They chew through trees and are master carpenters. Not to mention, they’re adorable! Now, while beavers do live in Europe and Asia, the North American beaver is considered its own species and is differentiated by its shorter skull and more stout body.
If you’re unfamiliar with the lifestyles of beavers, they use their four chisel-shaped teeth to cut down trees and then use those trees to build dams. These dams stop the flow of water and create small ponds for the beavers to live in. They also use the fallen trees to build lodges around the periphery of the pond. So, basically, they spend their lives hanging out in their own private riverside oasis.
So, technically, there are moose in Eurasia. However, in that part of the world, they’re referred to as elk. In the United States and Canada, the word “elk” refers to the species Cervus canadensis whereas the word “moose” refers to Alces alces. It’s a bit confusing. However, the New World moose is part of the deer family and they’re large, solitary animals that will only cohabitate with their young for the first 18 months of their lives. After that 18-month period is up, the mother will chase the child away and they’ll live on their own for the rest of their lives.
And, while moose are undeniably adorable, they’re actually rather dangerous towards humans. In fact, in North America, moose attack more people annually than bears and wolves combined. They aren’t aggressive by nature; however, if they feel threatened, they can be incredibly dangerous due to their size and those big horns on their heads.
7. American Bison
The American bison is on my personal list of top animals that I want to cuddle with. These laid-back beasts spend their days eating grass and rolling around in the dirt. They have a shaggy, dark winter coat and a light, thinner summer coat. And they have huge heads! Although it may seem very enticing to approach a bison and give it some back-scratches, these creatures can become aggressive if you encroach on their personal boundaries. And, when the average weight of an adult male bison is about 1,400 pounds, an aggressive bison is not something you want to mess with.
The American bison is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the American buffalo despite the fact that buffaloes are an entirely different species. In fact, there was a nickel produced from 1913 to 1938 that sports a picture of an American bison, which is commonly referred to as the “buffalo nickel”. You know the song lyrics “Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam / And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That song is referring to the American bison.