Wildlife Ain’t So Wild And Other Critters

By Tom Wharton
THESE DAYS it is possible to find about anything on the Internet. So, when researching a column about official critters, it should have come as no surprise to find www.stateanimals.com.

This certainly would be a useful site for kids who have delayed writing a term paper on some aspect of U.S. geography. It also proved a good place for an outdoor columnist interested in such matters.

While I have never been a big fan of Texas, the Lone Star State has great official critters. These include the Nine-banded Armadillo as the state animal, the Mexican Free-tailed Bat and Longhorn Steer as state mammals (hey, it’s a big state so it needs two), the Blue Lacy as the state dog and the Texas Horned Lizard as the state reptile.

You have to feel sorry for Indiana and Iowa, which have no state animal, reptile, amphibian, insect or fish to represent them. Iowa has an Eastern Goldfinch as state bird while Indiana claims the Northern Cardinal. Guess the fourth-grade students who study their states and often lobby legislatures to create a state animal have work to do in those two states.

Delaware lacks an official animal, but it has the Horseshoe Crab as its marine animal and the Weakfish is its state fish.

And why haven’t American religious groups forced Connecticut to change its state insect, the European Praying Mantis? Aren’t there any home-grown American mantises that pray?

Utah’s state insect, the honeybee, is as common as a cold. We share that distinction with probably a dozen other states whose residents are as busy as, well, a bee.

In Minnesota, the state bird is the Common Loon, perhaps another name for former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The Lahontan Cutthroat is Nevada’s state fish. It is a native, after all. But, having lost more than a little money in that state’s casinos, the sucker may have been just as appropriate.

Some states, like Tennessee, can’t seem to make up their minds. That state, for example, has three state insects–the ladybug, honeybee and firefly–as well as a butterfly, the Zebra Swallowtail.

My votes for the coolest state animals, in addition to the Nine-banded Armadillo in Texas, include the Killer Whale in Washington, the Appaloosa Horse in Idaho, the Racking–not rocking–horse in Alabama and the dairy cow in Wisconsin.

South Dakota and New Mexico ought to get their animal and bird together. You would then have a great cartoon featuring coyote and roadÂrunner. Or has that been done?

Some places, in addition to Texas, have a state dog. Those would include the Boston Terrier in Massachusetts, the Catahowla Leopard Dog in Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Maryland, and the Great Dane in Pennsylvania. Massachusetts’ state cat is the Tabby, while Maine has the Coon Cat and Maryland has the Calico.

In several places, you might not want to run into their state symbols, such as the Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake, which is Arizona’s state reptile, the American Alligator, which is Florida’s state reptile, the Carolina Wolf Spider in South Carolina or the Grizzly Bear in Montana. –Salt Lake Tribune