Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Small Mammals of Arkansas

Ever spot a furry critter while on a hike or float and wonder what it was?  Not sure how to tell the difference between a mink and river otter?  Or between a beaver, woodchuck, and nutria?  Then this post is for you!

I was inspired to write this piece after spending a few minutes gazing in awe at a furry animal pawing the ground near Scull Creek and the Scull Creek Trail in Fayetteville.  Several strangers joined me in stopping to stare at our little friend in what felt like Fayetteville's version of a bear spotting in Yellowstone.  Everyone had a guess as to what it was, but no one was sure.  At the end, I said with confidence "woodchuck!" and another guy said "groundhog", to which I replied less confidently "I think they are the same thing" and we all separated.
Marmot (From California since I didn't have a good one from Arkansas)

So let's start with that one:

Woodchucks are sometimes called groundhogs and to me they look like beavers with furry tails. They are also way cuter than those ugly invasive nutria which have rat tails. Woodchucks (Marmota monax) can be found throughout most of Arkansas.  I typically spot them near creeks, but my old apartment in Little Rock, Holcombe
Young Woodchuck along Buffalo National River

Woodchuck in a Tree in Arkansas.  Usually seen on the ground.
Heights, had several in the rocky hillside landscaping. I see their relatives (other species from the genus Marmota) frequently on backpacking trips in the mountains of Colorado, Washington, and California.

Beaver - Buffalo River
Beaver (Castor canadensis), can also be found all over the state, typically in or by rivers and streams.  I saw this one on the Buffalo River.  They are distinguished from the rest of this pack by their flat, broad tail.

Nutria or Coypu (Myocastor coypus) are an invasive species of rodent from South America.  They basically look like a giant rat and their rounded rat-tail is how you tell them apart from beaver and muskrats.

Young mink - White River near mouth of the Buffalo
Muskrats - These guys are smaller than nutria and have flattened tails that aren't nearly as broad as those on beaver.  While walking without my camera, I saw one of these in southern Missouri in a pool on a small spring-fed stream.

River Otter - I haven't seen many of these and so far I've either been too excited or it has been too dark to get good photos.  These guys are lots of fun to watch slide in and out of the water.  They often follow kayaks and are quite playful.  They kind of look like large minks or slightly small, athletic beavers with hairy tails.
Family of Deer - Little Rock, Arkansas via Game Camera

American Mink - The first time I saw one of these I mistook it for a baby river otter.  Mink are smaller and usually a darker brown that otters.  This site shows a comparison.  Mink can be found all over Arkansas and much of the US and Canada.  I saw a family of them swim across the White River near the mouth of the Buffalo and it seemed like quite an undertaking.

Let me know if I've messed up on any of these.  While pretending to be an expert for the purpose of writing this piece, I'm definitely not one.  Are there any I've missed?

Updates: I've thrown a couple more mammals in here at the bottom.  They are rarely confused for other animals, but they are small mammals seen in Arkansas.

Head on over to this post if you want to see some other small mammals like pikas and marmots. Or this post with lots of great game camera videos and photos. My Youtube channel has lots of additional great wildlife videos (and videos of Buddy).
Groundhog in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Groundhog in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Coyotes on Game Camera in Central Arkansas

Coyote Canis Fourche Bottoms Little Rock Arkansas Wildlife
Coyote - Fourche Bottoms, Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Brown Bat Little Rock Arkansas
Little Brown Bat
Canis lupus familiaris - Commonly spotted on trails in Northwest Arkansas
Fox on a Game Camera in West Little Rock
Possum on Game Camera in West Little Rock
Raccoon and Possum On Game Camera in West Little Rock
Raccoon Profile Caught on Game Camera
Squirrel Caught on Game Camera

Armadillo Near ADEQ in North Little Rock

Possum Walking at Night

And just for completion (or closer to completion since I won't be doing rats, mice, moles, etc.):


  1. It's funny you posted this. My girlfriend an I recently had the same argument over whether a furry animal we spotted at Lee Creek Reservoir was a groundhog, beaver, or woodchuck. In the end, we decided it was a groundhog since it didn't seem to have too large of a tail. It is always neat spotting new animals in the wild and getting the chance to go home and identify them. Last weekend, I almost stepped on an Eastern Hog Nose snake while hiking at devils den. Before that, I didn't even know that type of snake existed in Arkansas. You learn something new every day. Thanks for the educational post!

  2. Why can't I whatch the oppusum video without signing into google apps

    1. Hmm not sure! It is pretty short, but you can view it at:

      Or watch a whole playlist at:

  3. You spelt opossum wrong ☺. Possums live in Australia and opossums live in the US. They also look quite different.

    1. Yes, it's too bad that to have the wrong creature identified on an otherwise very helpful site, even though "opossum" is a really unfortunate name. It's like having a cow and an ocow.

    2. "Possum" is how most Americans refer to "opossum", particularly in the south. No need to get your feathers ruffled, Aussie.

    3. Oh Lord. They are literally the same family, just different pronunciations in different countries. Plz don't make me smack my forehead again.

  4. You spelt opossum wrong ☺. Possums live in Australia and opossums live in the US. They also look quite different.

  5. I have a varmint that I've been calling a woodchuck it's nose Is longer and skinnier than
    N a grounhog. It looks more like a beaver ?????