The state of Georgia is comprised of five distinct, physiographical regions: the Upper and Lower Coastal Plains, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Appalachian Plateau and Ridge and Valley Regions. Each area features unique topography, elevation and geology, providing lush habitats for diverse wildlife species, including mammals, fish, birds and snakes.
Over 90 mammal species exist in the state of Georgia. They can be observed far beneath the coastal ocean waters of the Atlantic and high in the mountains of North Georgia. Georgia's mammals include the black bear, bobcat, pygmy shrew, white-tailed deer, river otter, mink, gray fox, eastern cottontail rabbit and striped skunk. Georgia's endangered mammals such as the northern Atlantic right and humpback whales, Florida panther and manatee, are closely monitored by conservationists.
Recreational fishing is a popular activity in the state of Georgia, as there are plentiful freshwater, reservoir and salt water fishing opportunities to choose from. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, over $550 million is spent each year on state fishing, by both local residents and out-of-state anglers. Fish species include the largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, rainbow trout and walleye. The lake sturgeon is currently classified as an "S1," meaning that its rare populations are in critical peril. Other endangered fish species that live in Georgia's waters include the upland bridled darter, blotched chub and robust redhorse.
Eight percent of the bird species found in Georgia are predatory raptors. Falcons, owls, hawks and eagles all feature distinct shapes, plumes and talons. Bird enthuisasts hoping to spot a raptor should watch the skies carefully, as the osprey, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, merlin and great horned owl can be seen flying high in the air in search of prey. While hiking in the state, be watchful of rare bird species (such as the rough-legged hawk, golden eagle and short-eared owl). Seasonally, look for the small, dabbling wood duck throughout the state.
Snakes are frequently found in Georgia in urban, rural, mountain and coastal environments. With 42 known species, Georgia has the highest biodiversity of snake populations in the entire country. The colorful, nonvenomous rainbow snake can be observed burrowing in the soft, sandy soil of coastal areas. Another vibrantly colored snake found along the coastal regions is the corn snake. Active at nighttime, the corn snake will retreat from its hiding place in search of prey (such as lizards and birds). The common red-bellied water snake may be encountered basking in the sun along a riverbank or eating amphibian prey in a wetland. A venomous snake species found in Georgia, the copperhead, has distinct hourglass-shaped crossbands. The copperhead enjoys healthy populations throughout all of Georgia's five regions.