Here is a PDF version of the ID resources found below!

Animal Identification Condensed Guide

Bear, Ursus americanus

Photo credit to Mass Audubon and Lynn Smith

Black bears, as the name indicates, are black overall. They can also be brown, blond or red.

Their muzzle is brown and their chest can have a white patch.  Males’ weight ranges from 130-600 pounds while the females’ range from 100 to 400 pounds. Bears are omnivores, which means that they eat plants and animals. It is not uncommon to see bears around human-associated foods, such as those in trash cans, bird feeders and pet food. Additionally, they have excellent memories which enables them to memorize where a food source is. 

Bears will hibernate between mid-November and early December and reemerge between early

March and mid-April. Bears normally den in caves, brush piles, under fallen trees or rocks piles or in thickets. Their mating season is between mid-June to mid-July. They are mostly active at dusk. A mother and her cub will often be spotted together while the male are solitary.

Tree markings are common amongst male bears during the spring. They scratch the trees with their claws and sometimes even bite. They also rub against the tree to shed their winter hair, which leaves behind hair and rub marks. 

If you see a bear, make sure to make him aware of your presence by yelling or making a sound sound while moving away from the scene without removing your eyes from the bear. 

Moose, Alces alces

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

Moose are large mammals that can weigh anywhere between 500 to 1000 pounds. They can measure up to 6 feet in length with legs that extend 3 to 4 feet. The head of the moose is very large and resembles that of the horse, although they contain a bell, which is a unique flap of skin that dangles on their chin. The color of their fur ranges from light to dark brown. Males are distinguished from the females since they have antlers that can grow up to a length of 7 feet across. Females do not have antlers. Alternatively females have visible patches of white hair on their vulva (genitalia).  Moose are most often found in the months of September and October during their mating season. 

Deer, Odocoileus virginianus 

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

The white-tailed deer is distinguishable through its reddish-brown coat during the summer. In the winter months their coat changes to a grayish-brown and their hair becomes more dense. Certain parts of the deer are white such as the belly, areas around the eyes, inside of their ears and the underside of their tail. 

The young deers, fawns, have white spots on their back and sides that fade once they are 3-4 months old. They have a length of up to 6 feet and a height of 3 feet at the shoulder. Adult males, or bucks, tend to be larger than the females, or does. They weigh 120-160 pounds and 80-120 pounds, respectively. The bucks grow antlers that branch off in the spring and summer and shed them once the breeding season is over in late winter. The deers are mostly active during the night rather than the day, being mostly active during dusk. 

Coyotes, Canis latrans

Photo Credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

About the size of a collie, coyotes are carnivores with long ears and muzzles. Coat color varies, but is usually primarily grey or rusty in the northeast. Larger than red foxes and grey foxes, coyotes are still sometimes mistakenly identified with domestic dogs, who, besides coat color, may also differ from coyotes by the placement of the tail, as coyotes tend to run with their tail down, while domestic dogs run with their tail anywhere from down to up. Males are 44.5 – 63.0 inches long while females are 43.0 – 61.8 inches long. They are 19.7 – 26.0 inches tall at the shoulder. 

Gray fox, Urocyon cinereargenteus

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

Gray foxes are small carnivores who are primarily grizzled gray in color, with rusty red fur separating the gray upper body from the white underbelly, interior of the legs, and throat. They are distinguishable from red foxes, the only other fox native to Massachusetts, by the dark stripe that runs across their back to the tip of their tail, in contrast to the white tail tip found in red foxes. Gray foxes also have shorter leg size, with total lengths among adult North American specimens averaging between 32.5 – 44.5 inches long.        

Red fox, Vulpes vulpes

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

About the size of a border-collie, red foxes are carnivores who are usually red in color, with white underbellies and throats, as well as black “stockings” and ears. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the red fox is the white tip of its bushy tail, and this feature is especially used to differentiate between similar species, such as the gray fox. Total lengths of red foxes are often around 36.8 – 43.7 inches long, and height is often around 13.8 – 15.7 inches tall at the shoulder.

Bobcat, Felis ruglus  

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

Bobcats are the only wild cat species in Massachusetts. They are a member of the feline family and have a size twice that of the domestic cat. Male bobcats tend to be larger than their female counterparts. Some features that make bobcats distinctive are their short, “bobbed” tail, face ruff, and tufted ears that are black at the top and back. Adult bobcats weigh between 15-35 pounds and measure between 28-47 inches in length. Its fur ranges from a yellowish to reddish brown with black spots all over their body and whitish undersides. In the winter, the fur becomes longer and much paler in contrast to the summer when they are shorter and reddish. 

Although bobcats are quiet and shy animals they can produce some sounds that aid in their identification like scowling, snarling and spitting. They tend to be more active during dawn but can be active during the day or night. 

American Mink, Mustela visan

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

American minks have shiny, dark brown or dark reddish-brown fur, often with white spots on the chin and chest. They have long, slender bodies, pointed noses, and small ears, along with a hairy, thin tail about one third of their body length. Their smaller size differentiates them from similarly-colored otters and fishers, and differ in coat color from the similarly-sized long-tailed weasels and ermines. Minks are most similar to martens, but have smaller, less-bushy tails, and do not have yellow throats. Males are about 21.7 – 27.6 inches long while females are 18.5 – 23.6 inches long.

Fisher, martes pennanti  

Photo credit to Mass Audubon and Roland Kays 

Fisher are a part of the weasel family. They showcase the typical weasel characteristics: a long, slim body, short legs, pointed face with large, round ears and a furry tail that measures up to a third of its body length. Its color ranges from brown to black with gray patches of fur on their head and shoulders. Some may also have white/gray patches on their chest and lower abdomen. They are highly sexuall y dimorphic beings. The males are usually much bigger, weighing 8 to 16 pounds and 3 feet in length. On the other hand, the females weigh a mere 4 to 6 pounds, measure 2 feet in length and usually have darker fur. 

Fishers can be spotted in the day or night time, although in the winter they are mostly activity during the day and in the summer they are active at nighttime. 

Ermine (Mustela erminea)

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Karen Powers    

Also known as stoats, or short-tailed weasels, ermines are small carnivores of the weasel family, identifiable by their long, slender bodies and short legs. In the warmer months, their coats are reddish-brown to sandy brown, with white or cream underbellies, throats, and inner legs. In the winter months, their coat transitions fully to white, cream, or even yellow. They can be distinguished from similar species by their tails, which is shorter than the similar long-tailed weasel, whose tail is about half or more of their body length, and has a black-tip, differentiating them from least weasels. In the northeastern United States, males are about 9.9-11.6 inches long, and females are about 7.6-10 inches long.  

Long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata)

Photo credit to WIki Commons and Lynn Smith

Similar to ermines, long-tailed weasels are small carnivores of the weasel family and have long, slender bodies and short legs. Its summer coat is reddish-brown to sandy brown with white or cream throats and similarly colored or yellow or orange bellies and inner legs. In the winter their coat becomes white, save for the black tip of their tail that remains year round. This black tip helps to differentiate them from least weasels, while their longer tail length (at least half of their body length) and often larger size allows them to be distinguished from the ermine, whose tail is usually a third of their body length. Males average about 14.7-17.6 inches, while females are usually 12.0-14.3 inches in the northeastern United States.

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Photo credit to WIki Commons and Lynn Smith

Similar in size to domestic cats, striped skunks are primarily black with four white stripes running along their backs, have triangular heads, and have bushy, black tails that are commonly white tipped. They are perhaps most well known though for the acrid odor they excrete when threatened. They are 22.4 – 31.5 inches long and 7.09 – 15.4 inches tall.

Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Wildlife Learning

Porcupines are known for their quills which they use as defense to poke their predators. The quills cover all portions of their body, which is brown to yellowish brown, except for their face, inner thighs, belly and the underside of their tail. They normally weigh between 10.0-25.0 pounds and have a large body relative to their short legs. 

WARNING: If a quill is embedded into the skin it is crucial to remove it as soon as possible because it can work itself into the body as time goes on and be harder to remove. The quills can cause swelling and infection. 

Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith 

Opossums are the only mammals in the United States that have a pouch to carry their young (marsupial). They have a grizzled white color, especially on their face, and scattered black hairs all over their body with a pink nose, dark ears with pink tips and short dark legs. Their tail, which resembles that of a rat, and ears are hairless. Adult opossums weigh about 4-11 pounds and 2-3 feet in length, similar to the size of a large domestic cats.The furless parts of their body could have frost bites in extreme cold conditions. 

Opossums are solitary mammals. However they come together during the breeding season from January to July. Although they are nomads, they are mostly active at night and reside in burrows, tree holes, hollow logs and brush piles. When they are threatened they growl, hiss and show their teeth or flee to the nearest tree for them to climb. 

Northern Raccoons (Procyon lotor)

Photo credit to Wiki Commons and Lynn Smith

Northern raccoons, medium-sized carnivores, are distinctive because of the black markings appearing like a mask on their face and the black rings on their light-colored, bushy tail. Coloration of the body is variable, but is mostly grey to black overall. Raccoons vary in size, but males are usually around 30.9 – 41.3 inches long, and females are usually 29.1 – 35.0 inches long. 



About Black Bears. (n.d). .

About Opossums. (n.d). .

About White-Tailed Deer. (n.d). . 

Bobcats. (n.d.). . 

Foxes. (n.d.). .

Halfpenny, J. C. 2008. Scats and tracks of North America: a field guide to the signs of nearly 150 wildlife species. Falcon Guides, Guilford, Conn.

Kays, R., and D. E. Wilson. 2009. Mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Learn about Black Bears. (n.d). .

Learn about Bobcats. (n.d). .

Learn about Deer. (n.d). .

Learn about Fishers. (n.d). .

Learn about Moose. (n.d). .

Learn about opossums. (n.d.). .

Moose. (n.d). .

Naughton, D. 2012. The natural history of Canadian mammals. University of Toronto Press ; Co-published by Canadian Museum of Nature, Toronto [Ont.] ; Buffalo [N.Y.] : [Ottawa, Ont.].

Porcupines. (n.d). .

Raccoons. (n.d.).

Skunks. (n.d.). .

Whitaker, J. O., and W. J. Hamilton. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. 3rd ed. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca.