Wild Kentucky Summer

Wild Kentucky Summer

  • Ashley Swift
  • 06/11/24

Kentucky summer is a season of vibrant landscapes and outdoor adventures. From hiking through lush forests to enjoying water sports on scenic lakes, the Bluegrass State offers countless opportunities to connect with nature. As you venture outside this summer, you’re likely to cross paths with various wildlife. Here’s a guide to some of the animals you might meet along the way.

Black Bears

Black bears are native to Kentucky and primarily inhabit the eastern parts of the state, particularly within the Appalachian region. Over the past few decades, their population has rebounded due to conservation efforts, with these majestic creatures now being a symbol of the state's rich natural heritage.

They typically prefer forested areas with dense cover and abundant food sources, such as Daniel Boone National Forest, Kingdom Come State Park, Pine Mountain State Resort Park, and Breaks Interstate Park.

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Eastern Elk

Kentucky boasts the largest elk population east of the Mississippi River. This native species was reintroduced to the area in the 1990s, following a century of absence due to overhunting and habitat loss. These magnificent animals thrive in the diverse landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains and are a testament to successful wildlife conservation and management efforts.

Some of the best places to see elk in Kentucky include Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, and Paul Van Booven Wildlife Management Area.

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Birds of Prey

Kentucky is home to a diverse array of birds of prey, including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls. The state’s varied landscapes, from forests to open fields, provide ideal habitats for these majestic birds, making Kentucky a significant region for bird of prey conservation and observation.

Hawks, owls, and eagles are often spotted in open fields, forests, and near water bodies. Bald eagles, once endangered, have made a remarkable comeback in Kentucky and can often be seen around large bodies of water such as Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

More places to see birds of prey in Kentucky include Ballard Wildlife Management Area, Cave Run Lake, and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge.

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White-Tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are abundant throughout Kentucky and are one of the state's most iconic and widespread wildlife species. Known for its distinctive white underside to its tail, they thrive in a variety of habitats, commonly seen in wooded areas, fields, and near water sources, especially during dawn and dusk.

White-tailed deer can be found throughout the state, and some of the best places to observe them in their natural habitat include Mammoth Cave National Park, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

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Eastern Box Turtles

The Eastern box turtle can be recognized by its high-domed shell and distinctive hinged plastron that allows it to completely enclose itself for protection. These turtles are primarily found in forests, meadows, and near streams. They are known for their longevity, often living 30 to 40 years in the wild, with some individuals reaching over 100 years. Their populations are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss, road mortality, and collection for the pet trade.

Some of the best places to see Eastern box turtles in Kentucky include Red River Gorge Geological Area and John James Audubon State Park.

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Coyotes are highly adaptable and can be found throughout Kentucky, thriving in various habitats including forests, fields, and even urban areas. Originally native to the western United States, coyotes have expanded their range eastward over the past century.

Observing coyotes can be challenging due to their elusive natures. They are often heard more than seen, with their distinctive howls and yips echoing through the night.

Venomous Snakes

Kentucky is home to several snake species, including a few venomous ones. Knowing what to look out for can make your outdoor adventures safer and more enjoyable.

Copperheads have a distinctive hourglass pattern on their bodies. They are usually light brown or tan with darker bands. They are common in rocky areas, woodlands, and near water.

Timber rattlesnakes prefer deciduous forests and have a distinctive rattle at the end of their tails. They are often gray, brown, or yellowish with dark crossbands.

Western Cottonmouths are found near bodies of water. They are dark colored and can appear almost black. They have a distinctive white mouth lining, which they display when threatened.

Featured Listings, Perfect for Outdoor Enthusiasts

589 Mount Pleasant Road (Ewing, Ky.) | presented by Stephen J B Davis

46 Honeysuckle Ridge (Barboursville, Ky.) | presented by Ashley Peercy

137 Columbine Drive (Carlisle, Ky.) | presented by Donna Gail Mattox

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Acreages in Eastern Kentucky

Proximity to National Parks & Forests

Enjoying the Outdoors Responsibly

To make the most of your adventures while respecting wildlife and the environment, always remember:

1) Leave No Trace - pack out all trash, respect wildlife, stay on designated trails, and leave natural objects and habitats undisturbed.

2) Practice Safe Food Storage – use bear-proof containers and appropriate storage practices for the area you will be visiting. Keep food away from sleeping areas and never leave food scraps or wrappers behind.

3) Respect Wildlife Habitats – use binoculars for a closer look at animals rather than approaching them to avoid creating stress or provoking defensive behavior.

4) Stay Informed - check for any specific wildlife advisories or regulations in the area you plan to visit and familiarize yourself with these species.

5) Be Prepared - Familiarize yourself with the area’s terrain and potential wildlife encounters and carry essentials like a first aid kit, map, compass, and plenty of water.

These actions help preserve the natural beauty of Kentucky and ensure that wildlife can thrive without human interference.

Embrace the Wild Kentucky Summer

Kentucky's diverse landscapes offer incredible opportunities to connect to the natural world. By being informed and prepared, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and respectful adventure that honors the beauty and integrity of the Bluegrass State’s wildlife and landscapes. Happy adventuring!


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