STATE ANIMALS ARE NOT NATIVE SPECIES
animals as official symbols allows people to recognize and appreciate
a states wildlife. It can also focus attention on animals that
might otherwise go unrecognized by anyone except experts. Some choices,
however, reflect not-so-hidden agendas. Others just leave you scratching
example, no record exists of the wolverine ever having populated Michigan.
Yet it is Michigans state mammal. Seventeen states have chosen
as their state insect the European honeybee, a species that
is not even native to the country.
unknown to me, Alabama has two butterflies as state symbols. One, the
eastern tiger swallowtail, is the state butterfly. The monarch
butterfly, on the other hand, is the state insect. I suppose
its understandable that the boll weevil didnt make the cut.
also have a few notable entries. Is the cardinal really the most interesting
bird in seven eastern states and the mockingbird the best choice in
redundancy limited to a single geographic region. Six western states
selected the western meadowlark as their symbol. Not that anything is
wrong with cardinals, mockingbirds and western meadowlarks. But why
would you want to copy another states selection? Alabamas
choice of a woodpecker the flicker aka yellowhammer and
South Carolinas Carolina wren are much more creative choices.
animal symbols are clearly founded on a legislative agenda. For example,
instead of selecting some cool and interesting native non-game mammal,
most state symbols are game species. But as with the copycat state birds,
why did a dozen states select the white-tailed deer?
prefer the badger chosen by Wisconsin, the Olympic marmot by Washington
and the ring-tailed cat by Arizona. And who could object to Connecticuts
mammal, the sperm whale? At least the legislature didnt designate
it as the official state fish.
are not content with selecting a single animal to represent their state.
I am not sure what the purpose of having multiple symbols for the same
animal group is, but Florida, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have four
state mammals each.
Texas, it has five, including the state dog and the state horse. But
South Carolina also has five state mammals, so look for Texas to indulge
in one-upmanship by adding a state cat or a state rodent. Lets
hope they do not pick one of the cats that Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts
have already officially designated as theirs.
not been neglected among state symbols, but redundancy abounds there,
too. Alabama and all four contiguous states think the largemouth bass
is the quintessential fish for them. Indiana made the same choice.
states have chosen a species of trout as their symbolic fish. In fact,
except for the reef triggerfish of Hawaii, the garibaldi of California
and the paddlefish of Missouri, all official state fish are hook-and-line
species, and most can be eaten.
animal symbols serve to promote much-needed environmental awareness.
Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma have a state bat, although the latter two
picked the same one the Mexican freetail bat.
half of the states have a state reptile, with the Alabama red-bellied
turtle being the least likely to be duplicated by another state. Four
picked the painted turtle, and four others made box turtles their species
of choice, although more interesting native turtles are found in each
of those states.
selection of the diamond-backed terrapin was a proper choice. State
amphibians have been designated in 22 states, split almost evenly between
salamanders and frogs (including a couple of toads).
have made it into the list of symbols in three states, with the Louisiana
crawfish, the blue crab in Maryland and Dungeness crab in Oregon being
obvious choices at least for restaurant-goers.
the existence of wildlife in a symbolic way can bring greater public
appreciation for what lives around us. Highlighting native species would
be even better.
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