Shenandoah National Park is a great place to observe wildlife. Countless visitors spend hours watching deer snip and tear plants. Other people look for tracks and scat of bobcats, listen for the rustling of raccoons in the brush, and occasionally smell striped skunks.
Some of the more commonly seen mammals in the park include white-tailed deer, black bear, raccoons, opossum, skunk, birds, red and gray fox, beaver, river otter, mink, weasel, woodchuck, rabbit, squirrel and chipmunks.
Shenandoah serves as a refuge for many species of animals otherwise pressured by human activities, development and other land uses. There are over 200 resident and transient bird species, over 50 species of mammals, 51 reptile and amphibian species, and 39 fish species found in the park. Only incomplete records of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates are available so the total number of different species of these groups is unknown.
The settlers who explored the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains in the early 1700s reported an abundance and variety of animals. As European settlers cleared the land, introduced domestic animals, and hunted native animals, the abundance and variety in species diminished. An unknown number of native species disappeared from the area, while populations of many other species dwindled. American bison were eliminated around 1798 and elk followed in 1855. Beaver and river otter disappeared in the late 1800s. Other species, including the eastern timber wolf, the eastern cougar, the white-tailed deer, turkey, black bear, and bobcats were either extirpated or declined drastically.