The Buckeye State embodies rock and roll and football but is also known for its excellent year-round natural areas. Ohio has several ecosystems, including wet prairies, grasslands, sedge meadows, forests, marshes, and swamps. This midwestern state has abundant wildlife, including many game animals and a surprising number of swift species. Discover the fastest animals in Ohio, including where they reside and why they are so speedy.
Red-tailed hawks are large birds of prey native to North America and among the largest raptors in Ohio. They prefer dry upland habitats on elevated perches, with an abundant population throughout the state in open farmlands and fields. These birds are spectacular as they swoop down to snatch their prey, reaching 120 miles per hour! They achieve this intense speed when diving, but their typical cruising speed hovers around 50 mph. During normal flight, their broad wings stretch out and give rapid beats, but they bring their wings closer to their bodies when diving, making them more aerodynamic.
Bobcats are medium-sized wild cats native to North America and were extirpated from Ohio in 1850. However, they have found their way back to the state and are becoming more common. Today there are hundreds roaming southeastern Ohio in forested habitats. Bobcats are stealthy, quiet, and patient hunters who silently stalk their prey by crouching, waiting, and following for miles. These speedy cats pounce on their target using surprise attacks and will pursue on foot, reaching 30 miles per hour. They need to be swift to catch animals like squirrels, rabbits, and birds. And even if they’re not quite as fast, they rely on their sneakiness for help.
White-tailed deer are native to North, Central, and South America and are Ohio’s state animal and most well-known wildlife species. They are abundant throughout the state in wildlife areas, parks, and backyards. Deer are common prey animals regularly hunted for sport, so they have naturally adapted to be silent and swift. They can run for short bursts up to 40 miles per hour and jump over seven feet high, easily outrunning and out-maneuvering many predators. These animals are highly aware of their surroundings and will take off at the slightest twig snap, using coordinated long leaps and fast twitch muscle fibers for powerful speed bursts.
Mourning doves, also known as turtle doves, are common across North America and are the most familiar breeding bird in Ohio. They live in rural and suburban areas of the state, residing in shrubbery and shady trees. Mourning doves are strong fliers that create a distinct whistling during take-off and landing and can reach speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They have long, pointed, falcon-like wings, which they quickly flap when ascending, aiding in their fast pace. Listen for their whistling wings and look for them flying in a straight line speeding like a bullet.
Wild turkeys are large ground birds native to North America and are a prized game bird found across Ohio. The state contains around 180,000 wild turkeys, with the greatest concentration in eastern Ohio’s forests, pastures, and agricultural fields. These birds may not look like they would be that fast, but they can run up to 18 miles per hour and fly 50 mph. Wild turkeys have a clumsy, off-kilter appearance, but they are surprisingly fast and agile. They can gain speeds quicker on foot than the average human and fly faster than many species. However, they can only sustain these max speeds for a short period.
Cardinals are passerine birds abundant in the eastern half of the United States and reside in the state year-round. The cardinal is the state bird of Ohio and lives in rural and urban areas among thickets and gardens. Cardinals are red birds that can fly at a cruising speed of between 20 and 30 miles per hour. However, their max speed is unknown, so they likely can go faster. They have short, round wings and prefer to take short trips between thickets. This species will also stay and defend its nest from predators, taking flight and chasing intruders away.
Black Racer Snake
Black racer snakes, or eastern racers, are nonvenomous colubrid snakes endemic to North and Central America. This species lives in eastern and southern Ohio counties and was made the state’s official reptile due to its prevalence. They have a wide-ranging habitat, from woodlands and pastures to rocky ledges, and is known for its speediness. These snakes can grow up to six feet long and are strong and powerful, reaching up to ten miles per hour. While the average human can outpace them at a light jog, other ground-dwelling creatures are not as fortunate.