21 Types of NOCTURNAL Animals in Nebraska! (2024)

What kinds of nocturnal animals can you find in Nebraska?

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

Heading outside after dark can turn up a surprising number of creatures. Keep reading to learn about what you may encounter!

21 Nocturnal Animals in Nebraska:


#1. Great Horned Owl

  • Bubo virginianus

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

  • Adults are mottled gray-brown with reddish faces.
  • They have prominent feather tufts on their heads and large yellow eyes.

You may not see Great Horned Owls often, but they are common nocturnal animals throughout Nebraska.

These raptors can actually be found from the Arctic south to the tropics. Its habitat is practically unlimited as long as there are trees and rocky nesting sites available. It is hard to find a bird that can adapt better than a Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl Range Map

great horned owl range map

These owls are quite large and look fierce! To identify them, look for their long tufts of feathers that resemble ears on their head. Also, check out their intimidating eyes. I know I would not want to have a staring contest with one!

Both sexes hoot, but males are lower-pitched than females. Males give territorial calls that can be heard a few miles away at night. I don’t think there’s another owl species that does hooting better than a Great Horned Owl!


#2. Coyote

  • Canis latrans

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

  • Their coloring is grayish to yellow-brown on top with white underparts.
  • They have a bushy tail, large, triangular ears, narrow muzzle, black nose, and yellow eyes.

Coyotes are some of the most common nocturnal animals in Nebraska.

These predators have a large range in North America and are found in various habitats, from the tropics to the tundra. They have expanded their range after the near extermination of wolves and cougars by European settlers.

Coyotes are also highly versatile in their food selection. Despite being primarily carnivorous, they consume various plants, including berries, grass, and food crops. They will eat almost anything, and this extensive menu allows them to thrive in nearly every environment in Nebraska!

Even if you haven’t seen one, you’ve probably heard a Coyote before! They’re extremely vocal and communicate through howls, yips, whines, and barks. These vocalizations are used to warn pack mates of danger, greet each other, and play.


#3. Common Nighthawk

  • Chordeiles minor

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

  • Adults are camouflaged gray, white, buff, and black.
  • They have short legs, flat heads, and tiny bills.
  • They have noticeable white patches near the bend of their wings.

These odd-looking birds are one of the most interesting nocturnal animals in Nebraska.

Common Nighthawks are sometimes called “bullbats” because their awkward, erratic flapping makes them look like bats. While they can be tough to spot in the, you’ll probably hear their sharp peent call as they soar through the night skies feeding on insects.

Common Nighthawk Range Map

Common Nighthawk Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may also see males putting on a “booming” display. The males will dive towards the ground, pulling up at the last second.

The air rushing across their wingtips during this maneuver makes a booming or rushing sound like a racecar.


#4. White-Tailed Deer

  • Odocoileus virginianus

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

  • Their coloring is tan or brown during the summer and grayish in winter, with white on the throat, chest, and underside of the tail.
  • The males have antlers, which they shed in the winter.

White-tailed deer have an extensive range in North America and are able to thrive in various habitats, including coniferous, mixed, and deciduous forests, sawgrass and hammock swamps, cactus and thorn brush deserts, brushy areas, and farmlands.

While they are somewhat nocturnal, you’re most likely to see White-tailed Deer in Nebraska around dawn and dusk when they forage.

They are also completely comfortable in suburban environments, and it’s common for them to live in small wooded parks near housing developments. The herd in my neighborhood is particularly fond of our bird feeders. They stop by for a snack almost every evening!


#5. Big Brown Bat

  • Eptesicus fuscus

Types of nocturnal animals in Nebraska

  • Larger-sized bat with around a 12-inch (30 cm) wingspan.
  • Brown fur with black ears, wings, and feet. Wings are hairless.

These flying nocturnal mammals are widespread in Nebraska.

If you know where to look, you’ll find Big Brown Bats inside caves, tunnels, or other human structures.

Big Brown Bat Range Map

big brown bat range map

These bats primarily eat insects, especially ones that fly at night. However, their preference is to eat beetles. The Cucumber Beetle is their favorite, which benefits farmers because these insects are terrible pests for agriculture. Many farmers even use bat boxes to attract Big Brown Bats to their property!

Though rabies is common in all bats, research has shown the disease is rarer in this species. The reason for this fact is that many Big Brown Bats have immunity to rabies. Interestingly, researchers discovered that these rabies antibodies get passed down from generation to generation!


#6. Bobcat

  • Lynx rufus

  • Their coloring is buff to brown, sometimes with a reddish tint, and black and brown spots and stripes.
  • They have facial ruffs, ear tufts, white spots, and short, bobbed tails.

Bobcats are solitary, elusive, shy, nocturnal animals that are rarely seen in Nebraska.

These cats are highly adaptable and found in various habitats. They may be observed in residential areas. However, they generally avoid extensively cleared agricultural lands.

As carnivores, Bobcats are highly skilled hunters. They can climb, run up to 30 miles per hour (48 kph), and leap high enough to grab low-flying birds. They spend their nights patiently stalking their prey until they are close enough to pounce.

The largest threat to Bobcat populations is habitat fragmentation due to their large home ranges and elusive nature. However, rodenticides can also cause issues in populations when they feed on contaminated prey.


#7. Raccoon

  • Procyon lotor

  • Their fur is grayish-brown with 4 to 6 black rings on the tail and a black “mask” marking around the eyes.
  • They have bushy tails and paws with five long, finger-like toes.

Raccoons are one of the most common nocturnal animals in Nebraska around people!

Due to their ability to adapt to humans, Raccoons have an extensive range and are found in forests, wetlands, suburbs, parks, and cities. They generally avoid large open areas and thrive in areas with water sources, abundant food, and den sites.

Raccoons feed on practically anything they can fit in their mouths. Individuals living in urban locations are often larger than those in unpopulated areas because they have adapted to live on human hand-outs, pet food, and trash.

Raccoons often pick up food items and rub them with their paws, sometimes removing unwanted parts. This gives the appearance that they’re washing their food.

Lastly, they have REALLY cute babies. 🙂


#8. Red Fox

  • Vulpes vulpes

  • Their coloring ranges from pale orange or red to deep reddish-brown on their upper parts with white on their underside.
  • They have black feet, a fluffy white-tipped tail, and large, pointy, black-tipped ears.

Red Foxes are arguably the most beautiful nocturnal animal in Nebraska!

These canines are often thought of as cunning and smart, with good reason! They’re excellent hunters and foragers. They also cache food and are adept at relocating it. Although they prefer rabbits, fish, and berries, they won’t hesitate to eat anything readily available.

This species has a distinctive way of hunting mice and other small rodents. Once the prey has been detected, they stand motionless, waiting and listening. Then they leap high into the air and bring their forelegs straight down, pinning the rodent. Their incredible hearing makes it easy for them to hunt at night.


#9. Striped Skunk

  • Mephitis mephitis

  • Their coloring is black with two thick white stripes running down the back and tail and a thin white stripe from the snout to the forehead.
  • They have a bushy black tail, small triangular heads, short ears, and black eyes.

Striped Skunks have perhaps the worst reputation of any nocturnal animal in Nebraska.

They’re best known for their unusual defense system. When threatened, a Striped Skunk will first stomp its feet or handstand as a warning.

If these aren’t heeded, the skunk bends its hindquarters to face the animal and releases its defensive smelly spray. The unpleasant, oily liquid can reach up to 20 feet (6 m) and may cause nausea, intense pain, and temporary blindness.

Despite their foul odor, Striped Skunks provide benefits to humans in the form of pest control. In the summer, they’re largely insectivorous and spend their nights feeding heavily on grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and bees. The best thing to do if you see a skunk is to give it space. They usually move on quickly when they notice humans!

These small mammals are typically common in suburban areas but are rarely seen because they are nocturnal. As seen below, they often visit bird feeders to eat leftover seeds on the ground!


#10. American Bullfrog

  • Lithobates catesbeianus

Types of Frogs

  • Coloration is typically olive green, with some individuals having gray or brown mottling or spots.
  • Fully webbed back feet.

The American Bullfrog is the largest frog in Nebraska!

Believe it or not, these nocturnal amphibians can grow to weigh as much as 1.5 pounds (.7 kg).

American Bullfrog Range Map

american bullfrog range map

Green = native range. Red = introduced range.

Bullfrogs can be found in permanent bodies of water, including swamps, ponds, and lakes. If you want to see one, it’s best to head to these areas at night, when the frogs are most active.

Bullfrogs are known to eat just about anything they can fit in their mouth and swallow! The list of prey includes other frogs, fish, turtles, small birds, bats, rodents, insects, crustaceans, and worms. I have personally witnessed one even trying to eat a baby duck!

They are named for their deep call, which is thought to sound like a bull bellowing.


#11. Eastern Cottontail

  • Sylvilagus floridanus

  • Their coloring is reddish-brown on the upper body with white on the underparts and tail.
  • They have distinctive, large eyes and a round, fluffy tail.

These nocturnal animals are vulnerable to many predators in Nebraska, so they require a habitat with good cover. Areas with a mix of grasses, dense shrub thickets, blackberry bushes, and brush piles are ideal.

One of their favorite places to nest is suburban yards! So, if you notice Eastern Cottontails hanging around your property in the evening, be careful when you mow your lawn. Although rabbit nests are usually slightly below ground level, lawn equipment is still dangerous for baby rabbits and mothers.

Eastern Cottontails consume a wide range of plant materials. They can be a nuisance for gardeners by eating garden plants and flowers. However, in winter, they eat woody materials from birch, oak, dogwood, sumac, and maple trees.


#12. Eastern Red Bat

  • Lasiurus borealis

  • Medium-sized tree bat with thick, long fur. Ears are short and round.
  • Males have distinctive rusty red-colored fur, and females have more of a soft shade of red.
  • Both have white patches of fur on their shoulder.

These nocturnal animals like to spend their days roosting in trees in Nebraska.

Eastern Red Bats often roost hanging from a single foot, allowing their body to twist slightly in the breeze. This helps give them the appearance of a dead leaf!

These bats are relatively fast flyers with good maneuverability. They are insectivorous, which means they prey primarily on different insects, with their favorite being moths. You might spot them zooming around lights at night.

Eastern Red Bat Range Map

eastern red bat range map

Eastern Red Bats have few predators. However, sometimes hawks, aggressive Blue Jays, and crows attack them. This bat is also killed by flying into cars or wind turbines. Unfortunately, this species has the second-highest mortality rate from wind turbines.


#13. Black-crowned Night Heron

  • Nycticorax nycticorax

black crowned night heron

  • A relatively small, stocky, compact heron.
  • Appears a bit hunchbacked, as it often tucks its neck into its body.
  • Black head and back, which contrast against its white belly and gray wings.

Black-crowned Night Herons are nocturnal birds found in wetlands across Nebraska. In fact, they are the most widespread heron in the world, but they are often hard to actually locate and see!

Black-crowned Night Heron Range Map

black crowned night heron range map

As their name suggests, these herons are most active at dusk and during the evening. While the sun is out, they spend the day hiding among brush and vegetation near the water’s edge. By foraging at night, these birds avoid competition from other heron species!

When surprised or under duress, Black-crowned Night Herons give a loud, barking “quawk.” While at their nesting colonies, you can hear a variety of other croaks, barks, hisses, screams, clucks, and rattles.


#14. Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Megascops asio

  • They are either mostly gray or reddish-brown.
  • They are small, stocky owls with ear tufts and almost no necks.

These little nocturnal animals may remind you of professional wrestlers since they are short, stocky, and have no necks! Eastern Screech-owls can either be grey or red, with about a third of all individuals being red.

These small owls will settle in almost any wooded area. They are extremely well camouflaged and often spend their days pressed against the tree that they’re resting in.

Eastern Screech-Owl Range Map

eastern screech-owl range map

Even if you’ve never seen one, you may have heard an Eastern Screech-owl at night. They make various hoots, calls, and songs, but their most popular is an even-pitched trill, often called a tremolo.

The tremolo is used by pairs to keep in contact with each other and lasts between 3 to 6 seconds. I think this tremolo call sounds a lot like mating toads, and I sometimes get the two confused!


#15. Cougar

  • Puma concolor

  • Coloration ranges from reddish-brown to tawny or gray, with a black tip on their tail.
  • They have round heads, pointed ears, and powerful forequarters.

Cougars are among the largest nocturnal animals in Nebraska.

Their large hind legs and massive paws help give Cougars incredible athletic ability. They can jump 15 feet high and 40 feet in distance and sprint at 50 miles per hour. Yet, despite their impressive speed, they generally wait and ambush prey.

Except for females raising young, adult Cougars generally only kill one large animal every couple of weeks. Then, they drag the kill to a preferred area and cover it with brush, returning to feed off it over a few days.

Cougars have the most amount of names of any animal North America. While Cougar seems to be the most common, these large cats are also known as catamount, mountain lion, puma, ghost cat, and panther.


#16. American Badger

  • Taxidea taxus

  • Their long fur is brown or black with white stripes on their cheeks and one white stripe running from their nose to the back of their head.
  • They have a large, flat body, short, powerful legs, triangular face, small ears, and long, sharp claws.

The American Badger is an intimidating nocturnal animal that primarily feeds on small burrowing creatures, like ground squirrels, rats, gophers, and mice.

They spend their nights digging prey out of burrows with their strong claws or entering the burrows and waiting for the creature to return. Interestingly, Coyotes regularly stand nearby and wait to catch animals fleeing from badgers.

American Badgers create their own burrows as well. They regularly dig upwards of 32 feet of tunnels that reach 10 feet below the surface, with enlarged chambers for sleeping, storing food, and giving birth. Their burrows have one entrance with a pile of dirt next to it.


#17. North American Porcupine

  • Erethizon dorsatum

  • Their fur ranges in color from brownish-yellow to black, with white highlights on their quills.
  • Porcupines are covered in approximately 30,000 hollow quills.

This nocturnal animal is the second-largest rodent in Nebraska!

While North American Porcupines generally spend much of their time on the ground, they can also climb trees, using their tail for support. But they aren’t the best climbers; one study found that 30% of the porcupines had healed fractures from falling from trees.

North American Porcupine Range Map

North American Porcupine Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They’re well known for their sharp quills used for defense. When threatened, porcupines draw up the skin of their back, bristling so that the quills face all directions. The porcupine keeps its back to the predator and moves its tail back and forth.

But, despite their effective defense, porcupines are still preyed on by fishercats, coyotes, wolverines, and other predators that have adapted to hunting them.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines can’t throw quills at their attacker! 🙂


#18. 9-Banded Armadillo

  • Dasypus novemcinctus

  • Their back, sides, head, tail, and outer legs are covered in bony, armor-like plates connected by flexible bands of skin.
  • Tough skin and coarse hair cover the underside.

9-Banded Armadillos are one of the most unique nocturnal animals in Nebraska!

They have an incredible system of reproduction. Every time this species gets pregnant, the zygote splits into four identical quadruplets! They’re the only animal that produces offspring this way, and scientists aren’t sure why it happens.

Unfortunately, because of their habit of digging into lawns, many people either harm or kill them. In addition, they’re also killed often by vehicles when crossing roads at night. So, if you find a 9-Banded Armadillo, remember to observe it from a distance and appreciate what an amazing creature you’ve witnessed!


#19. Speckled Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis holbrooki

speckled kingsnake

  • Adults are typically 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is shiny black with small yellow, yellowish-green, or white specks, one in the center of almost every dorsal scale, though the pattern of the speckles varies by individual.

Speckled Kingsnakes are secretive, nocturnal reptiles that can be tough to spot. You’re most likely to observe them crossing roadways in the early morning or evening.

The Speckled Kingsnake’s unique appearance resulted in the nickname “salt and pepper snake.

Speckled Kingsnake Range Map

speckled kingsnake range map
Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

Like other kingsnakes, this species is a constrictor, which means they use their coils to asphyxiate their prey before consuming it. They feed on a wide variety of prey, including rodents, birds, bird eggs, reptiles, reptile eggs, frogs, and other snakes, including venomous species. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW! 🙂

Speckled Kingsnakes are generally quite docile and are often kept as pets. However, if disturbed, they may shake their tail, release a foul-smelling musk, and strike if grabbed.


#20. Great Plains Ratsnake

  • Pantherophis emoryi

great plains rat snake

  • Coloration is light gray or tan with dark gray, brown, or green-gray blotching down its back.
  • A spear-shaped mark on the head and stripes on the sides of the head that meet to form a point between the eyes.
  • Also sometimes called Emory’s Ratsnake, Brown Ratsnake, or Chicken Snake.

Great Plains Ratsnakes are nocturnal reptiles found in Nebraska in open woodlands, rocky, wooded hillsides, semi-arid regions, and agricultural areas.

great plains rat snake range map

This species prefers to prey on rodents but may also consume small birds, lizards, and frogs. They are also known to eat bats and are sometimes found near caves hunting them! Like other rat snakes, they’re constrictors and use their strong coils to suffocate prey before eating it.

When disturbed, the Great Plains Ratsnake curls up and vibrates its tail, which sounds remarkably like a rattlesnake when done in dry leaf litter. Though they’re considered non-aggressive and docile, they may strike if grabbed.


#21. Plains Leopard Frog

  • Lithobates blairi

plains leopard frog

  • Tan or light brown coloration with dark brown or greenish spots.
  • A distinct white line on the upper jaw and lighter ridges running down the sides of the back.

The Plains Leopard Frog is almost always seen around permanent bodies of water, including streams, creeks, ponds, and marshy areas. They primarily eat insects, although these opportunists will eat almost any living thing they can fit in their mouth (including other frogs).

Plains Leopard Frog Range Map

plains leopard frog range map

During the breeding season, the males produce a guttural, rapid “chuck-chuck-chuck” call you may hear at night.

The Plains Leopard Frog is relatively common but can be hard to see in Nebraska. First, they are nocturnal. Second, they are shy and dive into the water as soon as they are approached!


To learn more about animals in Nebraska, check out these other guides!


Which of these nocturnal animals have you seen before in Nebraska?

Leave a comment below!

Some range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.