dnr > wildlife viewing guide > night
| Songbirds | Waterfowl
| Birds of Prey | Night Species
Michigan has some extremely interesting animals that are
active only at night. Some of these animals are fairly common, but
most people rarely see them. Although wildlife viewing after dark
is challenging, you can be successful with a little knowledge and
a lot of practice.
Bats are the only mammals that truly fly. Their bodies are covered
with fur, but their wings are naked and nearly transparent. They have
a distinctive fluttering appearance when seen in flight. Watch for
bats around wetland areas where they often gather to feed. They can
be seen right at dusk and often can be seen well after dark if the
moon is bright or if there are artificial lights (such as streetlights)
From the 8-inch saw-whet owl to the 30-inch great gray owl, Michiganís
owls may be best recognized by their erect postures, large heads,
and large eyes. Some have large ear tufts but some—like the
barred owl—do not. During the day, owls perch motionless in
trees and are very hard to find. At dusk, look for them perched along
field borders and listen for their distinctive hooting calls.
Most people recognize the distinctive colors (and smell) of the skunk,
even if they have never seen a live one. Adults are about two feet
long and spend their time on the ground in mixed forest and open areas.
If you come across a skunk, it is best to observe it from a distance!
Flying squirrels are the smallest Michigan squirrels, less than a
foot in length (including the 5-inch tail). They have extremely soft,
loose fur that is brown or gray on top and white underneath. Contrary
to their name, flying squirrels do not truly fly, but they are excellent
gliders. They run along branches and leap into the air, spreading
their loose skin tight like the wing on a hang glider. They use their
broad, flattened tail as a rudder to guide them between branches and
trees. Though fairly common, these squirrels are shy and rarely seen.
The Virginia opossum—North Americanís only marsupial—is
about the size of a large house cat. It is easily recognized by its
white face and large, rounded ears. The foot-long tail is pinkish
and naked and the opossum uses it for grasping and climbing. If approached
or threatened, the opossum will usually hiss and show its mouthful
of teeth. However, if danger persists, opossums will often fall into
a state of unconsciousnessó"playing possum." Many predators will not
eat prey that is not "alive," so this little trick can be an effective
defense mechanism. Unfortunately, it doesnít work well on roads.