Bobcats and Bats: A Guide to Backyard Wildlife in Central Texas

Rolling Hill Country isn’t just home to your friends and neighbors – it’s well known for its diverse ecosystem and amazing wildlife.


From turtles basking in Lady Bird Lake to bats feeding on the Congress Bridge to animals that make burrs at night, you can find them all in the Central Texas habitat. Very few of our animals are harmful but almost all of them can be seen.

These are just a few of the creatures you are likely to spot while in Austin, but you can Click here for more information.

Mammals

We didn’t include coyotes on this list, as you’ll likely see them all over North America.

bat

(USFWS headquarters)

Danger level: low, just don’t touch

A symbol of the city, Austin is home to more than one million Mexican free-tailed bats depending on the time of year, with most visible in July and August. Both Congress Avenue Bridge and McNeil Bridge in Round Rock are maternity colonies, where females give birth to young in the summer. Austin is known for spotting bats when the creatures feed, which tends to fall at sunset between March and August.

Fun fact: bats tend to live up to 11 years in the wild.

Bobcats

(Linda Tanner)

Danger level: medium, admire from a safe distance

Texas is home to a number of wild cats – the bobcat tends to prefer the Hill Country habitat but it’s unlikely that you’ll spot one in the Austin wilderness. An adult cat is about 3 1/2 feet tall, weighs 12-36 pounds, and eats small mammals, birds, sheep, and sometimes deer. Bobcats usually do not cause much harm or attack humans, but it is best not to disturb one if you notice it. Mountain lions also belong to the southern parts of the Hill Country.

Fun fact: Bobcats are the only native Texas cat important for fur production.

Nine banded armadillo

(Rich Anderson)

Danger level: low, just don’t touch

As the official small mammal of Texas, you can find armadillos roaming all over the state except for the Trans Pecos. You are more likely to see an armadillo using its sharp claws to hunt down some tasty grub, which can be harmful to crops, or build a den. They can be quite noisy when searching for food and if startled by an armadillo, they may jump straight into the air before quickly disappearing out of sight. If you see one of these little armadillos, don’t touch it, because armadillos are the only animal known to carry leprosy and may not be sold in Texas.

Fun fact: Armadillo moms give birth to fully formed identical quadruplets in the spring.

raccoon

(Tampaco Jaguar)

Danger level: high, do not approach

Thanks to their unique coats, Austin raccoons can be easily spotted and likely burrow into your litter or pass through your plants. They are known for their cute looks but raccoons are at risk for rabies and often act aggressive, so don’t feed them or come into contact with them. Covering trash cans can be a good way to keep them out of the trash.

Fun fact: Raccoons often make dens in tree trunks or in tight, enclosed spaces.

Reptiles and amphibians

These little ones are often spotted at Lady Bird Lake.

Frogs, toads and salamanders

Danger level: low, just don’t touch

There are quite a few of the three residing in Central Texas, if you’re quiet enough to spot one of them. The American toad, the green tree frog, and the spotted chorus frog are the city’s most well-known, and tend to be harmless. Coach’s Spadefoot and Woodhouse’s frogs are also common, and you might see Barton Springs Salamander while kayaking, but they’ll stay away.

Fun fact: the brighter the colors, the more likely these creatures are to be poisonous.

turtle

(Alan Vernon)

Danger level: low, just don’t touch

You may have seen a mix of red-eared sliders, soft turtles, and trunk turtles basking on tree trunks while at Lady Bird Lake. Turtles can live for more than 30 years on a diet of mostly small fish, plants, and decaying matter. Turtle ribs are imbued with their shell, never getting too old for their home. These small reptiles are likely to sting, but are unlikely, and can carry salmonella but are not afraid of it.

Fun fact: If there isn’t enough room for everyone in the sun, the turtles will pile on top of each other.

snakes

(Tom Spinker)

Danger level: medium, admired from a safe distance.

There are more than 105 different species of snakes that live throughout Texas, but there are only four that you have to worry about in Austin: the western diamond-back rattlesnake, the broad-headed copperhead, the western cotton snake, and the Texas coral snake, all of which are venomous . The rat snake is often confused with the rattlesnake, due to the fact that rattlesnakes have similar tails, although they are not poisonous. The best way to avoid a bite is to give the snake room and not handle it.

Fun Fact: The shape of a snake’s head is an easy indicator of whether or not a snake is venomous – snakes with triangular heads tend to be venomous but a round head is a good sign.

birds

There are more than 660 species of birds that live throughout Texas.

blue jays

(Brian Kushner)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

These blue beauties look lovely, but don’t be fooled, they are noisy and aggressive towards other birds. Blue jays are known to attack owls and imitate a hawk’s call to scare away any threats. However, blue jays are usually tamed around humans.

Fun fact: These birds are notorious for eating the eggs of other birds to scare them away.

Gracles

(Madeleine poster)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

Most likely, grackles are the source of the bird noise that bothers you the most. With an appearance similar to a blackbird, slightly longer and more iridescent. Grackles are known for their cocky menus and eating just about anything they have at their disposal.

Fun fact: geraniums are the number one threat to corn crops.

Golden Cheeks Scatterer

(Duan angles)

Danger level: ☺️ Harmless

This yellow-cheeked bird nests only in central Texas, leaves for Mexico in July to spend the winter, and resides in wooded areas. The golden-cheeked warbler is classified as critically endangered by Texas and US standards.

Fun Fact: The golden-cheeked warbler is the only Texas breed to live exclusively in Texas.

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