Field Guides

Rare Visitors/Extirpated Mammals of Missouri

What are these Species?

Extirpated species are species that once existed in Missouri, but are not currently found in Missouri. Typically, these species have been extirpated due to humans destroying habitat or overhunting. However, even though they may not be found in Missouri anymore, these species can still be found in other parts of the United States or the world.

Extirpated Species

Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus)

Size: 50-60 inches in length, can range from 60-120 pounds. (“Gray Wolf.”) Typically, males will be heavier and larger. 

Description: The gray wolf shares some traits with the coyote, but is a bit larger. It has longer legs, a broader nose pad, slightly coarser fur, and has larger ears in proportion to its head. The gray wolf, as known as the timber wolf, has been listed as extirpated from Missouri and other nearby states except Illinois, where it is critically endangered. While it does not have a permanent residence in Missouri anymore, occasional individuals will wander into Missouri from other states, namely Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Schwartz). Gray wolves are no longer considered a threat to humans but an interesting and valuable piece of our ecosystem. They have been reintroduced to Yellowstone, where their effects on the ecosystem there have been observed. After their reintroduction in 1995-96, no more were reintroduced as the wolf populations in Yellowstone have been able to sustain themselves and continue breeding. 

(Source:, Schwartz)

Current Range: There are populations of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes States (Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin), Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming), Alaska, as well as an experimental population of Mexican Gray Wolves in Arizona/New Mexico. 


Red Wolf (Canis Rufus)

Size: about 4 feet long from head to tail, ranges from 45 to 80 pounds (“Red Wolf.”)

Description: Some believe this extremely endangered animal to be a hybrid of the gray wolf and coyote, but others think that it is a completely unique species that suffered from a lot of hybridization with wolves, but others think that is actually a subspecies of the gray wolf. For now, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the red wolf is its own distinct species. The last red wolf to be found in Missouri was recorded in 1950, and 30 years later, the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild. However, after successful breeding programs in captivity, the red wolf was brought back into the wild in northeastern North Carolina. This population currently has around 50 wolves, while there are over 200 more wolves in captivity for breeding programs. 

(Source: “Red Wolf”, “Red Wolf Recovery”, Schwartz)

Current Range: The red wolf recovery area is in North Carolina, which is where the only living population remains. The red area on the map below shows where the wolves used to create this recovery population were obtained from before the species went extinct in the wild. 

American Bison (Bison bison)

Size: 800 to 2,000 lbs (Schwartz), 6 ft in height, 10 ft in length (“American Bison”)

Description: Bison provided food, shelter, clothing, and various tools for the natives, and their dried feces was occasionally used as fuel. In the 19th century, bison almost went extinct due to commercial hunting and slaughter. While many hunters killed them for their hides and meat, others killed them to deprive the Native Americans of an important part of their lives. Despite their abundance all over other parts of North America, numbering nearly 30 million (Portman), bison were never abundant in Missouri, and soon after the white settlers began overhunting bison to near extinction, the population in Missouri was extirpated. Bison have since been reintroduced to Prarie State Park, a herd that is now considered wild. 

Location: A herd of around 100 bison can be found in Prarie State Park, which can be found in Branton County, Missouri. Other populations of bison can be found on private ranches. 

White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii)

Size: 56.5-58.5 centimeters in length, 2.6-4.3 kilograms (“White-Tailed Jackrabbit”). 

Description: The white-tailed jackrabbit used to be common on the prairies and grasslands of northwest Missouri. However, throughout the 1930s and 40s, populations were decreasing due to habitat loss and overharvesting. In 1959, it was reported rare, and by the end of the 60s, there were no more breeding populations of these jackrabbits in Missouri. The white-tailed jackrabbit was declared endangered in 1971 and its hunting season was closed. The last couple of jackrabbits died in 1976, due to a vehicle hitting and killing it, and 1980/81, when a jackrabbit was shot and killed. In 1990, the white-tailed jackrabbit was officially confirmed extirpated from the state of Missouri. Around the rest of the world, the status of the white-tailed jackrabbit is relatively secure. They can be distinguished from black-tailed jackrabbits by the color of their tail, their winter coat, which looks like the rabbit above, and shorter ears/smaller hind legs. 

(Source: Schwartz)

Current Range: The white-tailed jackrabbit can be found across most of central US, ranging from northern New Mexico to east Oregon, to Wisconsin. 

(Source: “White-Tailed Jackrabbit”)


Rare Visitors

Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

Size: 30-42 inches (from nose to tip of tail)

Description: The nutria is a moderately sized semiaquatic rodent that is native to South America. These rodents have the appearance of a large muskrat or a small beaver, but the nutria has a round tail, as opposed to the flattened tails of a muskrat or a beaver. Nutria can breed all year round, producing anywhere from 4 offspring per litter to 13. Nutria were imported to America in the 1900s for fur ranching, but due to their adaptability, appetite, and ability to reproduce very quickly, they soon started spreading all over the country. Since the nutria can eat so much, they not only eat the grass in the marshes, but also the roots, turning a marsh into open water, an area then called an “eat out” (Schwartz). 

(Source: Schwartz)

Location: Since nutria hail from the warmer and more tropical area of South America, they are unable to deal with Missouri’s colder winters, and for that reason, there is no permanent population in Missouri. However, with warming temperatures and the great adaptability of the nutria, it is quite possible that a population may soon be established in southern parts of Missouri. 


Brazilian Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)


Size: Body length: 3.5-4.25 in, weight: 7-14 g (Schwartz). 

Description: This bat is called a “free-tailed” bat because its tail is narrow and mouselike and “[protrudes] beyond the flight membrane stretched between its hind legs” (“Brazilian Free-tailed Bat”). The Brazilian free-tailed bat can be found in mostly the southern half of the United States. The bats in the central portion of this range live here during the summer and migrate south to Mexico for the winter. Brazilian free-tailed bats have been spotted in 3 counties, Jackson, Johnson, and Phelps Counties. However, it is believed that these bats were heading south to join the migratory population, and since this species is such a mobile and migratory population, it is quite possible that there have been populations of these bats that have passed through Missouri unrecorded. One fun fact about this species is that during World War II, this species was “secretly investigated by the U.S. Air Force for its potential to carry tiny bombs into Japan. Bat caves were carefully guarded but the bats refused to cooperate, instead wreaking havoc in Air Force bases” (“Brazilian Free-tailed Bat”). 

(Source: Schwartz, “Brazilian Free-tailed Bat”). 

Current Range: This bat is commonly found throughout Southern, Central, and North America. The largest populations can be found in Mexico and Texas. 

Big Free-tailed Bat (Nyctinomops macrotis)


Size: Total length: 4.5-5.5in (Schwartz), Weight: 25-30 grams (“Bats in New Mexico”). 

Description: The big free-tailed bat is quite similar to the Brazilian free-tailed bat, with the exception of the big free-tailed bat being slightly larger. These bats are incapable of hibernation, so the northern populations, the populations in colder areas, are believed to migrate south in the winter. This species has quite a wide range in the southwest US and Mexico but is usually a rare sight. It has been seen in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and occasionally in Missouri, normally in the fall after the offspring have been weaned. This bat was formerly classified in the Tadarida genus but is now in the Nyctinomops genus. 

(Source: “Bats in New Mexico”, Schwartz)

Current Range: This bat can be found as far south as Argentina in South America and as far north as Utah and Colorado. 


Seminole Bat (Lasiurus seminolus)


Size: Length: 4.5 in, Wingspan: 12 in (“Seminole Bat”).

Description: These bats are thought to be a subspecies of red bats, due to their similar size and appearance. However, one differentiator is fur color: seminole bats have mahogany brown fur while red bats have a brick-like red fur. Seminole bats can be found all across the southeastern United States. They can be found in trees where Spanish moss is present and enjoy lowland wooded areas. During the winter months, Seminole bats become increasingly abundant in the southern portion of their range and becomes less abundant in the northern portion. 

(Source: Schwartz)

Current Range: These bats can be found in the southwestern portion of the US, as seen in the map below. 


“American Bison.” MDC Discover Nature. Missouri Department of Conservation, n.d. Web.

“Big Free-Tailed Bat.” Big Free-Tailed Bat, New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department,

“Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat Photo.” Arkive, Wildscreen Arkive,

“Gray Wolf.” MDC Discover Nature. Missouri Department of Conservation, n.d. Web.

“IUCN Red List Maps.” IUCN Red List, IUCN,

“Nutria (Coypu).” MDC Discover Nature, Missouri Department of Conservation,

“Red Wolf Recovery.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service. US Fish and Wildlife Service, 25 May 2017. Web.

“Red Wolf.” Red Wolf Facts. N.p., n.d. Web.

Schwartz, Charles W., Elizabeth R. Schwartz, Debby K.. Fantz, and Victoria L.. Jackson. “Other Wild Mammals (Extirpated or Rare Visitors).” The Wild Mammals of Missouri. 3rd ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 417-21. Print.

Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus).” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service,

“White-Tailed Jackrabbit Videos, Photos and Facts.” Arkive, Wildscreen Arkive,

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