Edward Hitchcock, 1793-1864

The first formal list of Massachusetts mammals was prepared by Edward Hitchcock in 1835 (Catalogues of Animals and Plants, A Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology of Massachusetts, pages 525-652, J.S. & C. Adams, Amherst, Mass.). 

Hitchcock recognized 45 mammal "species"; however, his list included one fish (the swordfish) and three mammals now recognized as subspecies, leaving 41 species as now known. The present list recognizes 104 species. This includes:

  • 58 native land mammals
  • 36 marine mammals
  • 7 introduced species
  • 3 feral domestic species 

Among these, seven have been extirpated, three unsuccessfully introduced, and five seals and one sirenian recognized as vagrants, leaving 60 mammals (exclusive of 28 cetaceans) potentially present in the state. The list does not include the caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and the bison (Bison sp.) which have been recorded in the state from archaeological evidence, but undoubtedly did not occur after European settlement. It also does not include the eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) which was of doubtful occurrence in Massachusetts. Early references to this squirrel probably confused it with melanistic gray squirrels (S. carolinensis). At least 10 other mammals have escaped or been released in the state (see Fauna Series #6, 1993); however, none of these have established populations.

State records are accepted on the basis of specimen or photographic evidence, including those reported in the technical literature or otherwise known to personnel of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Certain cetaceans and extirpated species are accepted without specimen evidence due to post-mortem examination by competent scientists or identifiable descriptions in the historical literature.

Records from the public are encouraged, but for mammals generally require well-documented photos or specimens for acceptance. New county records, and even records of species new to the state, will certainly be discovered in the future.

Distributional information, in most instances, is given by county or region and is based on published records, cooperator reports, and on file notes of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Distributions are not necessarily definitive, however, and in many instances reflect the need for further investigations of certain species.

Nomenclature follows: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds.) "Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference" (3rd ed., Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2005), accessed from www.bucknell.edu/MSW3/

Persons interested in reporting locality information for species on this list should contact MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (508-389-6360) for rare animal observation forms. Locality information for such species remains confidential except for official purposes.

All native mammals are protected by state law (M.G.L. c. 131, § 5) and may not be hunted, trapped, captured, or possessed except under license or permit or when otherwise allowed by statute or regulation. Queries may be addressed to MassWildlife, 251 Causeway Street, Boston 02114, or MassWildlife, Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough 01581 or email: Mass.Wildlife@state.ma.us

See State Mammal List