In the evening hours on a day in early March when temperatures reach the upper fifties or the lower sixties, certain lucky Missourians, who, weary from another long winter, have ventured outdoors, will hear a familiar sound: tree frogs. The dulcet high-pitched call of these frogs, or peepers, as they’re often called, acts as a kind of assurance that spring will arrive in due time.

By contrast, in the middle of a winter night, Missourians who dwell near forested areas may hear the plaintive call of a great horned owl echoing over the snowdrifts from somewhere deep within the woods.

This time of year, you may be apt to hear the howls of gathering coyotes and their pups who are leaving their dens, joining their parents on the hunt for the first time. Although you may have heard the sounds of these nighttime animals, it’s less likely that you’ve seen them up close.

Luckily for all of us, the very talented photographers at the Missouri Department of Conservation as well as Matt Miles, author of Missouri: Wild and Wonderful, have captured these up-close-and-personal shots featuring creatures of the night.

Eastern Screech and Saw-Whet Owls

The eastern screech owl is known for its ferocity as a predator, sometimes referred to as “feathered wildcats” by early observers. Eastern screech owls take on two distinct colors, called morphs, gray and red. The adult seen here is a gray morph. These owls are slightly larger than the saw-whet owl, but their diets both consist partly of small mammals.


The coyote is a relative of the gray wolf but is smaller and fulfills a slightly different ecological niche. These mammals are extremely vocal, using different sounds to express warnings, greetings, and to communicate while hunting in pairs.

Southern Flying Squirrel 

These small rodents are slightly misnamed, since they glide, rather than fly. Scientists believe they use triangulation to calculate distance when they jump.

Gray Tree Frog 

The gray tree frog can actually come in a variety of colors, including green, depending on its environment. Males let out a high-pitched song around dusk to establish breeding territory and attract mates.

Short-Eared Owl 

Short-eared owls can be found across several continents of the world, and they are capable of flying long distances over open ocean. These owls, who prefer open grasslands to forests, have been observed nesting on reclaimed strip mines that are located south of their normal breeding range.


The bobcat is not quite a true nocturnal animal and is instead considered crepuscular, meaning active at twilight. Bobcats tend to be most active before sunset and into the night until midnight. A bobcat may travel as far as seven miles along an established route in a given night.

Photos // Matt Miles, Missouri Department of Conservation