Forests cover 65 percent of Virginia, primarily with deciduous, broadleaf trees in the western part of the commonwealth and evergreens and conifers in the central and eastern parts of Virginia. Lower altitudes are more likely to have small but dense stands of moisture-loving hemlocks and mosses in abundance, with hickory and oak in the Blue Ridge. However, since the early 1990s, Gypsy moth infestations have eroded the dominance of oak forests. In the lowland tidewater and piedmont, yellow pines tend to dominate, with bald cypress wetland forests in the Great Dismal and Nottoway swamps. Other common trees and plants include red bay, wax myrtle, dwarf palmetto, tulip poplar, mountain laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns. The largest areas of wilderness are along the Atlantic coast and in the western mountains, where the largest populations of trillium wildflowers in North America are found. The Atlantic coast regions are host to flora commonly associated with the South Atlantic pine forests and lower Southeast Coastal Plain maritime flora, the latter found primarily in eastern and central Virginia.
Two red-brown colored deer graze among tall grass and purple flowers in a meadow. White-tailed deer, also known as Virginia deer, graze at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park Mammals include white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, skunk, groundhog, Virginia opossum, gray fox, red fox, and eastern cottontail rabbit. Other mammals include: nutria, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, flying squirrel, chipmunk, brown bat, and weasel. Birds include cardinals (the state bird), barred owls, Carolina chickadees, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, brown pelicans, quail, seagulls, bald eagles, and wild turkeys. Virginia is also home to the pileated woodpecker as well as the red-bellied woodpecker. The peregrine falcon was reintroduced into Shenandoah National Park in the mid-1990s. Walleye, brook trout, Roanoke bass, and blue catfish are among the 210 known species of freshwater fish. Running brooks with rocky bottoms are often inhabited by plentiful amounts of crayfish and salamanders. The Chesapeake Bay is host to many species, including blue crabs, clams, oysters, and rockfish (also known as striped bass).
Virginia has 30 National Park Service units, such as Great Falls Park and the Appalachian Trail, and one national park, Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah was established in 1935 and encompasses the scenic Skyline Drive. Almost forty percent of the park's area (79,579 acres or 322.04 km2) has been designated as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System. Additionally, there are 34 Virginia state parks and 17 state forests, run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Forestry. The Chesapeake Bay, while not a national park, is protected by both state and federal legislation, and the jointly run Chesapeake Bay Program which conducts restoration on the bay and its watershed. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge extends into North Carolina, as does the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which marks the beginning of the Outer Banks.