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Photo Credit: Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2’s vibrant ecosystem of 234 animals puts American biodiversity in the spotlight. (Op-Ed)

Red Dead Redemption 2’s (RDR2) massive American Western landscape is not just empty fields and dense forests; the game boasts 234 species of animals that you can find throughout the map. That is nearly three times the number of species in Planet Zoo, a game purely devoted to animals. Every animal is unique, with few species consisting of recolored versions of the same model. The American West of the past was brought to life with loving detail poured into each animal. Rockstar’s Cowboy game pays homage to the vibrant ecosystem in the most spectacular way.

In most video games, there are a few different species of birds, namely doves, crows, and sparrows. In RDR2, there are 66 different species of birds, including the Carolina Parakeet, California Condor, Cedar Waxwing, Chinese Ring-Necked Pheasant, Double Crested Cormorant, Ferruginous Hawk, and, of course, the Bald Eagle. Each bird is incredibly detailed and engages in a species-specific flight pattern and behavior.

If birds aren’t your thing, let’s talk reptiles. 22 species of snakes can be found, studied, and skinned. When hunting these snakes, they will attempt to flee, and they always spook horses. Most are venomous, and if bitten, you will need to seek a Health Cure as soon as possible. As someone who owns a ball python and is very interested in snake biology and temperament, I was surprised at how the behavior of these creatures is so true to life. You can find the Cottonmouth, Diamondback Rattlesnake, Northern and Southern Copperhead, and the elusive Fer-de-Lance. Aside from snakes, RDR2 has American Alligators, both large and small, including the Legendary Bull Gator, and several species of turtles.

Are you tired of looking at the same species of deer flooding your screen at every turn? Rest assured that RDR2 has incredible White-Tailed Deer, American Bison, Elk, and a variety of horses, donkeys, and mules. Hunting these animals is no easy feat but catching a glimpse of them or simply watching them eat, travel, and interact with one another is fascinating.

As for small animals, RDR2 covers that base as well. I love coming across a fuzzy little raccoon, a flighty squirrel, tiny mice, skittering rats, American Badgers, bullfrogs, coyotes, muskrats, and my absolute favorite, the Virginia Opossum. If you’re lucky, you may even see a bat!

Finally, there are so many breeds of dogs to encounter. Mutts, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Catahoula Curs, Border Collies, Bluetick Coonhounds, Bloodhounds, Australian Shepherds, and American Fox Hounds can all be found and purchased as your very own companion. Of course, if you’re a cat person, you can find many kitties throughout the map as well.

RDR2’s dedication to showing America’s biodiversity is striking, and no game has ever come close to the sheer number of species included. As Americans, we often forget how beautiful our landscape truly is and just how special the animals who live alongside us truly are.

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