The climate of the park, and in turn also its
flora and fauna, is largely typical for mountainous regions of the
eastern Mid-Atlantic woodland, and indeed a large portion of common
species are typical of ecosystems at lower altitudes as well.
On southwestern faces of some of the southernmost
hillsides pine predominates and there is also the occasional prickly
pear cactus which grows naturally. In contrast, some of the
northeastern aspects are most likely to have small but dense stands of
moisture loving hemlocks and mosses in abundance. Other commonly found
plants include oak, hickory, chestnut, maple, tulip poplar, mountain
laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns.
The once predominant American Chestnut tree was
effectively brought to extinction by a fungus known as the Chestnut
blight during the 1930s – though the tree continues to grow in the
park, it does not reach maturity and dies back before it can
reproduce. Various species of Oaks superseded the Chestnuts and became
the dominant tree species. Gypsy moth infestations beginning in the
early 1990s began to erode the dominance of the oak forests as the
moths would primarily consume the leaves of oak trees. Though the
Gypsy moths seem to have abated some, they continue to affect the
forest and have destroyed almost 10 percent of the oak groves.
Mammals include White-tailed deer, black bear,
bobcat, raccoon, skunk, opossum, groundhog, red fox, gray fox, and
Eastern cottontail rabbit. Though unsubstantiated, there have been
some reported sightings of mountain lion in remote areas of the park.
Over 200 species of birds make their home in the
park for at least part of the year. About thirty live in the park year
round, including the barred owl, Carolina chickadee, red-tailed hawk,
and wild turkey. The Peregrine falcon was reintroduced into the park
in the mid 1990s and by the end of the 20th century there were
numerous nesting pairs in the park.
Thirty-two species of fish have been documented
in the park, including brook trout, longnose and blacknose dace, and
the bluehead chub.