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6 Wild Animals for your Olympic National Park Watch List

See elk, otters, whales and more.

Look for these animals as you go wildlife watching in Olympic National Park, including elk, whales, eagle plus three more.

Roosevelt Elk

Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park. Photo by Justin Bailie
Check out this Roosevelt elk in Olympic National Park. (Photo by Justin Bailie)

These dark brown ungulates are the largest subspecies of elk in North America, with bulls sometimes reaching 1,100 pounds and cows more than 600 pounds. The largest wild herd of Roosevelt elk in the Pacific Northwest lives in Olympic. Small herds of about 30 cows and calves band together and browse on ferns, lichens and meadow grasses year-round, while bulls tend to live alone. In September, listen for the eerie bugling of bulls during the rut (mating season).

More about Roosevelt elk.

Sea Otters

Sea Otter
Sea otters are one of the animals you may see in Olympic National Park. (Photos by Depositphotos)
River otters eating a salmon at Olympic National Park
River otters eat a salmon at Olympic National Park (Photo is in the public domain)

These lovable mammals can be found on the Pacific coast from Alaska to northern California. Sea otters are larger than river otters, and unlike the river otters, rarely come ashore. Thick, brown fur protects sea otters from cold water. Males in the area can weigh up to 65 pounds and reach 4 feet in length. Playful and smart, sea otters are the only mammals besides primates known to use tools. They use small rocks to pry shellfish, from underwater boulders and to hammer the shells open.

Bald Eagles

Closeup of a bald eagle
This is a closeup of a bald eagle. (Photo by Depositphotos)

These huge birds of prey—they can weigh more than 14 pounds, with a nearly 7-foot wingspan—are most frequently spotted roosting in trees along the Olympic coast. Adults are easy to recognize. Look for a dark brown body with white tail feathers and a “bald” white head. Juvenile eagles are brownish with brown heads. Bald eagles hunt for fish, waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians, but they’re also frequent and opportunistic scavengers, sometimes stealing the prey of other animals.

Black Bear

Black bear
You may see a black bear in Olympic National Park.  (Photo by Depositphotos)

Black bears (but not grizzlies) live throughout Olympic, roaming in search of ripe berries, spawning salmon, tree bark and insects. Look for them in high-elevation fields, subalpine zones, forests and along the coast. Black bears can be black, brown or even blond. Though bear attacks are extremely rare, bears can be dangerous. Never approach one, and scare it away by shouting and banging pots and pans if one wanders into your campsite.

Gray Whales

Breaching Gray Whale
Don’t miss looking for whales like this breaching gray whale. (Photo by iStock)

In spring and summer, Olympic’s largest animal can be spotted off the coast. The gray whale can stretch up to 60 feet long and weigh more than 30 tons. Gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska to their winter range in Baja California, an annual distance of more than 10,000 miles. As baleen whales, they filter bottom sediments to eat the small crustaceans and tube worms that live on the ocean bottom.

More about whale watching.


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