Pacific Northwest Wildlife: Info and photos of animals, fish, birds and amphibians specific to the Pacific Northwest, plus links to details.
We love the uniqueness of our beautiful Pacific Northwest.
This page will not possibly describe every last species of animal within the reach of the Pacific Northwest.
Nevertheless this Northwest Wildlife page will call attention to animals that are specific to the Pacific Northwest rainforest or to the greater Pacific Northwest, animals that live year round in the Pacific Northwest, and those distinctive animals that we (and you) have personally observed.
Plus, we included links to comprehensive and scientific resources below.
Do you have a story or photos about Northwest wildlife? Or, what wildlife have you encountered in the Pacific Northwest not listed here?
You are invited it share it below!
See Temperate Rain Forest Plants for info on the flora and fungi that are native to the Pacific Northwest.
Olympic Black Bear, subspecies of the American Black Bear
The American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is the smallest of the North American bears and the most widely distributed throughout the USA. Olympic Black Bears, Ursus americanus altifrontalis, live throughout the Olympic and Cascade mountains from British Columbia to Northern California.
Cinnamon-colored black bears are seen more frequently in British Columbia, while the Olympic Black Bear in Washington State is much more likely to be black in color.
Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti; in some resources Cervus elaphus roosevelti) are a large subspecies of elk living on the Olympic Peninsula and the western slopes of the Cascades.
The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) lives in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Some researchers feel that the squirrel helps maintain the health of the Northwest forests.
They are active year round. Lacking cheek pouches, they scatter stashes of douglas fir, sitka spruce and shore pine cones and seeds for eating later, supplementing their diet of seeds with berries, mushrooms, acorns and bird eggs.
Douglas squirrels are grey-green with light rufous bellies in summer; while in winter their coats darken to brown, with grayer bellies.
Outside my second-story office window in Port Angeles WA are Douglas and Grand Fir trees. Their branches serve as runways for resident Douglas squirrels, delightful distractions from my work.
Washington Ground Squirrel
The Washington Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus washingtoni) is endemic along the Columbia River Basin shared by the states of Washington and Oregon.
They hibernate 7-8 months a year. Interestingly, adults awaken and breed in January - February, and are ready to go back into hibernation by June, while juveniles emerge later in spring and head back underground to hibernate as late as July.
Birds and badgers are their main predators. Up to 56% of radio-collared youngsters survive to their first hibernation.
The muskrat-sized Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa) is not a true beaver at all, but a primitive, non-hibernating rodent called a sewellel. Their body shape is somewhat cavy-esque, however with smaller ears and eyes, and very large clawed feet.
To compensate for small eyes and ears, they instead have well-developed senses of smell and touch, thanks to ample whiskers.
Their main habitat is the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, although not exclusively so. Look for them in areas that favor deciduous trees although they can be found amongst evergreens as well.
Plant forage makes up their diet, which can include rhodendrons and stinging nettle which tend to be toxic to most other wildlife.
Sewellels are only distantly related to familiar tail-slapping beavers, both being rodents. The Northwestwildlifeonline website has an excellent write-up on the mountain beaver.
The Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) is a small bird but quite handsome in its black, white, gray, and chestnut-colored plumage. It lives year round almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest.
Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histronicus) breed on fast-moving streams, and overwinters along rocky coastlines including those of the Pacific Northwest.
The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) lives year round in the Pacific Northwest. They can also be found in many other locations throughout the USA.
You may indeed see one of these extravagant little diving ducks along the Washington coast, as we did.
The Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a sea bird related to puffins. Unlike other sea birds, they nest on the huge horizontal branches of 200-feet-tall old-growth evergreen trees in the Pacific Northwest and north, and then overwinter at sea.
Nests of marbled murrelets have been seen in or near the Heart o' the Hills Campground in the Olympic National Park.
The Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus) is virtually identical in plumage to the very common American crow, however smaller, with a slender bill and smaller feet. They are reliably identified by range only – they can be found along the coasts, islands and beaches of south Alaska, British Columbia and Washington, and within some nearby urban areas.
The Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) can be found all along the western coast and up into parts of BC, through the midsection of Mexico, and in pockets in AZ, UT, CO and NM. It is large, speckled, and lacks ear tufts.
It is certainly native to the Pacific Northwest forests, where it was at the center of Oregon and Washington logging controversies due to environmental reasons.
The Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) lives throughout the waters of the north Pacific, nesting in rocks and cliff burrows from Northern California to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.
The photo above was taken at Cape Flattery, picturing one of a number of puffins and other seabirds feeding on a cold but clear February day.
The Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) lives year round in the Pacific Northwest, but can be found in breeding grounds to the north as far as Alaska. Some may overwinter to the south and into California.
It is a vibrant orange and black/gray bird not to be confused with the American Robin. The varied thrush has a black head with an orange stripe behind the eye and a black stripe across the lower neck in sharp contrast to its orange breast and belly. Females are patterned similarly, however with the black markings in gray.
The distinctive Crescenti cutthroat trout have the "highest known gill raker and vertebrae counts of any coastal cutthroat population" (Wiki). These distinctions prompted subspecies recognition in the past, however they are currently considered to be a local form of coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii). A genetically pure population of crescenti trout persists in the Lyre River.
A second distinctive species of trout known as Beardslee trout also populated Lake Crescent and Barnes Creek at one time. These have interbred with non-native trout introduced into Lake Crescent. What now remains is a population of hybridized "cutbows."
Pacific Salmon are a keystone species throughout the Pacific Northwest. Bears, eagles, wolves, other predators, and even the forests depend on the yearly salmon spawn for survival.
Pacific Banana Slug
The Pacific Banana Slug (Ariolimax columbianus) is the second largest terrestrial slug species in the world, growing up to 10 inches in length. The cool, moist climate of the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest is ideal for this mollusk.
They are yellow, brown, greenish, white or tan, with varying numbers of black blotches, up to and possibly so covered in spots as to appear black.
With teeth on its tongue, it saws off pieces of forage which it then consumes.
Pacific Chorus Frog
The Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla), also known as the Pacific Tree Frog, is the Washington State amphibian, and can be found throughout Washington and Oregon. This little 2-inch frog comes in several shades of green or brown, and even a mix of green and brown (pictured above). On Spring evenings near any pond, the Pacific Chorus Frog makes a racket through much of the night.
Mister-Toad.com is an excellent resource on the Pacific Chorus Frog, explaining the various reasons why the species has recently been re-classified a chorus frog rather than a tree frog.