Wildlife on the Olympic Peninsua

There’s something about watching wildlife that brings out the inner child in everyone. It is a joyful and beautiful experience that brings you closer to nature and provides a sense of belonging. Watching animals in their natural habitat is a memorable experience that will provide lasting memories of your time in Port Townsend and on the Olympic Peninsula.

You can see some of these majestic creatures from trails and the beaches of Port Townsend, but I highly recommend heading deeper into nature, more specifically Olympic National Park, to get the full wildlife experience.

A few tips on behalf of the National Park Service before heading out to view the native animals of the Olympic Peninsula:

  • Best times to watch are at dusk and dawn when the animals are feeding.

  • Keep a safe distance at all times. Use binoculars or a zoom lens to get a better view.

  • Wear comfortable shoes to navigate all types of terrain.

  • Park rangers are your friend! If you’re at one of the state or national parks, stop at the Visitor Center. You’ll get helpful tips and tricks on the best spots to view the wildlife.


 Juvenile Raptor | Photo Credit: NPS

Juvenile Raptor | Photo Credit: NPS

Birds

There are over 300 species of birds on the Olympic Peninsula including Bald eagles, raptors, northern pygmy owls, and grouse.

In the mountains you can expect to see woodpeckers and gray jays whereas at the shore you can expect to see gulls and Bald eagles. Other common species on the Peninsula include crows, ravens, warblers, and sparrows.


 Blacktail Deer | Photo Credit: NPS

Blacktail Deer | Photo Credit: NPS

Blacktail Deer

Blacktail deer are a common sight throughout the Olympic Peninsula and are considered the most graceful of all of the Peninsula’s native creatures.

You can spot these beauties in forested and mountain regions, river valleys, and meadows. They tend to be most active in the morning and evening. They are closely related to Mule Deer and Whitetailed Deer which can be found in the west, eastern, and midwest, respectively.


 Olympic Marmot | Photo Credit: NPS/Ken and Mary Campbell

Olympic Marmot | Photo Credit: NPS/Ken and Mary Campbell

Olympic Marmots

These creatures tend to be spotted at higher elevations like trails at Hurricane Ridge and alpine trails during the summer season. These Olympic Peninsula natives cannot be found anywhere else in the world! The Olympic Marmot is about the size of a housecat weighing about 15 pounds.

These social rodents have long, bushy tails and typically are brown in color. They enter hibernation in September or October and can be a yellow/tan color when they emerge post-hibernation in the spring and can be almost a black color in the fall.


 Herd of Roosevelt Elk | Photo Credit: NPS

Herd of Roosevelt Elk | Photo Credit: NPS

Roosevelt Elk

One of my favorite Olympic Peninsula residents are the Roosevelt Elk typically seen in lower valleys and rainforests. You can spot them throughout the day, but like most wildlife sightings are typically seen at dawn or dusk. Aptly named after President Theodore Roosevelt, Roosevelt Elk are the largest variety of elk in North America and Olympic National Park is home to the largest unmanaged herd in the PNW!

Male and female elk have dark brown heads with pale brown bodies. You can spot a male from a female with their set of antlers. They inhabit similar areas to the blacktail deer but are can be identified due to their larger bodies.The Hoh Rainforest is one of the best places to view these magnificent creatures. September is their mating season and you can hear them bugling as the males compete for females.


 Orca Whale | Photo Credit: WhaleTrail.org

Orca Whale | Photo Credit: WhaleTrail.org

Whales

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my whole life and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I see a whale emerge from the water. These majestic creatures are just that...pure, unadulterated magic. The Olympic Peninsula is a great place for whale watching whether you choose to do it out in nature or go out on a whale watching tour.

The Olympic Peninsula coastline has prime whale watching locations including Kalaloch, Rialto, and Shi Shi beaches during migration season during October-November and April-May. WhaleTrail.org has helpful information to inform you about which Peninsula locations a great for a day trip for optimal whale watching for species including Orcas, Humpbacks, Minkes, and Gray Whales.


Other amazing animals to view on the Olympic Peninsula:

  • Salmon

  • Mountain Goat

  • Black Bear

  • Bobcat

  • Cougar

  • Red Fox

  • Beaver

  • Otter

  • Sea Lion

  • Seal

Sources: NPS.gov, WhaleTrail.org

 Bobcat | Photo Credit: NPS

Bobcat | Photo Credit: NPS