Wildlife in Washington State
Get to know Washington State's abundant wildlife populations.
The State of Washington is often associated with salmon, orca whales, and bald eagles. While these creatures certainly call the state home, you’ll also find snow geese, mountain goats, and so much more. Get in touch with your wild side — just don’t touch or approach the wildlife — as you explore the state’s diverse landscapes.
Whales and Porpoises
The waters of the Salish Sea are home to marine mammals such as seals, porpoises, and iconic orca whales. Hop aboard a boat tour to catch a glimpse of these playful creatures. Many tours depart from the San Juan Islands, where you can spot humpback and minke whales in addition to resident orca pods.
Witness various species of salmon muscling their way upstream to mate from September to December at locations such as the Fifth Avenue Bridge in Olympia and the Salmon Cascades Overlook area on the Sol Duc River. The state also celebrates the fish with festivals in Issaquah in early October and Leavenworth in September.
Migrating Bird Species
In a spectacle not to be missed, thousands of snow geese and hundreds of swans descend into the Snohomish and Skagit River valleys from December through February. The Skagit Valley is also home to an impressive number of bald eagles, who flock to the Skagit River during their winter migration. In another mind-boggling display, around 25,000 majestic sandhill cranes congregate in central Washington a couple months later during the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.
Black bears are common throughout much of the state’s forested areas, from the coastal rain forests to the dry woodlands of the Cascade Mountains. If hiking or camping in bear country, be sure to manage your food and garbage so as not to attract an unwanted hungry visitor. Learn more about bear safety.
Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Elk
It’s estimated there are 2,400-3,200 mountain goats living in the State of Washington. Native to the Cascade Range, the goats can be glimpsed in the state’s national parks. In winter, supplemental feeding stations attract elk and bighorn sheep to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. In the Skagit Valley, it’s common to see herds of elk grazing in picturesque farmland.
Other Marine Life
Low tide unveils a treasure trove of otherworldly creatures along the state’s rocky shorelines. Keep an eye out for colorful sea anemones and thumbnail-size crabs darting for cover. Port Angeles has many tide pools, as do other craggy shores, but be sure to consult a tide chart before heading out. On a larger scale, Puget Sound is home to giant Pacific octopus, the largest of the octopus species weighing in at up to 150 pounds. Several popular dive sites are designated as Octopus Protection Areas.
When out exploring the state’s bountiful natural resources, it’s important to remember that with wilderness comes wildlife. Be always aware of your surroundings, and do not try to approach or touch wildlife. You can find more information about wildlife safety here.