Wildlife in Washington State

Bald eagles swooping in for salmon, leaping porpoises and tens of thousands of snow geese dotting a field are just a few visions of untamed Washington.

Here are just a few wild creatures to spot during your travels.

Marine Life
Hop aboard a ferry bound for the San Juan Islands, where you can spot pelagic birds, seals hauled out on the shore, porpoises, and orcas from the ferry deck. Low tide unveils a treasure trove of otherworldly creatures along the state’s rocky shorelines; keep an eye out for thumbnail-size crabs darting for cover. Port Angeles has a lot of these tide pools, as do other craggy shores, but be sure to consult a tide chart.

Witness various species of salmon muscling their way upstream to mate from September to December at places like the Fifth Avenue Bridge in Olympia and the Renton Public Library or at salmon festivals in Issaquah during early October and Leavenworth in September. Or look up from a shoreline or river valley, and you might just espy bald eagles soaring or gazing down from the treetops. Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount host the Skagit Eagle Festival with float river tours and photography workshops.

Migrating Birds
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. 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.

Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep and Elk
Hike into the Cascade Mountains to see mountain goats, or take a boat to Stehekin on Lake Chelan, keeping your binoculars trained on the hills. Winter feeding stations attract elk and bighorn sheep to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, about 15 miles west of Yakima. Bighorn sheep also gather for a mid-morning meal at another feeding station 3 miles away on Cleman Mountain.

Learn more about wildlife viewing in Washington.

Read Washington Bird-Watching Festivals.

—Michelle Martin