By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist
We all know summer in the Pacific Northwest is the best time of year and, with all of the sunny days we’re enjoying right now, people are spending a lot more time outdoors. Not surprising given all the activities there are to offer here in Washington!
If you’re a wildlife lover this a great time of year to tour Western Washington and see a diversity of wildlife. Whether you’re a fan of raptors, waterfowl, amphibians or marine mammals there’s a place to enjoy them all.
Here are a few hot spots filled with wildlife to enjoy:
North Western Washington
Semiahmoo Park and Museum
This is a long sand spit with tidelands, mudflats and sandy beaches near the border of Washington and Canada. Take a short walk along the spit and enjoy marine life including Harbor Seals (pictured below), clams, crabs, seabirds and even a few shore birds.
Whatcom Wildlife Area: Lake Terrell Unit
Just north of Bellingham you’ll find this shallow lake with a peat bog surrounded by forest and grasslands. There are a plethora of wildlife species to enjoy here including river otters, beavers, painted turtles, salamanders, songbirds and waterfowl.
Although Deception Pass is famous for its picturesque bridge, it’s also a fantastic place to view wildlife. This old growth forest also has a rocky shoreline and several freshwater lakes. There’s an array of marine and bird life to be seen here including sea cucumbers, sea stars, eagles, osprey, owls and deer.
Central Western Washington
This 220 acre park located in north Seattle not only has a rocky beach but also deciduous forest, meadows and grassland hosting a plethora of species. Here you can not only see moon snails, acorn barnacles and clams, but also seabirds, songbirds, and some waterfowl.
A 534 acre park in Seattle, Discovery Park has a variety of habitats including mixed woodlands, streams, meadows, and rocky beaches. You have the opportunity to see tidal pools with marine life, river otters, mountain beaver and owls, just to name a few.
West Hylebos Wetland Park
Forest Park is home to this 120 acre wetland home to an array of amphibian and reptile species including red legged frogs, northwest salamanders, painted turtles and alligator lizards. Aquatic mammals such as muskrats, minks, weasels and beavers can also be spotted in the riparian streams.
South Western Washington
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Located just east of Olympia this 3,000 acre wildlife refuge is a birder’s dream. It encompasses salt and freshwater marshes, mixed forest, mudflats, riparian zones and woodlands. Raptors, woodpeckers (like the Pileated Woodpecker pictured below), waterfowl, river otters, salmon and deer all call this diversity of habitats home.
Lewis & Clark State Park
Named for the two pioneers of the west this old growth forest park is home to bald eagles, hawks, owls, black bears, coyotes, deer and Douglas squirrels. The park has an interpretive trail that will help you learn about these species and more.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge is located in the Columbia River floodplain in southern Washington. Year round you can see waterfowl, raptors, coyotes (pictured below), river otters and herons.
Once you've picked your perfect spot to explore, how do you make the most of your wildlife viewing expedition? Here are some top tips from our experts at PAWS Wildlife Center:
- Viewing is best at dawn and dusk.
- Check the tidal phase if going to a marine park.
- Observe wildlife from a distance – if they react to your movement you’re too close.
- Be patient and move slowly and quietly.
- Use field guides to learn about wildlife.
- Be considerate while you're a guest in our wild neighbors' home – don't feed, touch, approach, or chase wildlife.
Enjoy this summer and the habitats and wildlife Washington has to offer!
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