California Wildlife Guide

California state parks include diverse landscapes and some of the best open spaces to see a variety of wildlife. Our state parks are home to elk, bears, coyote, sea lions, marmots, whales, and many more. Be on the lookout for these wildlife species as you explore California’s parklands! But remember, always be respectful of animals and their habitats – and observe wild animals from a safe distance and NEVER feed wild animals.

Northern California

Año Nuevo State Park – elephant seals

Marvel at northern elephant seals during a guided tour inside the Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve. Up to 10,000 elephant seals return to the shores each winter to breed and give birth along the scenic dunes and beaches. Don’t forget your camera!

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Portola Redwoods State Park – marbled murrelets

Look high into the redwoods and you may spot one of these endangered seabirds. The murrelet nests high in the redwood canopy, hundreds of feet above ground. Old-growth trees in Portola provide an important habitat for the marbled murrelet.

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Humboldt Lagoons State Park – Roosevelt elk

Park your car and catch a glimpse of majestic Roosevelt elk from afar. Once nearly extinct, herds of Roosevelt elk can frequently be spotted on the prairie or grazing south of Stone Lagoon. If you visit in May and June, you may even see newborn calves!

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Mount Diablo State Park – black-tailed deer

A “keystone” species in the native California coastal ecosystem, black-tailed deer bound through the 20,000-acre park. If you visit during the summer, these beauties will be reddish-brown, and brownish-gray during the winter.

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Southern California

Salton Sea State Recreation Area – brown and white pelicans

Bring your binoculars! The Salton Sea is a bird watcher’s delight. From brown and white pelicans to herons, kingfishers and more, the Salton Sea has long-provided sanctuary to a diverse collection of wildlife and the critical habitats that nurture them.

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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve – gray whales

You won’t soon forget the sight of a gray whale migration. High above the sea, the bluffs offer excellent vantage points to watch the graceful sea mammals. To see females with their calves, go late in the season as they take their babies back north with them.

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Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area – bald eagles

Winter is the perfect time to take a Bald Eagle Barge Tour here, while bald eagles glide silently above the lake, fishing for their next meal. This bird of prey winters on the lake shores, and water-oriented birds such as snowy egrets and loons are plentiful.

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park – Pacific tree frogs

You’ll know this small amphibian by its dark “mask”— but you’ll have to look closely! Smaller than a chicken egg, the Pacific treefrog also has the ability to change its color based on the air temperature to avoid being spotted by predators.

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