Interesting Animal Encounters in California
Visitors come from all over the world to discover California’s inspiring landscapes and wildlife. California boasts more native species than any other state, and residents are passionate about protecting them, investing $30 million each year to conserve wildlife habitat. Discover wildlife in a variety of ways, from safari-style lodging and endangered animal sanctuaries to zoos and aquariums with educational tours.
- Castle Rock Wildlife Refuge: Sea kayak from Crescent City’s Pebble Beach out to Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, where you can view seals, sea lions and nesting birds in their natural habitat. You might also spot porpoises, sharks and gray whales and elephant seals.
- Roosevelt Elk in the Redwoods: Thanks to conservation efforts, visitors to Redwood National and State Parks can see herds of Roosevelt Elk flourishing in creeks, meadows and beaches.
- Yosemite Birding Walks: The Yosemite Conservancy offers custom half- or full-day adventures on Yosemite’s avian life, in areas such as Yosemite Valley, sequoia groves or the high country.
- Mono County Animal Encounters: The Mono Lake Committee offers a variety of field seminars, including twilight birding/owling hikes and even a “Birding Between the Breweries” tour. Rock Creek Pack Station offers multi-day horseback trips searching for wild mustangs.
San Francisco Bay Area
- Safari West: Stay in a luxury tent and do safari tours at this wildlife preserve—home to nearly 1,000 animals, including African antelopes, primates and birds from around the world.
- Tide Pool Talks: Held the second Saturday of each month through May at Doran Regional Park in Bodega Bay, this program offers hands-on learning about tide pool creatures, such as sea stars, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and more.
- Golden Gate National Parks Bird Sanctuary: The Hawk Talks and Raptor Release occurs on fall weekends, featuring hawk migration and identification talks and a releasing demonstration.
- Año Nuevo State Park: Take an Elephant Seal Guided Walk through one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world, now through March 31. Most adults leave in early March, but weaned pups remain through April. A few stay later in the year on this preserve, where visitors can also see otters, California sea lions, coyotes, cormorants, terns and more.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium: Guests can touch a jelly during the Jellies & Open Sea Tour, where guides take them to favorite spots and share insider stories about species they are working to protect. The Feeding Frenzy tour includes a private viewing of the sea otter feeding and training session, touring behind the scenes and feeding fishes.
- Vision Quest Ranch Safari Bed & Breakfast: Listen to lions and tigers roaring only yards from an African tent style bungalow B&B inside the Monterey Zoo. Take a private or public tour as well.
- Piedras Blancas Rookery: Located a few miles north of Hearst Castle, guests can see elephant seals for free from an observation area, year-round. Peak times to see larger populations of these giant seals are January, April, and October. Look for Friends of the Elephant Seal docents in blue jackets for insights.
- Bald Eagles in Paso Robles: Guests who hike or boat at Lake Nacimiento west of Paso Robles may spot bald eagles, as well as elk, deer, wild turkey and wild boar
- Stewardship Traveler Program: This award-winning San Luis Obispo County program provides more than 50 conservation activities such as citizen science ocean research in San Simeon Bay, stewardship sea kayaking in Cayucos, trail and habitat restoration in Montana de Oro State Park, historic lighthouse tours and preservation opportunities in Avila Beach.
- Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary: Visitors can journey into the world of wild horses at this 300-acre sanctuary for wild horses and burros, via special events, tours, photo safaris and programs scheduled throughout the year.
- Channel Islands National Park: Hikers can hike in this national park, just off the coast of Oxnard, to see a species found nowhere else on earth—the island fox, which is active during the day.