An Up-Close Look at California’s Diverse Wildlife

International Wolf Center. Photo courtesy of
International Wolf Center. Photo courtesy of

From dolphins and whale watching to birds, butterflies and bison, California abounds with opportunities to see and enjoy wildlife.  

More than 600 species of birds have been observed in California. That represents about two-thirds of all bird species in North America. From the coast to the deserts to the high Sierras, California offers an abundance of wildlife-viewing opportunities.  

Locally, Santa Clarita is home to a wide variety of wildlife including deer, coyotes, hawks, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, rabbits, lizards, snakes, skunks, racoons, opossums, bobcats and the occasional mountain lion. 

You can learn about local wildlife at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and Vasquez Rocks Natural Center. Both centers offer staff, volunteer and docent-led activities, tours and programs.  

The Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita is the only organization in the world devoted to the study, preservation and public education of the gibbon. The gibbon is a small, endangered primate from the dwindling rainforests of Asia. 

The center offers tours and a chance for visitors to become a caretaker for a day, allowing guests to assist the staff with the center’s nearly 40 gibbons. Reservations are required.  

Known as the “Galapagos of North America,” the Channel Islands include the five islands of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara and San Miguel. They are located about an hour off the coast of Ventura. 

Considered a nature lovers paradise, the islands are home to several species that can only be found in the Channel Islands National Park.  

For example, the islands are the only major breeding site in the western United States for California brown pelicans and are home to a special breed of foxes.  

Ninety-nine percent of all Southern California seabirds hatch on the Channel Islands before departing to different beaches along the southern California coast. 

The islands’ isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was. 

Operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is in the heart of an 18-mile-long coastal dunes complex.  

The National Natural Landmark refuge is home to more than 120 species of rare plants and animals and covers almost two miles of beachfront, extending three miles inland. 


Shark Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific.
Shark Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific.

Northern California  

Often called the “Serengeti of the Sea,” the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the best places in the world to see marine wildlife. You can see seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales, dolphins and seabirds any time of year. 

The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, located in rural northeastern California and Southern Oregon, was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge.  

With a backdrop of 14,000-foot Mount Shasta to the southwest, it is no wonder that the refuge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. As such, it is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Wildlife on Camera 

For those who enjoy viewing wildlife from the comfort of your home, wildlife-viewing cameras are a fun way to spy on Mother Nature in action within impacting them.  

The Friends of Big Bear Valley have set up a camera with a beautiful view of Big Bear Lake and Big Bear’s famous Bald Eagles, Jackie and Shadow who are were on a much anticipated pip watch.  

However, it appears that none of the three eggs laid this season are viable as baby eagles usually will emerge from the shell on average 35 days after the egg is laid.  

Pip watch began Feb. 29, 35 days after Jackie delivered the first of her three eggs. Eagles usually only lay one clutch of eggs per year, but can lay a second clutch if the first set fail.  

To see Jackie and Shadow’s nest visit 

Bird Cams 

The Cornell Lab Bird Cams connect viewers worldwide to the diverse and intimate world of birds. The cameras are viewable at which offers a large variety of live bird cams. From owls to ospreys, find your favorite bird and take a peek at what the birds are up to today. Visit 

Wildlife Cams 

Thousands of wildlife viewing cams are available from various websites throughout the internet.  

From underwater cams to inside a honeybee hive visit 

Coastal California wildlife cams with links provided by the California Coastal Commission are a great way to study coastal habitat or to take a break from the here and now. Check out the sea lions on Pier 39 in San Francisco Bay or watch the harbor seals in LaJolla. 

Where to Go 

Channel Islands National Park


Coastal California Wildlife Cams 

Friends of Big Bear Eagle Nest Cam 

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge 

2493 Ste A Portola Rd.,Ventura 93003 

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge 

4009 Hill Rd., Tulelake 96134 

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary System

Bald eagles Jackie and Shadow. Photos courtesy of Friends of Big Bear Valley.
Bald eagles Jackie and Shadow. Photos courtesy of Friends of Big Bear Valley.

Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center 

19152 Placerita Canyon Rd., Newhall 91321 

The Gibbon Conservation Center 

19100 Esguerra Rd., Santa Clarita, 91390 

The Cornell Labs Bird Cams 

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center 

10700 Escondido Canyon Rd., Agua Dulce  91390 

Wildlife Cams

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