More than 15 species of bats live in Washington, from the common little brown bat to the rare Townsend’s big-eared bat.


Beavers are found where their preferred foods are in good supply—along rivers, and in small streams, lakes, marshes, and even roadside ditches containing adequate year-round water flow.

Black Bears

Bears usually avoid people, but when they do come into close proximity of each other, the bear’s strength and surprising speed make it potentially dangerous. Most confrontations with bears are the result of a surprise encounter at close range. All bears should be given plenty of respect and room to retreat without feeling threatened.

Bob Cats

Found throughout all of Washington, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are probably more common than most people realize. Bobcats appear to be using suburban settings more often, although due to their reclusive ways, they are not often seen.

Cougars / Mountain Lions / Panthers

Sleek and graceful, cougars (Puma concolor, Fig. 1) are solitary and secretive animals rarely seen in the wild.


At first glance, the coyote resembles a small German shepherd dog, yet its color can vary from animal to animal. Shades include black, brown, gray, yellow, rust, and tan.


Deer are among the most familiar animals of Washington, and in many places they are the largest wildlife that people encounter. Their aesthetic beauty is appreciated and admired, although their fondness for garden and landscape plants tries some peoples’ patience.


Elk range in color from light brown in winter to reddish tan in summer, and have characteristic buffcolored rumps. In winter, a dark brown, shaggy mane hangs from the neck to the chest. Bull elk have large, spreading antlers.


Moles spend almost their entire lives underground and have much in common with pocket gophers—small weak eyes, small hips for turning around in tight places, and velvety fur that is reversible to make backing up easy.


Approximately 3,000 moose are estimated to live in Washington State. The majority of these are in the Selkirk Mountains (Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry, and Spokane counties) with smaller populations in the north Cascades, Okanogan, and Blue Mountains

Mountain Beavers

Mountain beavers  are considered by many taxonomists to be the world’s most primitive living rodent species. They are not really beavers, but were so named because they gnaw bark and cut off limbs in a manner similar to true beavers.


Muskrats are found throughout still or slow-moving waterways, including marshes, beaver ponds, reservoirs, irrigation canals and ditches, and marshy borders of lakes and rivers. They don’t live in mountainous areas where cold weather makes their food unobtainable.


More than 600 nutria farms existed in Oregon and Washington from the 1930s to the 1950s. Flooding and storms damaged holding structures, allowing nutria to escape. Farmers also released their stock when nutria farming became uneconomical. By the 1940s, nutria had been captured by trappers on both sides of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.


With few natural predators, the absence of hunting, and an abundance of food and shelter, opossums have adapted well to living close to people in urban and suburban environments. Except for higher elevations, opossums now occupy most human-occupied habitats in western Washington.

Pocket Gophers

True pocket gophers are burrowing rodents that get their name from their fur-lined cheek pouches, or pockets. These pockets are used, like a squirrel’s, for carrying food.

Pronghorn Antelope

The pronghorn antelope is the rarest and least-known hoofed-mammal classified as a game species in the state of Washington.


Two species of rabbits are native to Washington and two others have been introduced to the area. Washington is also home to three species of hares: the snowshoe hare and two others, called “jackrabbits.”


The raccoon is a native mammal, measuring about 3 feet long, including its 12-inch, bushy, ringed tail. Because their hind legs are longer than the front legs, raccoons have a hunched appearance when they walk or run. Each of their front feet has five dexterous toes, allowing raccoons to grasp and manipulate food and other items.

River Otters

Although seldom seen, river otters are relatively common throughout Washington in ponds, lakes, rivers, sloughs, estuaries, bays, and in open waters along the coast. In colder locations, otters frequent areas that remain ice-free in winter—rapids, the outflows of lakes, and waterfalls.


Skunks are mild-tempered, mostly nocturnal, and will defend themselves only when cornered or attacked. Even when other animals or people are in close proximity, skunks will ignore the intruders unless they are disturbed.

Tree Squirrels 

Although tree squirrels spend a considerable amount of time on the ground, unlike the related ground squirrels, they are more at home in trees. Washington is home to four species of native tree squirrels and two species of introduced tree squirrels.