You’re never really alone in the woods, they say. The forests, rivers, and seas north of Seattle are teeming with creatures small and large, all within a short drive from any metropolitan area. For the patient and lucky observer here’s a list of animals you might just catch of glimpse of on your next trip into the woods. Keep your camera ready, and your eyes and ears sharp.
1. Beavers. The largest rodent in North America isn’t likely to scurry across your hiking trail, but if you’re camping near water—and you’re an early riser—you might spot a beaver. Look for suspicious mounds of sticks and branches, chewed-up tree trunks tree trunks, and flooded woodlands that are indicative of a nearby dam.
2. Mountain Beavers. Mountain beavers aren’t really beavers at all, though they do enjoy snacking on bark and tree limbs. They are considered to be the most primitive of all the living rodents. If you see what looks like a hamster the size of a very fat cat, you have spotted a Mountain Beaver. Better get a picture – some folks don’t believe these even exist!
3. Black Bears. Better seen from afar, that’s for sure. Black Bears can be downright common on some trails, so know before you go and, if you hike with a dog, keep a good grip on that leash. If you do see a bear be sure to identify yourself by speaking calmly. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don't run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. In most cases, the bear will flee.
4. Bobcats. Far cuter and less terrifying than mountain lions, bobcats are more common than people realize. Look for cat tracks on your hiking trail or trees used as scratching posts. Like most cats, they are more active at dusk and dawn, but unless you’re very quiet, they’ll probably see you before you see them.
5. Gopher Snakes. These guys can be found on warm, dry trails—stretched out in the sun or curled in the grass. They are large and harmless to humans, but they do like to pretend to be Western Rattlesnakes, so mind you don’t get the two confused.
6. Rubber Boa. The spottings are rare, but not unheard of. Rubber boas hang out in damp, wooded areas and in rotting logs on the sandy beaches beside streams.
7. The Pacific Treefrog. Be careful not to miss him. They’re tiny—under two inches fully grown—but has a mighty loud song. Colored in a range from bronze-brown to bright green, they are amazingly good at remaining invisible right up until they jump.
8. Owls. Catching sight of an owl is a rare treat, even though Seattle NorthCountry is filled with multiple varieties like the barn owl, the great horned owl, and even a rare spotted owl. You’re more likely to hear one than see one. But if you’re patient, quiet and quick with a flashlight you just might get lucky.
9. Woodpeckers. Speaking of better heard than seen, the Northern Flicker is often part of a hiker’s soundtrack. Winter is the best time to spot these birds when the leafy camouflage is off the trees.
10. Bald Eagles. You don’t even have to leave Everett to spot bald eagles soaring majestically above. Thanks to years of conservation efforts, this bird has made a remarkable comeback all over the state.
Seattle NorthCountry, with our cities and small towns pushing right up against a vast wilderness, offers endless opportunity for birdwatchers and frog-catchers alike. Just remember to always respect nature’s boundaries for the safety of all.