Los Angeles
San Francisco




Big Cats
Oddball Animals


Odd Bird
Horseshoe Crab




Where to See Animals in California

View LA in a larger map



  San Francisco & North Coast
seals and sea lions
San Francisco Pier 39 Sea Lions
Since 1990 a group of sea lions has been hanging out on the docks of Pier 39 in San Francisco. Other places may have worked to evict giant creates, which intimidated boat owners, but this dock welcomes the sea lions, which draw many tourists.
The Marine Mammal Center runs an interpretive center on the second floor. Winter is the best time to visit; that's when up to 900 sea lions, mainly males, will sun themselves and jockey for a good spot. In the summer it may only be a couple dozen because the rest have gone off to mate in the Channel Islands.
seals and sea lions
Elephant Seals at Point Reyes National Seashore -CA
Elephant Seals returned in 1970s to Point Reyes National Seashore. A breeding colony returns to Chimney Rock every December-March.
1 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station, CA (415) 464-5100
farm sanctuary
Animal Place (Farm Sanctuary - CA
This accredited animal sanctuary and education center offers farm tours at various times throughout the year. Check their schedule here: The tours are generally $10, $5 for kids. Around the holidays there's a tour for carnivores to meet their meet for $10; vegetarians go free. 3448 Laguna Creek Trail Vacaville, CA (707) 449-4814

Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center

Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center has been taking in injured wildlife since 1984. They now have 2 acres on the Tuolumne River in Fox Grove Regional Park. In September they have a Day with Wildlife, with hourly presentations with patients such as owls, skunks, fox, squirrels and snakes. You can also set up a talk for your group.209 883-9414

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
A colony of wild cherry-headed parrots live on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Stars of the 2005 movie Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and book by the same name.
Telegraph Hill is off Lombard Street near Kearny Street.
Castro District Parakeets
A flock of canary-winged parakeet (Brotegeris versicolorus) roosts along Dolores Street and forages in Potrero Hill and Noe Valley, according to this report.
Point Reyes National Seashore
A herd of 400 Tule Elk roam the Tomales Point (fenced) preserve at Point Reyes National Seashore. About 30 are free in the Limantour wilderness area. This small, light subspecies of elk, which only exists in California, was almost hunted to extinction.

1 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station, CA (415) 464-5100

Farralons Islands - Sharks
You can see sharks in the Farallons off  San Francisco either as part of a whale tour or you can get in the water with them on a diving tour.
It's one of the best shark-watching sites in the Gulf of the Farallons National Marine Sanctuary.
You'll pass lighthouses, and possibly see migrating gray whales, puffins. Sharks who come to eat seals and sea lions.
Gulf of the Farallones Natural History Tour
10 Marina Blvd., San Francisco, CA (415) 331-6267
Incredible Adventures has one and two day trips.
Dive Discovery has trips that don't require a diving license. They have a "hookah" breathing system. $875 to get in the cage, $375 to stay on the boat (2009).

seals and sea lions


SF Bay Whale Watching
Right out of San Francisco, you can hop on a boat for an all-day trip to the Farallon Islands and marine sanctuary. You'll pass lighthouses, and possibly see migrating gray whales, puffins, sharks who come to eat seals and sea lions.
Gulf of the Farallones Natural History Tour, 10 Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA (415) 331-6267
  Central Coast
gray whales
Santa Barbara Blue & Gray Whales
Blue whales, the largest creature on earth ever, migrate by Santa Barbara each summer. It's the biggest concentration anywhere. You can also see gray whales move up and down the coast in winter and spring.
Condor Express has $48-$98 cruises and a handy schedule of what you might see in each month. 301 W Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA (805) 882-0088
Elkhorn Slough Sea Otters
The Elkhorn Slough is one of the best places in the world to see otters. Almost three-quarters of California's 3,000-some sea otters live in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which includes the Slough. You can see them on boat or kayak tours. The Slough (pronounced Slew) is a massive tidal salt marsh that's home to both saltwater and freshwater creatures, including sea otters, tiger sharks and bat rays.  Herons and egrets have a rookery in the northern marsh.
1700 Elkhorn Road
Watsonville, CA (831) 728-2822

Hi Mountain Condor Lookout

Hi Mountain Condor Lookout is an old fire tower turned into a condor tracking station. It's a field research station where biologists study released condors. It is remote, so call ahead and make sure your vehicle can go through 10 inches of water. Hi Mountain is in Los Padres National Forest. There's an open house in October.

Researchers say: "The condors originate from release sites in the Ventana Wilderness (near Big Sur) and the Sespe and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge areas in Ventura County. Though we have often tracked the Ventana birds on “through trips”, we usually track Hopper birds to our southeast as they make excursions up to Cuyama Valley, Caliente Peak, and Lion Canyon." 805-748-3199 +35° 15' 35.81", -120° 25' 31.06"
Bakersfield Rose-Ringed Parakeets
Bakersfield has the country's largest colony of Rose-ringed Parakeets, according to researcher Alley Sheehy and Nature Alley. The parrots roost near Union Ave. and California Ave, but have nest throughout the city, especially in parks.

Bitter Creek NWR

Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few places the rare and endangered California Condor live. Too bad it's closed to the public. But you may be able to see the giant vultures from a pullout off Cerro Noroeste Road. Captive bred condors fly between here and Ventura County. The Fish and Wildlife Service says: "California condors are known to feed on and fly over the Refuge. Often they will only be seen as a small dot in the distance. A good pair of binoculars and/or a spotting scope is a must. Currently the condors are using the Refuge on a regular basis."

Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue

Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue has about 200 wild horses they've rescued just about 90 minutes from Los Angeles. You can visit and tour this huge facility they gentle the horses for potential adoptions. They are also setting up the Born To Be Wild Sanctuary near Twin Oaks to let the horsesroam free, especially the ones that have lived wild their whole lives and fear humans. The group is continually rescuing horses, saving hundreds at auction that would have gone to Mexico for slaughter. 230809 E Avenue J, Lancaster, CA 661-727-0049

  Los Angeles & South Coast

Animal Acres

Animal Acres, a 26-acre farm sanctuary an hour from LA, is open on Sundays for visitors. (You can just show up other days between 10 and 11 to volunteer.) The cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep and goats somehow escaped factory farming.
5200 Escondido Canyon Rd, Acton, CA 661-269-5404


Meerkat Fellow Earthlings Sanctuary

The Fellow Earthlings Sanctuary takes in meerkats from zoos that no longer want them. The coolest thing about the sanctuary is that you can make a $100 donation and then get to spend a couple hours with the charismatic and complicated animals. Animal lover Pam Bennett-Wallberg founded the sanctuary in 1995--long before the animals became so popular because of Meerkat Manor. The desert location outside Palm Springs is just like their Kalahari home. 11427 West Dr, Morongo Valley, CA (760) 363-1344 


Channel Islands

San Miguel Island--the Channel Island furthest out to sea from Santa Barbara, CA, is one of three major breeding colonies of the northern fur seal in the U.S. The other three are off Russia and have been hit hard by seal hunting. Some think this seal, classified by the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, wised up and migrated from Russia to California. Its biggest population is in the Pribilof Islands, way off Alaska. This island has six species of pinniped: Guadalupe fur seals, Steller sea lion, northern fur seals, California sea lions, northern elephant seals, and harbor seals. 
Channel Island National Park, (805) 658-5730
Bonus species: brown pelican, bald eagle, Spotted SkunkTownsend's long-eared bats, only breeding tufted puffins, Cassin’s auklets, and rhinoceros auklets in southern California.

seals and sea lions


Marina Del Rey

Just south of Venice Beach, Marina del Rey has some of the easiest pelican and sea lion viewing around Los Angeles. Take Fiji Way down to the Fisherman's Village, which is a twee shopping mall. Head to the water and then down to your left to the fishing dock and Marina del Rey sportfishing. Pelicans and egrets will be hanging around. Sea lions lurk in the water and will sometimes jump up and steal just caught fish. The guy who runs Marina Del Rey Sportfishing even lets you hang out to watch. 13759 Fiji Way
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 822-3625


San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

The Sea & Sage Audubon Society leads summer bat walks at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Griftith Park

Griffith Park, the biggest park in Los Angeles,  has the Hollywood Sign, the LA Zoo, and a big variety of wildlife. In 2009 the USDA shot 7 coyotes in the park. They favor the hills around Los Feliz on the south end of the park.  Gray foxes, bobcat and mule deer live here, too. Mountain lion have been spotted. Three squirrel species--the fox, western gray (Trails Cafe at Fern Dell, Vermont Canyon picnic tables.) and ground--live here. Friends of Griffith Park did abat survey in 2009 and saw 3 bat species and heard another 4. The park also has snakes, lizards like the western whip tail (Brush canyon) and the Arboreal Salamander and Black-bellied Slender-Salamander. 4730 Crystal Spring Dr., LA (323)913-4688


Mt. Baldy - San Gabriel Mountains

Mt. Baldy is a popular LA hiking destination where you might also see wildlife. It's part of the Angeles National Forest, which has black bear,  bighorn sheep, coyote, mule deer, mountain lions, lizards and bats. How many black bears are really in the San Gabriel Mountains? Naturalist and author Tom Chester has tried to count, but it's hazy.


California Wildlife Center

California Wildlife Center has taken in 20,000 orphaned, injured or sick wild animals since it opened in 1996. Patients include pelicans, bear, squirrel, skunk, birds and more. They run educational programs and have an annual open house in September. 26026 Piuma Rd., Calabasas, CA (818) 222-2658


Golden Hearts Animal Sanctuary

Golden Hearts Animal Sanctuary is a small non-profit sanctuary for senior or disabled dogs, cats and goats. You can visit or volunteer, just call ahead.
12761 Hideaway Lake Rd., Valley Center, CA (760) 749-6122


California Equine Retirement Foundation

California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) is the mythical happy farm where racehorses get to retire. Started in 1986 by Grace Belcuore, a racing fan, the center has about 75 residents. You can visit, just set up an appointment first. The center also has plenty of events where you can see the horses in action.
34033 Kooden Rd., Winchester, CA (951) 926-4190 M-Sat. 7-4


Big Bear Discovery Center
Big Bear Discovery Center
 leads tours into the San Bernardino National Forest by kayak, canoe, snowshoe or moonlight. Bald eagles winter around the center. Deer, coyote and fox live in the forest, too. North Shore Drive, Highway 38 Big Bear Lake, CA 909-866-3437


Gentle Barn

The Gentle Barn is a farm sanctuary you (or your class or birthday party) can visit Sunday 10-2. The farm has rescued 120 horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, llamas, dogs, and cats, mostly from factory farming.

15825 Sierra Hwy. Santa Clarita, CA (661) 252-244

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, run by Heal the Bay, is one of those laid-back aquariums that feature local species and try to teach about the environment. Hands on exhibits with sharks and sea stars. They lead clean ups and campaigns against plastic bags. The group stopped LA from dumping sewage in the bay.

Just below the carousel, by the Santa Monica Pier ramp and Ocean Blvd. the 1600 Ocean Front Walk,Santa Monica, CA

Shambala Preserve

Tippi Hendren's Shambala Preserve north of LA takes in big cats born into the sleazy exotic pet trade in the U.S. You can see the 60-70 cats-- African lions, Bengal and Siberian tigers, and black and spotted leopards, servals, and mountain lions.The sanctuary and the Roar Foundation, founded in 1983 by Tippi Hedren, lobby for the end of the exotic pet trade.
6867 Soledad Canyon Rd., Acton, CA (661) 268-0380


Cat House on the Kings

Cat House on the Kings is a sanctuary located on 12 acres along the banks of the Kings River. About 700 domestic cats live there. Some are feral, some owner-surrenders ($45/month), some have FIV; some are up for adoption. Also they take in dogs. All are neutered. The shelter has been running since 1983 and is now a non-profit. They have special events, like a cat Halloween.

7120 S Kings River Rd., Parlier, CA (559) 638-8696

Bunny Bunch

Bunny Bunch is an adorable sanctuary and adoption center for rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs and other small furry pets. They also have a store for those who have their own bunnies or bunny-like creatures. Open Wed-Sun. Check the website for details.
4601 Brooks St., Montclair, CA (909) 631-9552

Red Crowned Amazons of Claremont - CA
Red Crowned Amazons, natives of the tropics of Mexico, live in loud, sometimes seasonal colonies. According to the amazons of Claremont and Pomona are refugees of the overcrowded colony in Temple City, CA
Temple City Red-crowned Parrots
More than 1,000 Red-crowned parrots live around Temple City, CA. Temple City Park is a likely place to find them. They roost near Golden West St. and Daines Dr., according to one Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society field report. Lilac-crowned parrots, also call the area home.
Temple City Park, 9751 Las Tunas Drive, Temple City, CA
seals and sea lions

Children's Beach, San Diego

The Children's Pool Beach attracts harbor seals and California sea lions. The area has been a site of contention: it's one of the best places to see seals in the country, but thanks to a lawsuit of a former resident, San Diego is spending $700,000 a year to try to remove the seals. Stay tuned.
850 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA (858) 221-8884

Ocean Beach Green Amazon Parrots - CA
A flock of Green Amazon Parrots visits Ocean Beach, San Diego every spring. Parrots are also spotted on Shelter Island,Point Loma and Ocean Beach, according to
Wolves-N-Wildlife - CA
Wolves-N-Wildlife is an educational facility in the mountains that has gray wolves, a black bear and a siberian tiger. Tours available for school groups and private parties.
2550 S Mountain Rd. Fillmore, CA (805) 524-0781



Long Beach Whales & Dolphins
See enormous blue whales June-fall. See gray whales when they migrate by in the winter and spring. See bottlenose, common and risoo dolphins other times.
Harbor Breeze Cruises leaves from Rainbow Harbor, 20 miles south of LA.
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA



Monterey, CA Whale Watching
Just south of San Francisco, you can take a 4-5 hour cruise into the Monterey Marine Mammal Sanctuary. In the winter (Dec.-April) you may see the huge migration of gray whales. The rest of the year there are seals, sea lions, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Dolphins, Killer Whales.
Monterey Bay Whale Watch run by a marine biologist, 84 Fishermans Wharf
Monterey, CA 831-375-4658
Newport Beach, CA Whales
Unlike most whale watches, boats from Newport Landing go out all year.
During the warmer months, May to Nov., you may see giant blue whales, killer whales, seals, finback whales, or thousands of dolphins.
In December through April the California Gray Whale migrates through.
Some trips go by the Catalina Islands. A prime watching area is the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which keeps track of marine mammals seen.

Newport Landing Whale Watching, 309 Palm Street Suite F
Newport Beach, CA (949) 675-0551

seals and sea lions
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
The Pacific Marine Mammal Recovery Center advocates for seals and sea lions and does hands on work caring for orphaned or injured marine mammals.
They offer a one-hour, $25 behind the scenes tour.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center Laguna Beach, CA (949) 494-3050
Long Beach Half-Moon Conures - Ca
A colony of Half-Moon Conures has been living in Long Beach, CA's Belmont Shores neighborhood for decades.
Lindsay Wildlife Museum - CA
The Lindsay Wildlife Museum treats sick, injured and orphaned wildlife at a huge hospital and rehab facility. Animals who can't be released stay, including bobcats, owls and eagles. 1931 1st Ave, Walnut Creek, CA (925) 935-1978
California Wolf Center
The California Wolf Center is home to several packs of gray wolves. They work on wolf conservation, research and public education. Visitors get to meet some of the wolves in a program every Saturday. The center houses a secluded pack of endangered Mexican Wolves to aid in the recovery effort.
1800 Highway 78, Julian, CA (760) 765-0030
Half-Moon Conures of Long Beach
A colony of Half-Moon Conures has been living in Long Beach, CA's Belmont Shores neighborhood for decades.
San Diego Green Amazon Parrots
A flock of Green Amazon parrots can be seen near Ocean Beach in San Diego. Check out these pictures of them from City Parrots.
Catalina Island Bison
A herd of about 200 bison roam Catalina Island off Los Angeles and no one is sure where they came from. National Geographic shot down the theory they were extras in a movie.
The herd grew from 14 to 600 at one point and the Catalina Island Conservancy worried they were demolishing the habitat.
In 2009 they went on PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida) birth control, the kind recommended by the HSUS.
Bonus species: fox (which are getting out-competed by feral pigs), golden eagles (which eat the pigs), and Beechey's ground squirrels


Star Eco Center

The Star Eco Center tries to teach kids compassion towards the animals it shelters--exotic birds, cats and reptiles that somebody somehow thought would be good pets. 10101 W Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, CA


Balloona Creek

Pelicans, egrets, ducks, gulls and anhingas soak up the sun on Ballona Creek. You can often find them perched on a yellow barrier between Culver and Lincoln Blvds. You can get down to see them on the Ballona bike path.

  Northeast - Shasta


Highlighted on Nature, Marysville enjoys a huge skunk population. The berms around town keeps in the aroma.
Lake Tahoe Bears - CA
The entire Lake Tahoe basin has bears, especially on the California side. With one of the highest bear concentrations in the country, the towns around Lake Tahoe all experience some bear conflicts. Many are trying to get more bear smart by banning feeding, whether that's on purpose or from improper garbage containers. All the state parks around Tahoe have bear. Visitors sometimes see them on the trail behind the campgrounds and Sugar Pine State Park. 530-525-7982
California Raptor Center at Davis
The California Raptor Center, part of UC-Davis' vet school, researches raptors, promotes conservation, rehabilitates about 200 injured raptors each year. They offer public education through field trips to see birds in the wild and school and other group tours of the center. (No public hours). Plenty of volunteer opportunities.
The Center is off Old Davis Road, south of 80, past the railroad tracks. Take a left at the Y in the road. (530) 752-9994

Animal Place

Animal Place is an accredited animal sanctuary and education center offers farm tours at various times throughout the year. Check their schedule here:  The tours are generally $10, $5 for kids. Around the holidays there's a tour for carnivores to meet their meet for $10; vegetarians go free. (707) 449-4814


Gray Lodge

About 40% of birds migrating on the Pacific Coast go through the Sacramento Valley, GORP says.Gray Lodge wildlife area is a great place to see 30,000 at a time take flight and darken the sky.  207 Rutherford Rd., Gridley, CA (530) 846-7500


Wild Horse Sanctuary

The Wild Horse Sanctuary saved 80 mustangs that the Bureau of Land Management wanted to destroy and gave them this 5,000 acre ranch to roam. You can support the herd by going on their 2 or 3-day trail rides ($435-535) or volunteering. You can also just donate or see the horses Wed. and Sat. 10-4. 5796 Wilson Hill Rd Shingletown, CA (530) 335-2241 Near Redding.

  Deserts - East
bighorn The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has bighorn sheep, but they can be hard to see. Though some do describe it as easy and others have photographed them near Ocotillo. The desert of Peninsula subspecies here is endangered. TheConservation Biology Institute reports "recent sightings of bighorn sheep in the vicinity of Interstate-8 in California, within 8 km (5 mi) of the international border," which gives hope of connecting this population with one in Mexico.

Joshua Tree National Park

oshua Tree National Park has about 250 bighorn sheep that live in three herds. The smallest and westernmost herd is the one people see the most because it's conveniently located in the Wonderland of Rocks. Up to 200 vultures roost near Oasis of Mara some springs.  The park also gets owls nesting in cactus, greater roadrunner, migrating warblers. Kit fox live in open areas; check out the Pinto Basin. The park also has the endangered desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii.

  Central Valley

Los Alamos Park

Los Alamos Park is a likely place to spot a Yellow-Beaked Magie, the only species of bird found only in California. (There's a black-billed one on the other side of the Sierra Nevadas.) They're only found in the central valley to northern California. Audubon California told the Lompoc Recordthat Magpies are found Buellton, the Santa Ynez Valley and the rural areas east of Santa Maria and southern San Luis Obispo County. They like oak woodlands
Magpies are especially susceptible to climate change and West Nile Virus, which has decimated populations. CA Audubon did a 2009 survey that found them most prevalent in Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Yolo counties. They have friends in a group called Magpie Monitor, which is keeping track of nests.

basset waddle
Basset Rescue of Central Calfornia Waddle
Basset Rescue of Central California holds an annual waddle in Memorial Park, which is at the intersection of 18th Avenue and Sierra Street.


Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center has been taking in injured wildlife since 1984. They now have 2 acres on the Tuolumne River in Fox Grove Regional Park. In September they have a Day with Wildlife, with hourly presentations with patients such as owls, skunks, fox, squirrels and snakes. You can also set up a talk for your group.209 883-9414


Cat Haven

Cat Haven has 100 acres outside Fresno where both big and small exotic cats roam in semi-natural enclosures. These are not rescue animals; they come from zoos from around the world. The idea of Cat Haven is to promote cat conservation by on and off site education programs. Guided tours are lead daily by docents that show you the cats and teach the importance of conservation. They have all the big cats on display; Amur leopards, jaguars, lion, tiger, snow leopard, clouded leopard and cheetah. Small cats include jaguarundi, bobcat, serval and Siberian lynx. The Cat Haven is actively involved in conservation projects all over the globe and is currently building a cheetah education center in Kenya. It borders King's Canyon National Park and is supported by  Project Survival.
38257 E Kings Canyon Rd., Dunlap, CA 




Cat House on the Kings

Cat House on the Kings is an animal sanctuary located on 12 acres along the banks of The Kings River. Currently over 700 domestic cats reside there.  Rescued animals (mostly cats and dogs with a few rescued goats and peacocks), are spayed/neutered, tested for FELV/FIV, vaccinated, microchipped and put up for adoption. Some unadoptables will live out their lives there (ferals, owner-surrenders ($45/month), some with health issues like FIV).  This is a no-kill, no-cage, non-profit rescue and adoption center where the cats are free to roam inside and out. There are separate residences/yards for senior cats, FIV cats, and a large kitten quarters.  The main house is over 4000 square feet where the cats live in harmony. The Cat House on the Kings was founded in 1983 by Lynea Lattanzio and is funded by donations and Lynea. They have special events, like a cat Halloween and an open house in May and October.

7120 South Kings River Road, Parlier, CA Tours are available by appointment: (559) 638-8696

Redwings Horse Sanctuary
The Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which started in 1991, is a permanent home for 90-some horses and burros that can't be adopted out after being abused or neglected. You can visit 10-3 and even bring your dog (on a leash). 47240 Lockwood-Jolon Road, Lockwood, CA 831-386-0135  


Americans spend far more time and money going to see wildlife than they are hunting it. These are figures about dollars spent in each state on the various animal-related outdoor pastimes. These are the latest figures fom the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which does a survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-related activities every five years.


$ spent in state


around home



% participation





8I want to read weird animal stories every day


Facebook Follow

Check Out What Animals You Might See in These Regions
Latin America
 California Wildlife Watcher News