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Best Places to See Animals In & Around LA

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Seals and Sea Lions at Children's Pool Beach
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, (858) 221-8884


Friendly Gray Whales of Baja California
The curiously friendly gray whales in Charles Siebert's New York Times Magazine piece Watching Whales Watching Us can be found primarily in 3 areas off Baja, California:
  • Laguna Ojo de Liebre, also known as Scammon’s Lagoon, off Guerrero Negro
  • Puerto San Carlos - Bahia de Magdelena
  • San Ignacio Lagoon
These whales seem to know that the people here are safe and seek out interactions with them. The gray whales migrate to this area from January to March.

BajaQuest says Guerrero Negro was the first whale sanctuary.
According to Moon, you can either arrange a boat for yourself or go out with Malarrimo for $49, which has also has a restaurant and hotel.

Santa Barbara Blue and 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. This is the company environmental groups use in their tours.


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 


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

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
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
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


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

eagle 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 Haven

Cat Haven has 100 acres outside Fresno where big cats and servals roam in semi-natural pens. These are not rescue animals; they come from zoos. The idea of Cat Haven is just to promote cat conservation by letting people see them. They have leopards, servals, jaguars, jaguaramundi, lions, chettah and lynx. They specialize in jaguars because they believe this former native of North America doesn't get the love among conservationists.  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 a massive colony of 700 domestic cats. 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


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."
+35° 15' 35.81", -120° 25' 31.06"

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."

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

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

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua 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.

Guadalupe Island - Great White Sharks
Tours leave from San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico to the area near Guadalupe Island, Baja, California, to swim with great white sharks.
Shark Diver has 5-day packages from $2500-$3200. 415-233-4951
San Diego Shark Diving only goes with certified divers. About $2,500 (2009). They also offer shark tours in many hotspots around the world. 619-299-8560
Newport Beach Whale Watching
Unlike most whale watches around the country, 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 (949) 675-0551
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 90802
Wild Horse and Burro-National Program
This National Wild Horse and Burro Center, 20 miles north of Reno is where the Bureau of Land Management holds thousands of captured wild horses awaiting potential adoption. You can see and perhaps adopt a wild horse here.
17800 State Route 445, Palomino Valley, NV
Pacific Marine Mammal Recovery 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.
20612 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, CA (949) 494-3050
San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Sea & Sage Audubon Society leads field trips in spring to band owls and hawks at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.
3512 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 949-261-7963
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.
Red-Crowned Amazon Parrots in Claremont & Pomona
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.
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.

Ocean Beach Green Amazons
A flock of Green Amazon parrots can be seen near Ocean Beach in San Diego. Check out these pictures of them from City Parrots.




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


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