Mammals in King County
There are approximately 70 mammals found in King County -- from tiny shrews to visiting gray whales. Scroll down this page for a list of them grouped by family. The University of Puget Sound's Slater Museum maintains a list of all the mammals found in Washington state.
There are a couple mammals that end up causing concern to King County residents each year: Elk and Beavers. We've devoted an entire website to beavers in an attempt to thoroughly present information about them and beaver-related flooding issues and solutions. Here are a couple other resources that might be useful:
- WDFW's Elk Fact Sheet, including "Living with Elk"
- WDFW's Beaver page, including "Living with Beavers"
Another primary group of wildlife-related challenges we face in an urbanizing environment involve larger mammals -- the big predators such as black bears and cougars. Check out our Urban Wildlife page to learn more about living with these animals.
Killer whales (Orcas) are the most common whale species seen in King County waters. The Southern Resident killer whales were federally listed as endangered in November 2005 because of population declines. In July 2011, there were 88 whales in this population, and as of June 2019 the population stands at 76. The southern resident population is thought to feed solely on salmon, whose populations have declined from historic levels. The other primary threat to this population is reduced reproductive capacity and possibly declining health as a result of extremely high levels of pollutants found in their bodies. There is a lot of information available about the Southern Resident population:
- UW's Center for Conservation Biology research on Causes of Decline among Southern Resident Killer Whales
- The Whale Museum's Issues Affecting the Southern Resident Orcas
- Vessel Regulations in Washington State for Southern Resident Killer Whales
- NOAA's Killer Whale Fact Sheet
- The Orca Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the whales of the Pacific Northwest
- 13 whales you can see in the Pacific Northwest, and how to identify them, from Oregon Live
- State of Washington's 2017 Periodic Status Review for Blue, Fin, Sei, North Pacific Right, and Sperm Whales
Although this page is about mammals in King County, some sightings in Puget Sound and off the coast of Washington are too interesting to not mention. These news articles about different whale species in our region span a decade:
- Puget Sound whale sightings in COVID-19 times, The Islands' Sounder, April 20, 2020
- Gray whales return: Researchers wonder why 'Sounders' seem healthier than others, Kitsap Sun, March 21, 2020
- Orcas sighted in Puget Sound, including rare 'little white whale', KOMO News, October 13, 2019
- Rare Sighting of Blue Whales off the Washington Coast, OPB, August 13, 2019
- Salish Sea's 'humpback comeback' is a good sign, but concerns remain, Crosscut, August 16, 2019
- 2nd confirmed sighting of Fin whale in Puget Sound since 1930, San Juan Islander, July 19, 2016
- Gray whale spotted in backwater of south Puget Sound, KOMO News, June 19, 2013
- Dead [fin] whale draws crowd to Puget Sound beach, Associated Press, April 15, 2013
- Southern Resident Orcas have a new calf, Seattle PI, December 20, 2011
- Long-beaked tropical dolphins spotted in Puget Sound, Seattle Times, June 21, 2011
- Rare Blue Whales return off the Washington Coast, Seattle PI, December 14, 2011
Other related information
- WDFW's page on squirrel species in the State of Washington.
- American Cetacean Society - Puget Sound Chapter.
- Want to search for listed species in the State? WDFW's searchable database is very handy.
- Burke Museum provides information about mammals in Washington State.
- Slater Museum of Natural History maintains a mammals web site. The list of mammals below is taken directly from their list: only King County's mammals are included.
Mammals found in Washington state
Order Didelphimorphia: Opossum-like Marsupials
- Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana. Wooded habitats and urban areas. Introduced from E U.S.
Order Insectivora: Insectivores
- Vagrant Shrew, Sorex vagrans. Marshes, meadows, and moist forests.
- Montane Shrew, Sorex monticolus. Forests.
- Water Shrew, Sorex palustris. Mountain streams and pools.
- Pacific Water Shrew, Sorex bendirii. Marshes and stream banks.
- Trowbridge's Shrew, Sorex trowbridgii. Forests.
- Shrew-mole, Neurotrichus gibbsii. Moist forests.
- Townsend's Mole, Scapanus townsendii. Meadows.
- Coast Mole, Scapanus orarius. Most habitats.
Order Chiroptera: Bats
Vespertilionidae: Vespertilionid Bats
- Little Brown Myotis, Myotis lucifugus. Roosts in buildings and caves.
- Yuma Myotis, Myotis yumanensis. All habitats near water, roosting in trees, buildings, and caves.
- Long-eared Myotis, Myotis evotis. Conifer forests, roosting in tree cavities, caves, and buildings; also watercourses in arid regions.
- Long-legged Myotis, Myotis volans. Coniferous forests, also along watercourses in arid areas, roosting under tree bark and in rock crevices and buildings.
- California Myotis, Myotis californicus. Most lowland habitats (near water in arid zones), roosting in buildings, rock crevices, and snags.
- Hoary Bat, Lasiurus cinereus. Forested areas, roosting among tree foliage. Might be found anywhere in migration.
- Silver-haired Bat, Lasionycteris noctivagans. Forested areas, roosting under bark.
- Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus. All habitats, roosting in tree cavities, buildings, and rock crevices.
- Western Big-eared Bat, Plecotus townsendii. All habitats, roosting in caves and mine shafts.
Order Lagomorpha: Lagomorphs
- Pika, Ochotona princeps. Talus slopes.
Leporidae: Hares and Rabbits
- Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus. Meadows and open woodlands. Introduced from E U.S.
- Snowshoe Hare, Lepus americanus. Forests.
Order Rodentia: Rodents
Aplodontidae: Mountain Beaver
- Mountain Beaver, Aplodontia rufa. Forests and clearings.
- Yellow-pine Chipmunk, Tamias amoenus. Subalpine zone.
- Townsend's Chipmunk, Tamias townsendii. Wet forests.
- Hoary Marmot, Marmota caligata. Subalpine and alpine zones.
- Cascade Ground Squirrel, Spermophilus saturatus. Meadows and open woodlands.
- Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. Cities and towns. Introduced from E U.S.
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger. Cities and towns. Introduced from E North America.
- Douglas' Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii. Conifer forests.
- Northern Flying Squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus. Forests.
- North American Beaver, Castor canadensis. Wetlands, streams, lakes, ponds.
Cricetidae: Cricetid Rats
- Deer Mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. All habitats but much less common in wet forests inhabited by Peromyscus keenii.
- Forest Deer Mouse, Peromyscus keenii. Forests.
- Bushy-tailed Woodrat, Neotoma cinerea. Talus and rocky areas at all elevations.
- Gapper's Red-backed Vole, Clethrionomys gapperi. Forests.
- Heather Vole, Phenacomys intermedius. Subalpine forest and meadows.
- Townsend's Vole, Microtus townsendii. Marshes, wet meadows, and riparian woodlands.
- Long-tailed Vole, Microtus longicaudus. Moist habitats, lowlands and mountains.
- Creeping Vole, Microtus oregoni. Moist habitats.
- Water Vole, Microtus richardsoni. Streams and wet meadows.
- Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus. Wetlands and other freshwater aquatic habitat.
Muridae: Murid Rats
- Black Rat, Rattus rattus. Most habitats, especially near habitations. Introduced from Europe.
- Norway Rat, Rattus norvegicus. Usually associated with humans. Introduced from Europe.
- House Mouse, Mus musculus. Most habitats, especially near habitations. Introduced from Europe.
Zapodidae: Jumping Mice
- Pacific Jumping Mouse, Zapus trinotatus. Forest clearings and meadows.
Erethizontidae: New World Porcupines
- Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum. Open forest to shrub steppe.
- Nutria or coypu, Myocastor coypus. Wetlands. Introduced from South America.
Order Carnivora: Carnivores
- Coyote, Canis latrans. All habitats.
- Gray Wolf, Canis lupus. Forested habitats. May not be in King County at present, but was historically and likely will return in 2020s.
- Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes. Forests and woodlands. Mountains (native populations) and W lowlands (populations introduced from E U.S.).
- Black Bear, Ursus americanus. Forested and semiopen areas.
- Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos. Forested and open areas. Would have been present in King County historically; none are currently known to be present.
- Raccoon, Procyon lotor. Wooded areas, urban and suburban areas.
- Marten, Martes americana. Mountain forests, less common in lowlands.
- Ermine, or short-tailed weasel, Mustela erminea. Forests.
- Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata. All habitats.
- Mink, Mustela vison. Wetlands.
- Wolverine, Gulo gulo. Forests and meadows. Currently being reintroduced in Washington; presence in King County unknown.
- Western Spotted Skunk, Spilogale gracilis. Woodlands and thickets.
- Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis. All habitats except sagebrush, more in open areas than preceding species.
- River Otter, Lontra canadensis, (previously Lutra canadensis) . Marine and freshwater.
- Cougar Puma concolor,. (previously Felis concolor) All habitats.
- Lynx rufus, Bobcat. (Previously Felis rufus) All habitats.
Otariidae: Eared Seals
- Steller Sea Lion, Eumetopias jubatus. Large males and sub-adult Steller sea lions can occasionally be seen in the inland waters of Washington State.
- California Sea Lion, Zalophus californianus. Marine, hauling out on floating platforms. Winter visitor, mostly Puget Sound.
Phocidae: True Seals (also known as Earless Seals)
- Harbor Seal, Phoca vitulina. Marine, hauling out on rocks and sand islands.
Order Cetacea: Cetaceans (*=Species most likely to be seen)
Eschrichtiidae: Gray Whale
- Gray Whale*, Eschrichtius robustus.
- Minke Whale*, Balaenoptera acutorostrata.
- Humpback Whale*, Megaptera novaeangliae (offshore).
- Orca or Killer Whale*, Orcinus orca.
- Harbor Porpoise*, Phocoena phocoena.
- Dall's Porpoise*, Phocoenoides dalli.
Order Artiodactyla: Even-toed Ungulates
- Elk, Cervus elaphus. Forested regions.
- Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus. All habitats. "Black-tailed Deer" O. h. columbianus west of Cascades crest.
- Mountain Goat, Oreamnos americanus. Alpine and subalpine zone.