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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Pacific Region
Frequently Asked Questions

What are National Wildlife Refuges?
The Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, which was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The National Wildlife Refuge System contains 540 refuges and 3,000 waterfowl production areas located throughout all 50 states and several U.S. territories. At 95 million acres, it is the world's largest system of lands and waters whose primary purpose is the conservation of wildlife and habitat. Our national refuges provide homes for 700 bird species, 220 mammal species, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 200 kinds of fish - including 25 percent of all federal threatened and endangered species. Not only are there more refuge lands than there are National Parks - the places Americans so often think of first when imagining our most impressive natural landscapes - refuges are also more widespread than any other system of lands in the country. And the System is still growing, making it possible for refuges to protect more of our natural heritage than ever. In the future, refuges will become conservation "hubs" - envoys to adjacent private, state, and federal landowners, promoting conservation strategies beyond their boundaries consistent with the refuges' objectives.

Why are there National Wildlife Refuges on the coast?
The six refuges on the Oregon Coast protect and provide habitat for a variety of coastal wildlife and plants. Protected habitats include coastal rocks, reefs, and islands, estuaries, brackish marsh, salt marsh, old-growth forests, mud flats, uplands, and flooded pastures. Coastal wildlife using these habitats include common murre, pigeon guillemot, tufted puffin, Steller sea lion, Aleutian Cackling goose, Pacific giant salamander, coho and chinook salmon.

Where can I get printed information on wildlife refuges along the Oregon Coast?
Mail the request to:
Oregon Coast NWR Complex
2127 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport OR 97365

Phone the request to 541.867.4550

E-mail the request to

There are also brochures available to download. You will need Adobe Reader.
For general information, see the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex brochure, available as a downloadable PDF (2.7 MB).
For information about the Western Snowy Plover, check out the Sharing the Beach brochure (806 KB).

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How do I get to the Oregon Coast NWR Complex?
Visit our Maps and Directions page

Are there any fees to use your refuges?

Is there public access on your refuges?
Public access is available at these refuges along the Oregon coast: Cape Meares, Bandon Marsh, Nestucca Bay, Siletz Bay and Coquille Point (a mainland unit of Oregon Islands). Check the Upcoming Events section on our homepage to find out when the next special event will be held, or contact the refuge for more information.

Are there hunting opportunities on any of the wildlife refuges on the Oregon Coast?
Yes, Bandon Marsh NWR, Nestucca Bay NWR, and Siletz Bay NWR are all open to waterfowl hunting. Please visit each Refuge's page for more information.

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Can I bring my dog with me to the wildlife refuge?
Dogs are permitted at Cape Meares NWR and at Coquille Point, a part of Oregon Islands NWR. For the protection of pets, wildlife and visitors all pets are required to be on leash. Dogs used for hunting are allowed to be off leash in Bandon Marsh NWR during waterfowl season only, Bandon Marsh is closed to dogs at all other times.

Where are the hot spots for bird watching along the Oregon Coast?
Download a copy of the Oregon Coast Birding Trail guide for the best birding sites on the coast.

What animals can I see at the Oregon Coast NWR Complex?
There is a wide variety of wildlife using all six of the refuges at the Oregon Coast NWR Complex. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish are all abundant. Currently, we do not have a complete checklist of birds, wildlife, or plants on the refuges. You can visit our Wildlife page for descriptions of some of the commonly seen wildlife.

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Where can I see a tufted puffin?
Tufted puffins nest on a few of the offshore rocks along the Oregon Coast which are protected as part of Oregon Islands NWR. The best places to view Tufted Puffins is on Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach and on the coastal rocks at Coquille Point in Bandon, OR. Visit these areas between April and August to see these ornate birds. Please visit our Wildlife page for more information.

Where can I go to watch whales?
The Oregon Coast is prime whale-watching territory. You can see up to four species of whale along the coast. The most common species is the California Gray Whale. One awesome aspect of many whale species is their long annual migrations. The annual migration of Gray Whales can be witnessed from practically any spot along the Oregon coast. The whales migrate to and from their feeding grounds in Alaska's Bering and Chukchi Seas and their breeding and calving grounds in Baja California. However, some pods of gray whales are considered residents, and remain near the Oregon coast throughout the year. The best viewing times along the Oregon Coast are during the months of December and March.
If you are lucky you may spot any of these species during your whale watching excursions:
Gray Whale - Splotchy gray color with barnacles in skin and ridges along the back just in front of the tail.
Humpback Whale - Long white flippers, bumps on top of the head, very strong angle of the back when diving. Short dorsal fin.
Killer Whale or Orca - Tall dorsal fin, very distinct black and white pattern, often seen in groups.
Sperm Whale - Square-shaped head, blows at a 40-degree angle from front of head, often seen in groups, ridges along tail stalk. Wrinkled-looking skin.
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What is the difference between a seal and a sea lion?
Sea lions, also called eared seals or fur seals, are members of the family Otariidae. Sea lions can rotate their flippers to move more easily on land, have external ear flaps, and may make a characteristic barking noise. True seals, members of the family Phocidae, are usually much smaller and silent, slide along the ground on their belly, and have no external ears. On the Oregon Islands, sea lions pup on the rocks, while seals pup in the water just off shore. Harbor seal pups will often beach themselves to rest. Do not disturb seal pups on the beach. See our Wildlife page for more information.

What should I do with an injured wild animal?
If you have found an injured wild animal take a few moments to read the following, you may be better prepared to give that injured animal its best possible chance of recovery.
1. Please do not handle any wild animal if doing so risks your safety or the safety of others. When in doubt, do not attempt a capture.
2. Never handle a large bird of prey, raccoon, skunk, deer, or opossum that appears alert and responsive. These animals have particularly powerful talons, teeth, legs, and/or claws.
3. Keep a safe distance from the animal, and do what you can to protect it from harassment by pets or other people.
4. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. To find one near you visit the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council web page.

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How can I become a volunteer?
Various opportunities exist at the Refuge Complex for a volunteer to have a rewarding and educational experience. Volunteers can serve for a long or short-term period. Help is needed in a variety of fields including interpretation, environmental education, wildlife and plant surveys, maintenance and resource management. To learn more about volunteer opportunities contact Dawn Harris at and please visit our Volunteers web page.

How can I get a job with the USFWS?
Visit for the current listing of jobs with the Federal Government.

Can my classroom visit these refuges?
The Oregon Coast NWR Complex has an extensive environmental education program. Please visit the Education web page to find out if there are opportunities to get your class can get involved.

Can I use images on this website for my report, slide show or school project?
You can use any image on this website that has U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or USFWS as the credit. Most of the images on this site have been taken by USFWS staff or volunteers and are therefore public domain. When using these images, please credit the photographer exactly as it is shown below the image. All images that show the photographers name followed by USFWS can be used as well as images that just show USFWS. All images that just have the photographers name are protected by copyright laws and may not be used without permission from the photographer. For more USFWS images in the public domain visit Image Gallery.

Are GIS data sets available for the OCNWRC?
Data are available through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service GIS and Spatial Data website.

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Can I access any waterways that travel through or next to any of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuges?
Three of the six National Wildlife Refuges of the OCNWRC are estuarine and include waterways that are appropriate for vessels such as canoes and kayaks. In most cases, unless posted otherwise, the land on these refuges is closed to the public including vehicles of any kind as well as foot traffic. However, if you can access one of these waterways via public land you may enter the refuge on that waterway.

Does the USFWS offer any guided hikes, tours, or canoe trips on any of the Oregon Coast Refuges?
There are a series of guided canoe and kayak tours on the Siletz Bay NWR during June, July and August. The tours include an approximately two hour paddle through the heart of the refuge. The dates are scheduled and released in the spring, a schedule can be found on our website under events.

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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 2127 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR, 97365
Phone: 541-867-4550. Email:
Site last updated September 22, 2014