Mammals

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Estuarine habitat in Oregon is home to a variety of mammal species representing multiple orders. Rodents found here range in size from the miniscule Creeping Vole to the fifty-pound Beaver. Of even-toed ungulates, Black-tailed Deer are abundant and easily seen. More reclusive are the resident carnivores, which include Bobcats, Coyotes and several mustelid species: Mink, weasels and River Otters.

  • Roosevelt Elk

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    In fall and winter, huge herds of these ungulates can be seen in fields and riparian areas throughout Oregon. The largest deer species in the world—Roosevelt Elk stand from three to five feet at the shoulder and weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds—these browsers take in a variety of plant matter, from grass and leaves to saplings and bark. 

  • Black-tailed Deer

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    A familiar sight at the boundary between forest and clearing, Columbian Black-tailed Deer are an occidental subspecies of Mule Deer. Their huge doe-eyes (the bucks of course boast these, too) and oscillating ears bespeak the circumspection of a prey species: always alert to potential danger. During the winter rut, males clash antlers over breeding rights and chase doe-tail through the forest. Their antlers are shed every spring to regrow in full by late summer.

  • Harbor Seal

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    Harbor Seals are plentiful along the Oregon coast, often found lounging near bays, estuaries, and on sandy beaches and mudflats. Being true seals, they lack external ear flaps and can only move on land by flopping along on their bellies, called "galumphing". Reaching up to six feet in length and weighing close to 300 pounds, Harbor Seals are year-round residents here, giving birth to pups in April and May. 

  • Mink

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    The American Mink is a foot-long, tawny-furred, semiaquatic member of the Mustelidae family, cousin to weasels and otters. Sleek and elongate, minks snake through water and into animal burrows with equal ease, taking everything from crabs and fledgling birds to fish, frogs and rodents as prey. Minks are commonly killed by humans for their dense, luxuriant pelts; before commercial breeding took hold in the 1890s, the trapping of wild minks was practiced across the continent by aboriginal peoples and European fur traders. Their traps typically drowned the animal, thus keeping its integument intact. 

  • River Otter

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    The North American River Otter is a large, widespread mustelid that’s perfectly adapted to the life aquatic. A streamlined body, tapered tail and fully webbed toes allow nimble passage through water. Thick, oily, insulated fur keeps the otter dry and warm. Sensitive whiskers or “vibrissae” help detect prey in the murky depths. Otters move easily from land to river, estuary to ocean; they eat everything from crustaceans and fish to bird eggs and chicks.  

  • Muskrat

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    Semi-aquatic Muskrats are the largest of the Arvicolinae, the subfamily of rodents that comprises 142 species of mostly lemmings and voles. They're not "true rats", a term used specifically to describe rodents of the genus Rattus. These two-foot-long, four-pound swimming arvicolines are busy as beavers throughout the year, digging burrows in riverbanks and building dens called "push-ups" to store their aquatic-plant provender. 

  • Beaver

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    Second-largest rodent in the world, Beavers grow to 50 pounds and are unique among non-human animals in their far-reaching ecological influence. At home on water, Beavers build dams and lodges out of felled trees; these structures often alter the course of waterways, slowing the flow and trapping debris. Loss of tree cover, sediment deposition and subsequent flooding leads to the creation of wetlands, vital habitat used by myriad species.