More than 400 bird species are found at Redwood National and State Parks. Listen for the intricate call of the winter wren and the soulful sustained notes of the varied thrush.
The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), closely related to the puffin, is known for its long commute. After spending the day fishing at sea, this chunky little auk returns—sometimes many miles inland—to nest in old-growth forests. Murrelets once numbered 60,000 along the California coast. Today less than 6,000 remain. You can learn how to safeguard their remaining habitat by watching this video.
This park is Crumb Clean. Visitors are required to watch this short video about the impact human food has on park wildlife.
Double-crested and pelagic cormorants, common murres, and surf scoters can be seen off the coast, while western snowy plovers (on the federal list of “threatened” species), great blue herons, and peregrine falcons fly along Gold Bluffs Beach.
Once teetering on the brink of extinction, Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) now thrive along the North Coast, and especially at Prairie Creek. During elk mating season—six weeks, from August to October—the air resounds with the calls of bulls challenging each other for mating rights.
Photographers beware: Bulls can weigh up to 1,200 pounds and aggressively guard their harems during mating season. Females are wary during calving season in May and June. Respect their habitat and observe safely, from a distance. Please stay on trails.
Mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats hunt at night for black-tailed deer, elk, and small game. Brown bats, red squirrels, black bears, and coyotes feed on the park’s often rich supply of berries.
Marine mammals you might see in Prairie Creek include Pacific gray whales, dolphins, California sea lions, harbor seals, and Steller sea lions.
Up to 50 feet long and 45 tons each, gray whales migrate 12,000 miles each year, from Alaska to Baja California and back—the longest known annual migration of any mammal. They travel in small groups 70 to 80 miles a day. They stay close to the shoreline for protection from predators, such as killer whales. Spouts of vaporized water up to 12 feet high can be seen as the whales surface every three to five minutes to breathe. Check with the park for best time to see them passing by Gold Bluff Beach.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians such as western garter snakes, northern red-legged frogs, and rough-skinned newts are all common at Prairie Creek.
At certain times of the year, it’s hard to walk through a moist North Coast redwood forest without seeing yellow-spotted millipedes on the forest floor. They have 18 to 20 body segments and (contrary to what the “milli”—one thousand—in their name would suggest) 31 pairs of legs.
A pile of writhing millipedes may not look appealing. But they play an important ecological role. They are “detritivores,” or decomposers, turning feces and dead animal and plant parts into nutrient-rich topsoil.
Unlike their arthropod cousins the centipedes, millipedes do not bite when threatened. Instead they release hydrogen cyanide. This chemical doesn’t bother humans—some say it smells like almond extract. But it’s toxic to beetles and shews.