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Looking for a Wild Time? Oregon Coast Has Plenty of Fall Wildlife

Published 10/19/23 at 5:52 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – Fall may be bringing the close to pleasant weather right now on the Oregon coast, but that doesn't matter to its wilder residents. Tiny creatures abound in the tidepools as always, but bigger ones can be seen from a distance at some locales and maybe even out to sea. (Above: Simpson Reef, courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast)

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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently talked about some seasonal amenities out here, including the biggest of all: whales.

Looking for cetaceans this season?

They are not exactly abundant but they are definitely out there.

Currently, the handful of whale Facebook groups for the Oregon coast have been rather quiet, so granted your chances are slim right now – but not impossible. Getting onboard a whale tour out of Depoe Bay or Newport will greatly increase your chances.

Sightings from land start ticking upwards in November or so as they start to migrate, although inclement weather tends to hide them from view. Getting out into the waters a few miles gets you closer to where they are right now, which is what the whale tours do.

“In addition to migratory animals, there are approximately 200 resident gray whales that live nearly year-round off Oregon,” ODFW said. “Gray whales, humpbacks, orcas, and sperm whales can all be seen off the coast.”

How to spot whales from the Oregon coast?

Sea lion hanging out at Lincoln City one night and surprising visitors

First, bring binoculars if you intend to look from land.

“Look for whales as they surface to blow a spout of 6-12 feet high, depending on the sex,” ODFW said. “Gray whales usually surface to breathe 3-5 times before making a deep feeding dive when you can spot their tail flukes. The best time to view whales are on calm days when you won’t confuse whale spouts with whitecaps. While you can see whale spouts with the naked eye, use binoculars for the best viewing.”

Right now, it's easiest to spot harbor seals and sea lions.

Sea lions abound around the docks of Astoria or Newport, but there are other areas, said ODFW. There are some prime south Oregon coast spots too.

“Often seen in bays lounging on piers, tideflats, or sandbars, these animals can be entertaining to watch,” ODFW said. “Good locations for viewing include the South Jetty of the Columbia River, sandbars in Netarts Bay, near the mouth of the Siletz River, Yaquina Bay between the jetties and along the bay front, sandbars and beaches near the mouth of Alsea Bay, Cape Arago, Rouge Reef, and Simpson Reef.”

Seal courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Try Simpson Reef and its Shell Island at Cape Arago to maybe catch a rare sighting of elephant seals, ODFW said.

Other lifeforms can be found all over Oregon coast beaches, ODFW said.

“Check the wrack line where the water deposits shells, algae and kelp, and driftwood that are food and homes to a large variety of unassuming actors. Beach hoppers, beetles, mussels, and gooseneck barnacles are just some of the animals you’ll find here.”

Fossils at Moolack Beach, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

For fossil hunting, even this time of year can be fruitful, especially after storms.

“Wave action also reveals fossils of shelled animals at several locations, including Beverly Beach, Fogarty Creek State Park, Seal Rock, Cape Blanco, and Arcadia Beach,” ODFW said.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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