Enjoying wildlife in and around Wallowa Lake is a pastime that can be rewarding at almost any level of effort- but that depends upon just which animal you’re trying to see. While the Deer and Squirrels will sometimes approach you, others will require a lifetime or a lot of luck just to catch a glimpse. Examples would be the Wolverine or Lynx, the true ‘Ghosts of the Forest’.

You can see many of the animals listed on this page while touring in your car. Animals are acclimated to vehicle traffic, but many will flee as you stop and get out- so stay in your car and keep as quiet as you can.

On foot, you may happen upon almost any of the animals listed below while traversing their habitat. Most likely though, they’ll hear or spot you first and you’ll never see them at all. If you'd like to see wildlife while moving- try using the stealthy hunters approach: move slowly and quietly, always stopping and scanning over ridges. Most animals have intensely heightened senses- many can hear the gravel grinding under your feet hundreds of yards away in quiet conditions.

Whichever animal you’re trying to see, there are always some basic practices that work best:

  • Watch during twilight- the transitional times of morning and evening see lots of activity as animals are either waking up or going to their bed.
  • Find a place with an expansive view including variable habitat- the forests edge, or a pond in the grassland.
  • Sit quietly with binoculars or spotting scope. Most animals don’t recognize people as long as they are still.
  • Be patient. While you may not be successful the first time, like any endeavor, perseverance pays.
  • Understanding an animal’s habits and preferred habitat is key to finding them.

Badger

Living underground in meadows where ground squirrels thrive, this generally nocturnal member of the weasel family is best seen around twilight. Stubby with long claws, this body is made for digging. It's a ground squirrels worst nightmare. About 27" in length.

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Big Horn Sheep

The county has a fairly good population of Big Horns, primarily in the Snake River area, but there are also small heards in the Eagle Cap. Up the Hurricane Creek Trail in the rocks above the meadows is a good place to spot them, provided you have binoculars or a spotting scope.

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Black Bear

Once a year or so, a Black Bear will come down out of the wilderness to raid peoples garbage. Usually the houses farthest from the park are the first and Fish & Game removes the offender. Bears are pretty common in the breaks of the Snake River. Prepare to patiently sit, binoculars in hand, if you want to observe them. Bears in our are are usually of the cinnamon color, so they blend in well.

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Bobcat

About twice the size of your housecat, Bobcats are fairly common but you'll need to be a quiet patient observer to see one (or lucky). Find a vantage point and scan with binoculars.

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Chipmunk

The Western Chipmunk is found scurrying around through the underbrush. They burrow underground and rarely climb trees. They can be friendly and a bit of a nuisance around campgrounds.

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Columbian Ground Squirrel

As their name implies, this is a land lover. This squirrel is of medium size, 10 to 12 inches and has a reddish color. Locals refer to them as 'Red Diggers' and they are found pretty much everywhere. They often will eat from your hand, especially at the top of the tram.

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Cougar

We do have a few of these around too, but many people live here all their lives and never see one. You stand a better chance seeing one accidentally while traveling in your car that on foot- they're very elusive. They prey mostly on deer and have not attacked humans in this part of the woods.

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Coyote

The most successful of Americas native canine species, coyotes are often heard but seldom seen. In Myth, the Nez Perce revere this animal and consider him the Creator of their First Peoples.  When you do see one they're usually running away as fast as they can.

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Elk

One of the largest herds of Elk reside in Wallowa County. in 2016, ODFW  estimated 13,300 animals in 4 units. That's a lot of Elk! To see them, it's best to wake early and head north into the Zumwalt Grassland. Herds of 250-plus are not uncommon. In the Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area you'll find them most anywhere, particularly along the hills and canyons leading to the river.

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Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

This is the most successful of the squrrels at busy tourist areas. They seem to know just how to charm us out of a free meal, and they're smart enough to come back for more. They're horders. You'll find plenty of them at the top of the Tram.

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Lynx

This medium size cat prowls wherever the Snowshoe Hare roams. Slightly larger than the bobcat and more rare and elusive, only a patient, quiet observer will be lucky enough to see one. Since they avoid people and like higher habitat, your best chance will be high up in wilderness.

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Mink

Around some of the high lakes, you might get lucky and happen upon mink. Bigger than a martin but smaller than an otter, this member of the weasel family is at home on land or water.

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Mountain Goat

If you like to hike the high peaks you're likely to come across this king of the mountain. There are healthy populations of Goats throughout the Eagle Cap. Unless you happen to come across them accidentally, plan to bring binoculars and search for them in the green growth just below the melting snow.

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Mule Deer

A common sight, in town, out of town, wherever. Deer outnumber people living in this area. Some are quite tame, but do be careful, they can get mean, particularly during the rut and during fawning season (spring). if you must feed them, try to stick to something healthy like an apple or carrot.

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Pine Martin

At about twice the size of its other family member, the weasel. Pine Martins eat almost the same diet, mainly mice and voles. They will also consume something as big as a snowshoe hare and aren't above eating fruit, vegetation, and insects.

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Pine Squirrel

These squirrels spend most of their time in the trees where their brown color blends with the bark. They love to torment dogs as they sit just out of reach, scolding away. As this photo shows, they're fond of pine nuts, but will gladly take seeds if offered.

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Racoon

This black-masket bandit of the forest has made its home almost everywhere on the planet. They're common, but since they're also mostly nocturnal, nobody usually sees them. Look for their tracks around the water's edge- they like to wash their food.

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Red Fox

This area has a healthy population of foxes. In the spring, you can view the kits playing around their dens at Iwetemlaykin Park and along the morraine. Foxes are well acclimated to people and will often check you out if you sit quietly.

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River Otter

Occasionally, Wallowa Lake gets a few visiting River Otters. Though they prefer to spend their time in the rivers and streams, sometimes they visit the lake for a look. Otters belong to the same family as weasels and are the second largest of the Mustela genus in our area.

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Skunk

This familiar rascal is quite common around town. They're sometimes seen in the evening walking down the sidewalks with a family of little ones in tow. They're pretty benign as long as you don't scare them, then LOOK OUT!

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Snowshoe Hare

These bunnies change color through the seasons to hide from predators. In summer, our Snowshoe's are a grey-brown and actually pretty common. You will usually see them while driving the forested back roads in the early morning.

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Weasel

The mighty little Weasel is probably the scariest thing a mouse can imagine. While they spend most of their time underground, you do occasionally see them, though most mistake them fo a squrrel. In the winter, they turn white and are then sometimes referred to as ermine.

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Wolf

Far in the backcountry, there be wolves- another animal you might hear, but will seldom see. Wallowa County was the first county in Oregon to see the return of wolves, as they migrated across the Snake River from Idaho. ODFW monitors the whereabouts of these top predators.

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Wolverine

Believe in Ghosts? Among the most rare of animals, a wolverine was photographed by a trail camera in 2011, high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. There have been no reported sightings since. About the size of a medium dog, this solitary predator is the largest of the weasel family.

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