Because of California’s vast size and the fact that it’s a coastal state, it offers a bounteous array of animals. A number of different climates -- from the temperate mountains in the north to California’s desert, and from coastal mountains to arid chaparral -- contribute to this bounty of animal creatures. And in addition to all the animals that inhabit California’s land, there is another world beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
California’s largest land animals live in the mountains. The Cascades in the northern part of the state and the Sierra Nevada Mountains provide excellent habitats for animals. The grizzly bear was a common animal in the Santa Cruz Mountains until the 1880’s when the last one was killed. The remaining large land animals are nocturnal. Bobcats and mountain lions are among the largest creatures now. Coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, weasels, rabbits and deer are additional land mammals that live in California.
Some of California’s most breathtaking birds are its birds of prey. Bald eagles and their larger cousin, the golden eagle are common California birds. Spotted owls, great horned owls and common barn owls are found throughout the state, particularly in the north. The coastlines and wet areas of California are home to loons, herons, ibis, gulls, pelicans, geese and ducks. The mountains provide habitat for pheasants, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, jays, magpies and swallows.
Reptiles, Arthropods and Insects
The California desert provides a very different picture than that of the state's mountains. Snakes and scorpions make their homes in the dry deserts of California. Five different types of rattlesnake can be found here including the sidewinder and Mojave rattlesnake. As if that dynamic duo isn’t enough, another poisonous resident of California is the black widow spider. They can be found in homes, woodpiles and old buildings. Centipedes and non-poisonous tarantulas are abundant in California. Common insects include velvet ants and the cone-nose kissing bug.
Some larger animals that make the Pacific California coast their home include the California sea lion, blue whale, Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the California sea otter. Beneath the surf of the Pacific Ocean floor, you’ll find even more life, including bat sea stars, moray eels, fiddler crabs, the California brown sea hair and California mussels. Giant sea kelp provide habitat for the bluebanded goby, giant sea bass, leopard shark, Pacific mackerel and two-spotted octopus.