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Watching Wildlife in American Samoa

The National Park of American Samoa is a U.S. National Park located across three islands: Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta’u. The park is known for preserving coral reefs, tropical rainforests, fruit bats, and Samoan culture. Plenty of hiking, snorkeling, and exploring await those that visit it. Covering a total of 13,500 acres with 9,000 acres of land and 4,500 acres of coral reefs, the National Park of American Samoa is the only U.S. National Park located south of the equator.

Not originally included as part of the initial network of parks championed by President Theodore Roosevelt, the National Park of American Samoa was proposed in 1984 by Congressman Fofo Iosefa Fiti Sunia on behalf of the Bat Preservers Association. The bill was introduced to protect the habitat for the flying fox as well as the historic rainforest. By July 1987, the National Park of American Samoa had been identified, and in October 1988 was established by law.

The islands were the unfortunate site of a 2009 earthquake and resulting tsunami that destroyed 200+ homes and caused 34 deaths. However, no members of the park system working the islands were harmed or injured at that time.

Due to the unique location and climate of the islands, the National Park of American Samoa has quite the array of animal wildlife within its confines. The most famous wildlife in the park include the flying fox, the fruit bat, and the coral reefs that grow and change every single day. The park is also home to 800 native fish and 200 coral species, which makes the sights and sounds here certainly something to behold.

National Park of American Samoa’s Top Animals

  • Flying fox
    • Important terrestrial pollinators, the flying fox is native to Fiji, Samoa, and American Samoa. The habitat for the bat is primary or secondary moist forest, plantation, and agroforest. The species prefers to roost alone, or in small family groups.
  • Fruit bats
    • Sac-winging bats can be found within the park as well, preferring to roost in caves during the daytime. They have been threatened by habitat loss, but are currently protected with expertise within the boundaries of the park.
  • Geckos
    • The park is known for a variety of geckos that can be found across the islands.
  • Pacific pigeon
    • The park is a great place to go birdwatching and catch different species that you cannot find within the contiguous United States.
  • Feral pigs
    • This invasive species has caused problems for the park ecosystem for some time. The staff is working on managing the amount of pigs on American Samoa, which mainly escaped from local farms and butcher plants.
  • Sea turtles
    • You can potentially encounter a sea turtle nesting or swimming off of this National Park. Consider signing up for a tour if you want a better shot at seeing one of the planet’s oldest and most respected species.
  • Humpbacks whales
    • Defined by their pectoral fins and knobby head, humpback whales are easy to spot due to their breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors. The islands are a great place to spot them in the water.

Viewing Locations

Pago Pago: Packed with nice, short hiking trails, Pago Pago is a great place to explore tide pools and take in the views. The pools can be found at Lower Sauma Trail.

Mount ‘Alava Trail: This trail is great for seeing birds, bats, and glimpses of the ocean below, and sometimes you can catch a humpback whale sighting.

Lower Sauma Ridge Trail: A great place to check out the marine life that is flourishing in and around the islands.

Pola Island Trail: Grab your camera and enjoy the spurts of mountain jutting out from the ocean’s edge.

Tumu Mountain Trail: If you want a bird’s eye view of the park, this hiking trail is the perfect place.

When Should You Go?

It is always a good time to visit the American Somoa National Park. Located just 14 degrees south of the equator, the park is hot and rainy throughout the year. There is not much variation in temperature, nor sunlight exposure, making planning logistics that much easier.

Note: Do not go seeking bats in the park by yourself. This can only be pursued with professional oversight and support.

Wildlife in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is one of the oldest, most sacred parks in the entire world. Home to the oldest trees on the planet, this California park is certainly something you can’t find anywhere else. Plus, its proximity to the ocean means you can enjoy both land and marine life on your journey.

Check out these magnificent trees and experience some of the best whale watching in the world at spots like Crescent Beach Overlook, Wilson Creek, High Bluff Overlook, Gold Bluffs Beach, and the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. While you’re watching the whales, be sure to peer into the tide pools that are home to entire communities of microorganisms, small fish, and marine plants.

On land, feast your eyes on the impressive elk, bears, deer, and mountain lions that proudly call the park their home. Don’t forget to look out for the smaller land mammals, like squirrels, shrews, beavers, and porcupines, too.

Redwood National Park’s Top Animals

  • Whales
  • Elk
  • Fish
  • Opossums
  • Squirrels
  • Shrews
  • Black-Tailed Deer
  • Otters
  • Skunks
  • Mountain Lions
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Porcupines
  • Beavers

Viewing Locations

Klamath River Overlook: Permanent residence for many gray whales
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park: Elk
Bald Hills Road: Elk
Enderts Beach: Tide pools viewing

When Should You Go?

If you are on a mission to see the whales, peak migration months for viewing gray whales are from November to December and March to April. If you want to see the elk, the calves are born in May and June, which means if you’re lucky, you can catch an entire elk family.

Overall, the park provides more amicable visiting conditions from March through November. Due to the wet environment from the Pacific Ocean, the park has a more temperate climate than those of the parks located in states like Wyoming and Montana. There is nothing like the Redwood National Park anywhere in the world!

Watching Wildlife in Mount Rainier National Park

Also abbreviated as Mt. Rainier, this northern American National Park is home to 63 species of mammals, 16 amphibians, 5 reptiles, and plenty of birds. The elevation difference of 13,000 feet creates a varied habitat with different life zones that are home to a variety of animals.

About half of the birds observed in the park nest there as migrants that winter in the southern portion of the United States or central America.

Mount Rainier National Park’s Top Animals

  • Coyotes
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Black-Tailed Deer
  • Mule Deer
  • Elk
  • Mountain Goats
  • Mountain Lions
  • Black bears

Viewing Locations

Stevens Canyon Road: Coyotes
Box Canyon: Coyotes
Longmire: Bighorn sheep
Eastern Side of Mt. Rainier: Elk
Summerland: Bighorn sheep, mountain goats
Paradise and Sunrise: Pikas, chipmunks, squirrels

When Should You Go?

The best time of the year to see the park’s elk at large is during the months of September and October. The summer months will be your best chance for seeing ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, chickarees, and pika. However, it is during the winter months that you will see the bigger mammals, like bears, mountain lions, etc. roaming in the lower elevations to escape the brutal winds and snows that are common on the gigantic mountain.

Watching Wildlife in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most unique environments in the entire United States, famed for its Joshua Tree that characterizes its sunset line. Most of the mammals in the park are of a paler color to blend in with the weathered rock, suited for desert climates – which means they are mainly nocturnal creatures.

As desolate as it may appear during daytime hours, Joshua Tree is a vibrant environment, with plenty of animals hidden from the sun’s hot rays during the day. For example, the desert tortoise (estimated to be 15 or 20 million years old), which spends 95% of its life underground, is a rare find and feat in this climate. Listed as an endangered species today, the tortoise is struggling to battle the ravens, badgers, and other predators that snatch them up as a treat.

Like all desert areas, there are plenty of birds and lizards you can spot by day.

Joshua Tree’s Top Animals

  • Squirrels
    • These include the white-tailed antelope squirrel, California ground squirrel, Dusky chipmunk, and Mojave round-trailed ground squirrel
  • Mice & Kangaroo Rats
  • Pocket Gophers
    • These little burrowing rodents can be seen in the evening hours when they come up to catch the final rays of the sun as it dips below the horizon.
  • Rabbits & Hares
    • You can spot the desert black-tailed jackrabbit and the desert cottontail in this park.
  • Bats
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Skunks
  • Ringtails
  • Mule Deer
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • Tarantulas
    • The largest desert spider in North America, the tarantula calls Joshua Tree home – although contrary to popular belief, they are not poisonous to humans. However, the bite can be awfully painful if they are provoked to bite in defense of their burrow. Mating in the fall, you are most likely to see one from September through November.
  • Roadrunner
    • The iconic roadrunner, a large black and white ground cuckoo that’s quick enough to catch and eat small rattlesnakes, is truly something to behold in Joshua Tree. They can run up to 18 miles per hour, preying on lizards, rodents, and insects found in the terrain.
  • Sidewinder
    • A small subspecies of the rattlesnake, the sidewinder moves by looping along sideways in a J-shaped curve, which helps it travel through sand dunes with ease.
  • Yucca Night Lizard
    • This narrow lizard lives its entire life in the protective bark of the decaying Joshua Tree, finding small crevices where it can feed on ants, termites, and other insects.

Viewing Locations

Belle: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers
Black Rock: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gopher
Cottonwood: Foxes
Hidden Valley: Tarantulas, ringtails, skunks
Indian Cove: Foxes, ringtails, rodents
Jumbo Rocks: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers
Sheep Pass: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers

When Should You Go?

The best time of year to go to Joshua Tree to search for wildlife is during the spring months. The wildlife is most active after sleeping through the winter when the weather is beautiful and not too hot yet. Depending on the rainfall, during this time the desert flowers are something you will never forget. The summer months can get particularly hot, making it hard to hike and wildlife view during the day.

Watching Wildlife in Grand Teton National Park

Named for the Grand Teton Mountain Range, this park is home to 61 uncommon bird species living beneath the peaks of the Teton Range. Here you’ll also find grizzly and black bears, bison, moose, elk, pronghorn, squirrels, fox, fish, and other northern creatures native to North America.

The Grand Teton National Park’s Top Animals

  • Elk
  • Bison
  • Moose
  • Squirrels
  • Beavers
  • American White Pelicans
  • Ospreys
  • Bald Eagles
  • Otters
  • Pronghorn
    • Also known as the North American antelope, the pronghorn is the fastest land animal on the continent.

Viewing Locations

Oxbow Bend: Fish, otters, ospreys, bald eagles, pelicans, beavers
Timbered Island: Antelope, elk
Mormon Row: Bison, pronghorn, mice, squirrels
Snake River: Moose, elk, bison, bald eagles, osprey, blue herons
Cascade Canyon: Squirrels, pikas, marmots, moose, white-tailed deer
Blacktail Pond: Elk

When Should You Go?

Like most northern National Parks, Grand Teton National Park is best to visit from mid-May to mid-September when all trails, visitor centers, and campgrounds are open. During this time, fishing is abundant, warm summer breezes make it pleasant to be outside, and many of the birds and smaller mammals can be seen running about. However, in the colder winter months when many of these facilities close, the bigger game, like elk and moose, can be seen grazing in the valley to find warmth.