These parks host an incredible diversity of life across a range of elevations. Depending on where you visit and when you travel, you have an excellent chance of seeing at least a few different species of animals during your visit.
Tips for Wildlife Sightings
Seeing wildlife in a natural setting can be a great experience, as long as you’re careful. When viewing animals in the parks, keep a few things in mind:
The best way to view and enjoy a wild animal is from a distance with binoculars. When you come across an animal, sit still, watch from behind cover like a shrub or tree, and enjoy. Never disrupt, approach or attempt to feed wild animals; this is dangerous to you and the animal.
Protecting Wildlife and Yourself
Remember: All animals in the parks are wild. What are the possible risks of not safely watching wildlife?
Risks to you:
Risks to wildlife:
Over 200 species of birds can be found in the skies of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. From the iconic California quail to the rarely seen northern pygmy owl, birding opportunities are endless. Read more about the birds of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
These charismatic animals get their name from their large, mule-like ears. They can be found in many areas of the parks, from the foothills to the sequoia groves. During early summer, look for male deer sporting racks of antlers.
If you find a fawn, keep your distance and do not approach it. Fawns are born with natural camouflage and are relatively scentless, making them hard for predators to find. To help their fawns stay hidden, adult female deer often move away from their fawns during the day, returning regularly to nurse. Do not worry if you see a fawn without its mother; its mother will be back for it. However, if you disturb or move a fawn, the mother will not be able to find it.
When a mule deer spots a human, it may freeze and stare back at the unknown threat. Remember to never approach or disturb any wild animal. Enjoy them from a distance.
All bears in these parks are American black bears (Ursus americanus), but the name “black bear” name can be misleading. They may be black, brown, cinnamon, or even blonde in color. An adult female can even have cubs that are different colors. The best places to find bears are those locations that serve as food sources at that time of year. In spring, bears are often in meadows digging up grasses, forbs, and roots, or in the forest ripping apart logs for the insects inside. As berries ripen in summer, bears can be found near manzanita and bitter-cherry bushes. In the fall, you may see bears high in oak trees, consuming vast quantities of acorns.
When bears and humans get too close, the result can be disastrous -- for you and the bear. Bears change their behavior if they become habituated to humans (get used to our presence). This happens if we crowd them or observe them too closely. For both your safety and the bears’, keep a safe distance away, and never offer bears food. If you see someone else trying to feed a bear, please report it immediately.
If you find yourself near a bear and/or if a bear has obtained human food, try to deter the bear. Wave your arms, make loud noises, and throw small rocks in its direction (but please avoid hitting its face or head). Keep a safe distance but be persistent. If a bear does get human food, never try to take it back.
These small, round relatives of the rabbit can be found in the higher elevations of the park. Look for them scurrying around rocky alpine areas, and listen for their short, quick chirp. Trails into alpine environments are ideal for viewing pika.
Pika forage on a variety of vegetation. Sometimes food is consumed on site, but other food is collected in a "haystack." This is a stack of vegetation left to dry on rocks. Once haystacks have dried, pika carry their food back to their dens. Instead of hibernating, pika eat this food during the winter months.
The parks are home to 21 species of reptiles: 14 snakes, 6 lizards, and 1 turtle. Snakes and lizards are a common sight along trails in the foothills and sequoia groves. Listen for the rustling of dry plants to pinpoint their location. Check near streams in the foothills for western pond turtles. Consider bringing a field guide as you hike to identify reptiles you come across.
There are rattlesnakes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. If you see a rattlesnake, do not approach it. The only venomous reptile in the parks is the western rattlesnake, though it is important to maintain a safe distance from all wildlife. Prepare by learning how to identify and avoid rattlesnakes.
Read more about the reptiles in these parks.
Fish can be found throughout park rivers. The parks are home to 5 native fish species and 6 non-native introduced species. For those with angling in mind, be sure to obtain a California fishing license and learn more about park regulations on our fishing page.
Read more about the fish in these parks (along with park amphibians).
The parks are home to 17 species of bats! You can find them from the lowest elevations to over 10,000 feet. Three bat species in the parks emit calls audible to the human ear; listen for them at night, and look for their quick, erratic flight patterns as the sun is setting.
One of the rarest sightings here is mountain lions. They are extremely shy, and their solitary behavior means that a single animal will occupy a large territory. Though it’s unlikely that a mountain lion will attack humans, follow these tips to reduce the chances even further:
Many other animals can be found within the parks, including species that are elusive and rare. Some of these include Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep (endangered), California condors, martens, and gray foxes. If you see one of these animals, ask at any visitor center for a wildlife ovservation card to report your sighting.
GuidelinesMinimize your risk of harm and protect wildlife by following these guidelines:
If you enjoy watching animals and these special places, be a role model to others. Demonstrate how we can protect and preserve wildlife through our actions.
Last updated: June 2, 2020