Seeing Oregon wildlife is just something that happens when you are visiting the state. Visitors who hike or camp are likely to see deer, elk, racoons, or bear and may even see a cougar or rattlesnake. Some of these animals are harmless and some are not. It is best to know what you are doing especially if you are venturing into unpopulated areas.
My intent here is not to frighten you but simply make you informed. I have spent a lot of time hiking and camping around the state for the last 50 years. I have had two run-ins with a bear and one with a rattlesnake. The first incident with a bear happened when I was driving from Timberline Lodge to Government Camp. A black bear ran down the bank into the middle of the road and disappeared down the bank on the other side. I had to brake but that was it. My visitors from Europe in the back seat were thrilled.
The second bear incident was when my husband and I were mushroom hunting east of Timothy Lake in Mt. Hood National Forest. There had been some logging in that area and there was lots of soft clean dirt in spots. I saw bear tracks but didn't think too much about it. Then I came upon bear droppings that were so fresh they were steaming in the cold air. Now that is just too close for comfort. I don't know where the bear was but we didn't stay around to find out.
Read about Oregon Black Bears.
I sometimes wonder that I have only seen one rattlesnake. As a kid I spent a lot of time roaming around the dry forests surrounding my uncle's ranch on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon. I knew he had found a nest of rattlers in his cellar when they moved in. I knew that my aunt had found a rattlesnake on the front porch later. No one ever warned me to be on the lookout for snakes. I never thought about it.
My rattlesnake incident occurred when I and a group of friends hiked into the White River area southeast of Mt. Hood. On the way in we met a fisherman hiking out who told us he had just killed a rattlesnake and to be on the lookout because they usually travel in pairs. (I don't know if this is true.)
We made camp, built a campfire, fixed our dinner, and enjoyed the beautiful starry night around our fire. The next morning after breakfast, the guys left us to go up river to fish. We girls just sat around camp enjoying the fresh air and scenery. I decided to go sit at the river's edge and found the perfect place to relax. A small rock next to a big boulder which was great to lean against. I sat there for a few minutes staring at the river when I suddenly thought, "This would be a good place for a rattlesnake." I turned and looked between the two rocks. There was a head with two beady eyes looking at me and that unmistakeable long rattlesnake body stretched out between the two rocks. It was less than a foot away from me.
What I did next was probably not the right thing to do. All I know is that I was airborn. I don't remember my feet touching the sand at all as I ran back to camp. We got the guys back into camp with great difficulty. You can scream at the top of your lungs for hours when you are next to a river and someone 200 yards away will not hear you. And if they are intent on fishing they will not even see you jumping up and down waving your arms in the air. Anyway, they killed the snake--shot its head off.
I have been lambasted for killing the snake and told that it had rights too. Well, I didn't kill it. The decision wasn't mine. The guys were from ranching families and that's what they did when they found a rattler near their house or barn.
Read about how to stay safe and still have fun in the Oregon outdoors. Oregon rattlesnakes.
These cats are beautiful but I am glad I have only seen one in my entire life and I was safe in the house at the time. There have been several sitings of cats in the Greater Portland area this year (2014) so their population may be on the increase.
Learn about Oregon cougars and what to watch out for.
Now I have seen lots and lots of deer. I have even had them grazing on my lawn when I lived in Welches near Mt. Hood. It was not unusual at all to see a herd on the golf course. You will often see the homes and dams built by beaver in small streams. You will hear the coyotes howling at night. There are several elk sanctuaries in Oregon where you can see large herds.
If you let your dog run loose in the woods, he may come back with porcupine quills in his nose or smelling like a skunk. Oregon's wolf population were killed off years ago but a new family of wolves has now established itself near Enterprise. They probably came from the wolf population in Idaho.
Oregon wildlife is abundant and while you are enjoying it, keep yourself and your children safe.