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The 9 Official California State Animals

California, located on the West Coast of the United States, houses a variety of unique and diverse wildlife. The state is home to several animals that inhabit the air, land, and ocean. As a result, nine different species have been designated as California state animals. In this article, we will explore these native Californian animals and their significance within the Golden State.

9 California state animals

From the California Grizzly to the desert tortoise, the following list shows you the state of California’s 9 official state animals. 

1. California grizzly bear 

California grizzly bear 
California grizzly bear  | image by Vahe Martirosyan via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Ursus arctos californicus
  • Status: California State Animal

The California grizzly bear is a powerful carnivore that once roamed the state’s great valleys and low mountains in great numbers. In 1953, it was officially recognized as the state’s symbol. However, grizzlies died out as the human population grew and conflicts with humans increased. 

In August of 1922, the last grizzly bear in the state was killed. Because of its size, strength, and attractiveness, the grizzly bear was chosen as the symbol of the Bear Flag Republic in 1846, which in turn influenced the design of California’s flag and gave the state its nickname, the “Bear State.”

2. Garibaldi

Garibaldi
Garibaldi | image by NOAA Photo Library via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Hypsypops rubicundus
  • Status: California State Marine Fish

The Garibaldi is a bright golden orange fish that grows to a maximum length of 14 inches and lives in the coastal waters of Southern California. Young garibaldis have brilliant blue spots on their reddish-orange bodies, making them even more eye-catching. 

In 1995, it was officially recognized as the California State Marine Fish, and although the species isn’t in danger of extinction, commercial collection for the saltwater aquarium trade raises concerns. Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi also inspired the name “Garibaldi” because his supporters wore distinctive red uniforms. 

3. California red-legged frog

California red-legged frog
California red-legged frog | image by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Rana draytonii
  • Status: California State Amphibian

In 2014, the California red-legged frog was officially designated as the state amphibian of California. It’s the largest native frog in the western United States and can be found primarily in the golden state, where Mark Twain wrote about it.

During the Gold Rush, there was a big drop in these species because miners ate nearly 80,000 of these frogs per year. Loss of habitat and the introduction of exotic species have posed new dangers to this species in recent years. Designating it as the State Amphibian emphasizes the state’s commitment to its preservation.

4. Golden trout

California golden trout
California golden trout | image by Adam Braziel via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita
  • Status: California State Freshwater Fish

In 1947, the golden trout was officially recognized as the official state freshwater fish. Its original range in the golden state consisted only of the cold, pristine waters of the Kern River upstream from Mount Whitney. As a result of stocking efforts, it’s now found in high-altitude waters in the Sierra Nevada. 

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Recognizing the California golden trout as the State Freshwater Fish draws attention to its unique and significant role in the state’s waterways, as it’s closely related to two rainbow trout subspecies that together form the “golden trout complex.”

5. Gray whale

Gray whale breaching
Gray whale breaching | image by Merrill Gosho via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Eschrichtius robustus
  • Status: California State Marine Mammal

The California gray whale has been recognized as the state marine mammal since 1975. Massive in size (35-50 feet in length and 20-40 tons in weight), these whales are distinguished by their mottled gray coloring and low hump (instead of a dorsal fin). 

They travel an impressive 6,000 to 7,000 miles each year between their breeding grounds in the bays and lagoons of Baja California and their feeding grounds in the western Bering Sea. They were chosen as the State Marine Mammal because of their long journey, remarkable memory, and vision.

6. California dogface butterfly

California dogface butterfly
California dogface butterfly | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Colias eurydice
  • Status: California State Insect

The California dogface butterfly is an insect native to California and can be found from the Sierra Nevada foothills to the Coast Ranges and from Sonoma to San Diego. It was also designated as the state insect of California in 1972. 

Females of this species are mostly yellow with black spots on the upper wings, while males are yellow with a black silhouette resembling a dog’s head on its wings. The California dogface butterfly was selected as the state insect because it’s a beautiful and distinctive species found only in the state.

7. California quail

California quail
California quail | image by Becky Matsubara via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Callipepla californica
  • Status: California State Bird

The valley quail, also known as the California quail, was named the official state bird of California in 1931. Known for its versatility and high value as a game bird, this bird stands out with its black, curving plume atop its head and its black bib, which features a white stripe near its beak. 

You can find these plump birds all over the state, where they flock together in the fall and winter but form pairs in the spring. They lay creamy white eggs with brown spots and nest in holes in the ground that are hidden by vegetation.

8. Leatherback sea turtle

Leatherback sea turtle
Leatherback sea turtle | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
  • Status: California State Marine Reptile

The Pacific leatherback is the largest and deepest-diving sea turtle in the world. It can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and grow to a length of 8 feet; its unusual shell is made of tiny bones covered in rubbery skin. In 2012, California formally acknowledged the Pacific leatherback as the state marine reptile. 

Groups like Grupo Tortuguero Comaac are working to preserve it because of its cultural significance to numerous indigenous communities worldwide, as these turtles have been listed as endangered since 1970 due to threats such as egg harvesting and habitat degradation.

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9. Desert tortoise

Desert tortoise in sandy desert
Desert tortoise in sandy desert | image by Joshua Tree National Park via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Gopherus agassizii
  • Status: California State Reptile

In 1972, the desert tortoise was officially named the state reptile of California. Located in the dry deserts of the golden state’s southwestern corner, this creature is so rare that it’s protected by law. 

It was essential in the passage of the California Desert Protection Act in 1994, which created new national parks and wilderness areas to protect the tortoise’s desert habitat. With a lifespan of 50 to 80 years, the desert tortoise is well-adapted to tolerate water and energy imbalances, contributing to its longevity.