Oregon, located in the picturesque Pacific Northwest, offers a safe habitat for a diverse array of animals. Its varied ecosystems provide a sanctuary for numerous creatures, from the enchanting forests to the serene coastal shores. Among them are the beloved Oregon state animals, each holding a special place in the hearts of Oregonians due to their association with the state’s history, culture, and natural heritage.
7 Oregon state animals
1. State Songbird: Western meadowlark
- Scientific Name: Sturnella neglecta
In 2017, after a schoolchildren’s contest organized by the Oregon Audubon Society, the Western Meadowlark was officially named the state songbird (though it had held the unofficial title since 1927). This western North American bird is well-known for males complex songs of whistles and warbles. They can develop a repetoire of several songs, and are easiest to spot when they perch atop fence posts.
Although it’s on the decline in the Willamette Valley, it’s thriving in the open grasslands of eastern Oregon. The Western Meadowlark is a medium-sized bird that nests on the ground and eats seeds, grains, and insects. Males and females look similar, with a brown speckled back, yellow throat and breast and black V on the chest.
2. State Insect: Oregon swallowtail
- Scientific Name: Papilio oregonius
In 1979, the Oregon Swallowtail replaced the rain beetle, which threatened the state’s orchard crops, as the official state insect. This large, yellow-and-black butterfly, native to the Pacific Northwest, was proposed by Portland Zoo director Warren Iliff and ultimately approved by lawmakers.
It’s most common in the Columbia, Deschutes, and Snake river basins and the sagebrush canyons of eastern Oregon. The significance and beauty of this species of swallowtail butterfly was recognized by the United States Postal Service by having it featured on a postage stamp. Their preferred habitat is sagebrush canyons, and maintaining open sagebrush habitat is important for the continued health of the species.
3. State Seashell: Oregon hairy triton
- Scientific Name: Fusitriton oregonensis
The Oregon Society of Conchologists officially recognized the Oregon hairy triton as the state seashell in 1989. This large predatory sea snail was given its name in 1846 by botanist J.H. Redfield in honor of the Oregon Territory and for the distinctive bristly coating of its light brown shell.
The Oregon hairy triton, which can reach a length of five inches, is endemic to the waters off the coast of Alaska, California, and even northern Japan. It is believed they eat mainly mollusks and sea squirts, but also urchins and sea stars. Their ability to produce sulfuric acid helps them bore through the tough shells and skins of their prey. Difficult to find in Oregon, they occasionally wash up during high tide.
4. State Fish: Chinook salmon
- Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
The Chinook salmon, which was named the Oregon State Fish in 1961, is important both culturally and economically. The king salmon, or simply “Kings,” are the largest and most sought-after of the Pacific Northwest’s salmon species. They migrate from the ocean back to the freshwater streams where they were born in order to spawn, a phenomenon known as anadromy.
Chinook salmon populations in the state have declined due to overfishing, habitat destruction, and hydroelectric dams, but they continue to play an important cultural and spiritual role for Native American communities despite threats to their continued existence.
5. State Raptor: Osprey
- Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
In 2017, the osprey was officially recognized as the state bird. It was felt their striking markings symbolized the state’s rugged independence, strength, and resilience. The Osprey is a diurnal bird of prey found worldwide and goes by many different names, including the sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk.
Its massive size and one-of-a-kind fishing skills call to mind Oregon’s proximity to freshwater and saltwater bodies. The Osprey is a perfect symbol of the states scenic landscapes and abundant wildlife because it can thrive in a variety of environments and feeds solely on fish.
6. State Crustacean: Dungeness crab
- Scientific Name: Metacarcinus magister
The fourth graders at Sunset Primary School in West Linn, Oregon, were responsible for designating the Dungeness crab as the official state crustacean in 2009. Through a hands-on civics lesson, the students successfully lobbied the Oregon Legislature, emphasizing the crab’s significance to the state’s economy.
The Dungeness crab is a delicious seafood staple that can grow up to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) in carapace length on the Pacific coast of North America. The state’s fishermen harvest an average of about 10 million pounds of Dungeness crab annually, making it the most valuable “single species” fishery in the state.
7. State Animal: American beaver
- Scientific Name: Castor canadensis
In 1969, the American beaver was officially named Oregon’s state animal. The legislature officially recognized the beaver as the state animal after a proposal from Governor Tom McCall and Secretary of State Clay Myers Jr. This animal has a long history in the state, appearing on everything from “beaver money” issued by the provincial government in 1849 to the territorial seal and the state flag today. They are even the mascot for Oregon State University.
Beavers are well known for their engineering prowess; they build ponds by blocking off rivers and creeks, and their population in the state has recently rebounded from near extinction. The state’s nickname as the “Beaver State” developed during the time of the fur trade, where trapping beavers and selling their pelts was a big staple in the states economy. They are no longer hunted today, rather are protected as important members of the ecosystem who’s dams provide habitats for fish and wildlife.