Land. Meet sea.
Big Sur, California Visitor Bureau   

Big Sur Visitor Bureau - Wildlife

California condors -

California Condor

In Big Sur you can see the largest, rarest, fastest, slowest, and most elusive life forms on the planet: blue whales, California condors, peregrine falcons, elephant seals, and mountain lions.

Mountain Lions
mountain lion cougar big sur visitor bureau

Big Sur is ideal hunting grounds for mountain lions, also called cougars and pumas. While deer are their favorite prey, they will also feed on mice, squirrels, porcupines, beavers, rabbits, and…mountain lions. Males can weigh up to 180 pounds and jump 15 feet high and 40 feet in length. There are about 30,000 mountain lions in the western United States. They live up to 12 years old in the wild.

If you see one do not duck or run. Stand tall; back away; make noise, and fight back if attacked. 

If you’d like to see mountain lions in real life there’s an animal refuge called Wild Things west of Salinas, on Reservation Road, south of Highway 68. They also have lions, tigers, and bears.

California Condors
california condor big sur visitor bureau

The California Condor is one of the world’s largest (nine foot wing-span) and rarest birds. In 1987 there were only 22 found in the wild, all in the hills north of Santa Barbara. By 2012, about 300 existed, approximately half in the wild and half in captivity.

Big Sur’s Ventana Wildlife Society cares for and tracks Big Sur condors, using GPS tracking and numbers affixed to the underside of wings. They have condor tours throughout the year: event calendar.

Bald Eagles

bald eagle nest big sur visitor bureau

bald eagle big sur visitor bureau

The Ventana Wildlife Society managed the re-introduction of Bald Eagles to the Big Sur area, releasing 70 young birds from 1986 to 2000. Today, there are bald eagles nests from Big Sur north to Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

Peregrine Falcon

peregrine falcon big sur visitor bureau

The fastest animal on the planet, Peregrine falcons disable prey by slamming into it at speeds up to 200 mph. The falcon aims for the wing so as not injure itself. There are many species of falcons. If you see one it’s likely the Falco peregrinus anatum, or American Peregrine Falcon.

Sea Otters

california sea otter big sur visitor bureau

Thought to be extinct in California, a colony of 60 sea otters was discovered in 1938 near the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. All California sea otters are descendants of that colony. They now range from San Mateo County (south of San Francisco) to Santa Barbara County. There are two sea otter refuges in Big Sur: near the Point Sur Lighthouse and in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here's the map.

You can also watch sea otters playing in the surf on Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove (next to Monterey) or get even closer at the sea otter exhibit at the
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Elephant Seals
elephant seals san simeon big sur visitor bureau

The cute “little” female Northern elephant seals around these males are 10 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds. So, yeah, a male is 15 feet long, can reach seven feet into the air, and weighs up to 6,000 pounds - the weight of three 1967 Volkswagen Beetles. Males are fiercely territorial and will fight for hours to lord over a harem of cows.

Chasing each other when you weigh 6,000 pounds takes a long time. They'll chase for 15 feet and then rest for five minutes and then chase for 15 feet making them among the slowest of all animals. When diving to depths of a third of a mile to hunt for rays, squid, eels, octopuses, and small sharks, elephant seals can hold their breath for nearly two hours. 

We visit the elephant seals every time we drive the coast. It's always fascinating.

elephant seals san simeon big sur visitor bureau

17,000 elephant seals live near Piedras Blancas, a lookout point on the beach seven miles north of San Simeon. The area is open 365 days per year. Admission is free. For more local information visit Friends of the Elephant Seal.

Killer Whales - year round
killer whale big sur visitor bureau

Humpback whales – April through December
humpback whale big sur visitor bureau

Blue whales – June through Octoberblue whales big sur visitor bureau

Gray whales – December through Maygray whales big sur visitor bureau

Everything you want to know about whales and you can see some, too...