Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Marine Mammals

northern right whale dolphins
The lack of a dorsal fin makes identification of Northern right whale dolphins easier.
Mammals are animals that are warm blooded, breathe with lungs, give birth to live young, nurse their young, and have hair (at some point in their life). Three broad types of marine mammals are represented within Olympic Coast waters: cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), and sea otters, one species of the weasel family.

humpback whale
A humpback whale breaches the surface.
Cetaceans are completely aquatic animals that breathe through nostrils (blowholes) on top of the head. Cetaceans are divided into two groups - baleen whales (mysticetes) and the toothed whales. (odontocetes). The most common baleen whales of the Olympic Coast are the California gray whale and the humpback whale. The most common toothed whales of the Olympic Coast are the harbor porpoise and the killer whale.

steller sea lions
Steller sea lions can be found hauled out on rocky outcroppings or even buoys.
Pinnipeds are carnivores that have adapted to life in the water and at the water's edge. They forage at sea but most come ashore at some time of the year to mate, give birth, suckle their young, or to molt. Pinnipeds are divided into two families: Eared seals or sea lions (otariids) and the earless or true seals (phocids). Steller and California sea lions are representative eared seals of the Olympic Coast. Harbor seals and elephant seals are the only earless seals of the Olympic Coast.

sea otter
Sea otters often float near the surface of dense kelp beds.
Sea otters are members of the weasel family that have adapted to life almost entirely in the water. Physically larger than river otters, sea otters also have short, paddle-like tails and webbed feet.

Follow this link to find out What to do if you find a stranded marine mammal.

See a list of marine mammal species in the sanctuary.



Contact for page content: Jacqueline Laverdure
Photo of peach coral
Revised January 07, 2016 by Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary   |    Contact Us   |    Report a broken link  |
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