Pacific harbor seals

Harbor seals are the most widely distributed pinniped. On the Oregon Coast, you will most likely encounter the Eastern Pacific harbor seal, a subspecies found between Alaska and Baja California, Mexico. These seals have spotted coats in a variety of shades from white or silver-gray to black or dark brown. They favor near-shore coastal waters and use rocks, reefs, beaches, and drifting glacial ice as haul out and pupping sites. Pacific harbor seals spend about half their time on land and half in the water. They can even sleep with their bodies nearly submerged in water, exposing only the tip of their nose to the air – a posture called “bottling.”

Despite being skilled swimmers, harbor seals face a number of threats in the ocean. There is currently no commercial hunting of harbor seals, but some native subsistence hunting of seals still occurs. Because they compete for many of the same species of fish, harbor seals are sometimes killed by commercial fishermen. Seals can also become entangled and drown in fishing nets and gear. In addition, the species is preyed upon by killer whales, sharks and Steller’s sea lions. El Niño events can decrease the animal’s food availability, which includes a variety of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans.  

Huckleberries

The evergreen huckleberry is a one of many evergreen shrubs native to Pacific coastal forests. First noted by Captain Lewis at Oregon’s Fort Clatsop in 1806, this shrub, which can grow to 12 feet or more in the shade, likes acidic soil and can tolerate salt spray and strong winds.

In the spring, the branches are covered with clusters of small, pinkish-white bell-shaped flowers which yield tiny blue-black fruit in late summer. These flowers attract bees, birds, and butterflies and the berries are eaten by songbirds, mammals, and humans. Like its most well-known relative, the common blueberry, huckleberries contain high concentrations of antioxidants and were favored by native populations. Today, they are frequently used to make pies, jams and jellies, and syrups.

Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

The red alder (Alnus rubra) is a deciduous tree native to the U.S. Pacific Northwest that has proven important to both Native Americans and wildlife in the region. Its range extends from southeastern Alaska to southern California, generally within 125 miles of the ocean. This tree is a pioneer species that establishes rapidly in openings created by forest disturbance, including landslides, logging or fire.

Red alder is one of many trees in the U.S. Pacific Northwest used by Native Americans. The bark was used for dyeing basket material, wood, wool, feathers, human hair, and skin. The wood is low in pitch, which makes it a good wood for smoking meat. Native Americans also used the bark to treat many health problems from insect bites to lymphatic disorders.

For wildlife, red alder provides an important deciduous component in the predominantly coniferous forests found in the region. Most of the seeds remain on the tree well into the fall and winter months, providing valuable resources for birds, insects, and mammals when other foods are scarce. Beavers eat the bark and build dams and lodges with the stems. Red alder trees also provide valuable nesting for birds and thermal cover for black-tailed deer and other wildlife.