Crabbing on the Oregon coast? There’s a good chance that you’ll catch a Dungeness or a Red rock crab, two of the most commonly caught crab species.

In 2016, the Dungeness crab was the highest valued fishery in Oregon’s commercial fishing industry at $51.3 million. Red rock crabs are also commercially harvested but are not valued nearly as much in comparison to the larger Dungeness.


Dungeness and red rock crabs vary in their size, color, habitat, and behavior.

Dungeness crabs are best identified by looking for their large, white-tipped claws, ten carapace (the hard upper shell) spines, and a red-brown to purple coloration. They can grow to be eight-inches across their backs (or carapace).

Red rock crabs have black-tipped claws, a wide fan-shaped carapace, and are usually a dark red color. They are also a bit smaller than Dungeness crabs, usually measuring in at six inches across the upper shell.

Where Found

Dungeness crabs prefer the sandy and muddy areas of shallow lower estuaries. Even so, they are sometimes found in ocean depths of up to 2,000 feet. Red rock crabs tend to live in rockier habitats with higher salinity rates such as a larger estuary.

Next time you are out crabbing, keep an eye out for these two common crabs and make sure to follow harvesting regulations!



Mother and calf surfacing for air.

Approximately 18,000 Gray Whales migrate twice each year just off the Oregon coast. Approximately 200 Gray Whales hang out year around near the central coast area. This makes them relatively easy to see.

Gray Whales are the most common of the 10 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises that reside on the Oregon Coast. The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay reports seeing as many as 50 whales per day during December – January and again in the spring.

Where are they going?

The whales migrate south to breeding grounds in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and north to Alaska shortly thereafter. Gray Whales make the longest annual migration of any mammal on earth of over 12,000 miles round trip.

How to spot a Gray Whale

One might think that spotting something so common and the size of a city bus should be easy. Gray Whales can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and reach 50 feet in length. That doesn’t mean that they are easy to see all of the time. The mottled gray color, along with barnacles and whale lice, can make even the large adults swimming just a few miles from shore a challenge.

The easiest way to find them is to grab binoculars and find a high view point on a calm morning. Look for a bushy puff of white on the water. This spout or blow, which should be visible for about five seconds on a calm day. The blow can rise up to 15-feet and occurs as the whale exhales warm, moist air when surfacing.

Finding spouts

Gray Whales typically blow three to five spouts in a row, about 30 to 50 seconds apart as they swim. You may need to move the lens slightly to account for them swimming. Move left (or south) in the winter, and right (or north) in the spring.

Keep watching and you may see the whale use its tail to dive to the sea bottom for three to six seconds. It will then return to the surface to repeat the spouting breathing rhythm.

What is the whale diving for?

Grays fill their mouths with mud from the sea bottom. The mud is strained through a filter-feeding system, called baleen, on the upper jaw of their mouths. Baleen is keratin which is the same substance as human fingernails and hair.

Water and mud is pushed out through the baleen trapping krill and small fish. Many whales have baleen, but not all use it in the same manner. Grays only use only one side of the baleen which is unique in the whale community.

There are several places to learn more about the Gray Whale. Here are a few ideas:
Visit a Visitors’ Guide to Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast (
–Visit the Whale Watching Spoken Here program ( that has information on best places to see whales, volunteer training, and more.
–Visit Oregon State Parks, Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, ( ) which has videos of spouting whales, and more.

–Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (
–Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. Friends of the Southern Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuges (
–Wikipedia, Baleen (

Royalty free; Thank you Edward Taylor, Unsplash

In the grassy field, two bull elks posture, bugle, and antler-wrestle for herd dominance and to attract cows. The herd casually look on as these nearly 1,100 pound beasts duke out ritualized mating behaviors and risk dangerous injury from the nearly six foot antler racks.

Almost enough to lose your antlers over.

Actually, the antlers are shed each year and people hunt for them. Shed hunting (or angler hunting) closes during the winter to protect big game, and reopens in April (see

In the early summer, the antlers grow rapidly and become polished. During this time, the larger males (which are solitary most of the year) join together. By July, the antlers become polished and males begin searching for untended cows or those tended by less formidable males.


Cows form herds that include adults and juveniles which tend to stay in relatively small and distinct areas. An older cow with offspring will typically provide the leadership. Younger mothers will fill-in as needed. There is considerable exchange of individuals among adjacent herds.


Most of the year, Roosevelt elk feed on grasses and sedges. In the winter, they will eat more woody plants such as berries (highbush cran-, elder-, salmon-, and blue-), devil’s club, mushrooms, lichens, and other young seedlings.

Nuts & Bolts

Roosevelt Elk are one of the four surviving races of elk (which are a species of deer) in Oregon. These elk are the third largest land mammal in North America and have a population in Oregon of around 59,000. Elk are found in temperate Pacific Northwest rainforests and throughout northern California. They are also called Olympic Elk.

How they got their name….

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt created what originally started out as an elk reserve in Washington state. but now the Olympic National Park in Washington state. Later, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the region and named the elk after his relative “Teddy” and created the Olympic National Forest the following year.

Elk are hunted as a game species; the meat is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken. See the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for permits and restrictions.

Want to see them?

Check out the Dean Creek Elk Reserve, just three miles east of Reedsport, Oregon on Highway 38 ( This year-around reserve is home to about 60-100 Roosevelt Elk which are visible almost every day. While there is no overnight camping, there are many turnouts on the highway, restrooms, and no fees. Before you go, be sure to download the Dean Creek Viewing Area brochure at

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Viewing at: and /big-game-hunting/species/roosevelt-elk
USDI Bureau of Land Management, Dean Creek Viewing Area (
Wikipedia, Elk (