Both elevation and season determine just where you may see Mt. Rainier's wildlife. Coyotes can be seen along Stevens Canyon Road and Box Canyon, as well as near the "goat overlook" below Longmire. Red foxes are seen at the picnic areas around Paradise and Longmire. Although they are called "red" they often appear gray or black in color.
Deer are frequently spotted year-round throughout the park. The deer seen on the west side of Mt. Rainier are Columbian black-tailed deer, and those found on the east side are Mule deer. The much larger elk tend to be more elusive. Look for them on the east side of the mountain in September. Mountain goats prefer the high ridges and cliffs and the best chance of spotting them is hiking Summerland, Panhandle Gap, or Indian Bar.
In the summer, ground squirrels, marmots, chipmunks, chickarees and pika are commonly spotted in the Paradise and Sunrise areas. Hoary marmots in particular, are meadow residents often seen from the nature trails near Paradise.
Cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions are also park residents. Although potentially dangerous, no human injuries have occurred in the park due to a cougar. They are solitary, nocturnal animals. If you encounter a cougar in the park, stop immediately and pick up small children. Do not run or crouch down. Maintain eye contact with the cat, stay calm and slowly back away. If the cougar becomes aggressive, become more assertive by shouting loudly, waving your arms and throw things. Report any cougar sightings to the park ranger as soon as possible. Click here for more information about cougars in the park.
Although unlikely, you may encounter a black bear at Mt. Rainier. Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. Bears tend to avoid people. In most cases, if you give a bear the opportunity to do the right thing, it will. If you come across a bear in the wilderness, avoid it if you can, and give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you encounter a bear at close range, remain calm. Chances are you're not in danger. If you stand your ground, talking to help ensure that it knows you are a person, the bear will soon leave. Please report all bear sightings to a park ranger. Click here for more information on bears in the park.
Mt. Rainier National Park is a birder's paradise: 165 species of birds live within the park's borders. Some of these birds are year-round residents but most occur in the park during specific seasons. The most commonly viewed birds include Thrushes, Chickadees, Kinglets, Clark's Nutcracker, Ptarmigan, Grouse, Steller's and Gray Jays, Eagles, Grosbeaks and Finches.
Interesting enough, there have been bird sightings at Mt. Rainier's summit of 14,410 feet. Both a Curlew and a Pine Siskin were found at the top, but had previously perished. Hummingbirds have also been known to buzz climbers on the mountain's high glaciers.
Elevations below 3500 feet
The distribution of birds in the park can be broken into the life zones of the park, and is related to elevation. The lowest areas of the park, below 3500 feet, are home to mature forests of douglas fir, western red cedar, grand fir and western hemlock. Near Ohanapecosh, walk the Grove of the Patriarchs and Eastside Trail. Making their home in this area, are Gray and Steller's Jays, Varied Thrush, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend's Solitaire, Western Tanager, Townsend's Warblers, and Pine Siskin. Watch for American Dippers along the river. At Longmire, take the Trail of the Shadows watching for Band-tailed Pigeon and Red-breasted Sapsucker, as well as Vaux's Swift, Clark's Nutcracker, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown Creeper, Canadian Geese, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Varied Thrush and Mountain Bluebird.
Elevations between 5000 and 6500 feet
The elevation zone between 5000 and 6500 feet is where the popular Paradise and Sunrise areas are located. This zone is characterized by mixed forest and subalpine meadows. The trees are primarily subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, and whitebark pine. Many birds are found here, especially in the summer. At Sunrise, short nature trails provide opportunities to view White-tailed Ptarmigan, Clark's Nutcrackers, Gray Jays and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. Less common are Blue Grouse, Evening Grosbeaks, and Cooper's Hawks. See Common Ravens nesting on cliffs near Burroughs Mountain and watch for Golden Eagles from high lookouts such as Emmons Vista and Mount Fremont Lookout. In August watch for soaring raptors, including Osprey. In the Paradise meadows, Rufous Hummingbirds are often seen buzzing about.
More information on birding can be found on these sites: