Leopard Shark

Scientific: Triakis semifasciata
Spanish: Tiburón leopardo

Diet: Small fish, fish eggs, clams, crabs and worms
Habitat: Shallow ocean waters, kelp forests
Status: Least Concern

Gentle Predators
These small sharks swim along the coast from Oregon to Mexico. They are harmless to humans, but every year Californian fishermen catch up to 140 tons of leopard sharks for food and for the aquarium trade. 

Why do you think their mouths are positioned pointing downwards?

Marbled Murrelet

Scientific: Brachyramphus marmoratus
Spanish: Mérgulo jaspeado

Diet: Fish, cephalopods
Habitat: Nearshore waters, and coastal coniferous forests
Status: Endangered

A Seabird In the Trees
Murrelets are seabirds, but they depend upon moist forests near the coast for breeding. They build their nests high up on lichen and moss-covered branches. Logging and development in California has dramatically reduced their population, making them a threatened species.

Striped Skunk

Scientific: Mephitis mephitis
Spanish: Mofeta rayada
Awaswas: Yawi

Diet: Insects, small mammals and birds, eggs, crabs, berries, and nuts
Habitat: Widespread throughout North America, especially mixed woodlands and suburban greenspaces
California Status: Least Concern

Skunks are famous for the powerful, smelly spray that they use to deter predators, but they give warning before spraying and are typically docile. We can thank them for eating insects and rodent pests.

California Sea Lion

Scientific: Zalophus californianus
Spanish: León marino de California
Awaswas: Sullan (seal)

Diet: Fish, cephalopods
Habitat: Nearshore, hauling out on rocks and pylons
Status: Least Concern

These social creatures can often be seen congregating near harbors and wharves where they vocalize via “barking.” California sea lions are year-round residents of the Monterey Bay and can be distinguished from the seasonal Steller’s sea lion who are larger, lighter-colored, and whose males lack a bony crest on their skulls.

Seals, sea lions and walruses are all pinnipeds which means “fin-footed.” Sea lions are not considered ‘true seals’ because they have external ear flaps and front flippers that allow them greater dexterity on land than other seals. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following pinnipeds throughout the year:

  • California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
  • Steller’s Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
  • Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
  • Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)
  • Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus)

Grey Whale

Scientific: Eschrichtius robustus
Spanish: Ballena gris
Awaswas: Chimme

Diet: Crustaceans, fish
Habitat: Open ocean, nearshore
Status: Least Concern

Grey Whales can be spotted in the Monterey Bay in the winter as they migrate south to Baja and in the late spring when they migrate back north with their calves. Whale lice and barnacles cause the distinctive white patches on the backs of these whales.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are all cetaceans and are some of the largest mammals in the oceans. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following cetaceans throughout the year:

  • Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) | May – October
  • Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) | April – December
  • Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) | December – May
  • Orca (Orcinus orca) | Year-round transients
  • Northern Right Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) | Year-round
  • Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) |Year-round
  • Common Dolphin (Delphinus sp.) | July – December
  • Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) |Year-round
  • Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops sp.) |Year-round
  • Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) |Year-round

Visit a life-size replica of a female grey whale outside the Museum in Tyrrell Park.

Gray Fox

Scientific: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Spanish: Zorro gris
Awaswas: Yuréh

Diet: Rodents, rabbits, birds, fruit
Habitat: Rocky, wooded, and brushy regions as well as suburban habitats
Status: Least Concern

While gray foxes are common throughout North America, deforestation and urban development have lead to increased competition from red foxes. The grey fox is the only member of the canine family that can climb trees, and they are also known to double back on their own tracks to confuse predators.

Monarch Butterfly

Scientific: Danaus plexippus
Spanish: Mariposas monarca
Mutsun: Siwluluk

Diet: Milkweed (caterpillars), Pollen (butterflies)
Habitat: Migratory throughout North America
California Status: Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Clustering To Keep Warm
Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles, farther than any other insect, to overwinter in warm areas. They cluster for warmth and protection, September to March. Locally they can be seen in Natural Bridges Beach State Park, Lighthouse Field and in the trees behind the Museum. 

In 2020, the number of monarchs overwintering in California dropped to less than 0.01% of the historic levels. For every 2,250 monarchs there were 30 years ago, there is only one left flying today. You can help increase monarch populations by supporting the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s Western Monarch Action Plan priorities based on where you live.

For those living within 5 miles of the Central California Coast:

  • Protect and restore overwintering habitat, such as the monarch grove at Natural Bridges State Beach
  • Plant pesticide-free native nectar plants
  • Do NOT plant milkweed (Asclepias spp.), none of which are native to the Central Coast

For those living in Central and Southern California, west of the Sierra Nevada range and more than 5 miles from the coast:

  • Protect and plant pesticide-free early season native milkweed, such as narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), and nectar plants

Pacific Giant Salamander

Scientific: Dicamptodon ensatus
Spanish: Salamandra gigante del Pacífico

Diet:  Fish hatchlings, insects, slugs, other salamanders
Habitat: Wet forests in or near, cold streams and rivers, mountain lakes, and ponds
Status: Near Threatened

Although usually in or near streams, Pacific giant salamanders may be found several hundred feet from water in wet weather. These large amphibians can grow to over a foot in length and have been known to make barking sounds when disturbed.

Slender Banana Slug

Scientific: Ariolimax dolichophallus
Spanish: Babosa banana

Diet: Dead plants, animal droppings, fungi and moss
Habitat: Forest floor of coniferous rainforest
California Status: Imperiled

The Importance Of Being Slimy
A sticky slimy carpet protects slugs from sharp objects, helps them climb trees, travel upside down along a branch, and even lower themselves to the ground by a slime cord. The slime and their bright coloring also discourages many animals from eating them.

Banana slugs depend upon the redwood canopy to keep their habitat moist, and in return these slugs will consume plants that compete with redwoods for nutrients and light. During dry weather, banana slugs will retreat underground to prevent desiccation.

Did you know? Banana Slugs are the school mascot for the University of California, Santa Cruz

Black-tailed Deer

Scientific: Odocoileus hemionus
Spanish: Ciervo de cola negra
Awaswas: Tote, Tooche

Diet: Grasses, shrubs, berries, lichen
Habitat: Grasslands, forests, woodlands
California Status: Least Concern

Deer are most active in the evening and early morning when they venture into open spaces to graze on grasses and other plants. During the day and night, they often seek cover under the canopy in forests or woodlands. Deer are an important food source for large predators like mountain lions. If predator populations decline, deer populations can boom, causing over-grazing of grasslands.

What relationship do you think humans have with deer, both historically, and today?