Online Tools to Help You Find Wildlife in Central Oregon

Sandhill Cranes in a Field

As you head out into the great wild places of Central Oregon, chances are you’re hoping you might encounter wildlife along the way. Finding animals isn’t always easy, and certainly a bit of luck comes into play for even the most expert of naturalists. Still, there are a few online tools you can use to help increase your odds of an incredible encounter:

iNaturalist is a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists sharing sightings of wildlife and nature. It can be accessed either online or via its app. Log on and explore via species, date range, or maps to see the latest sightings or research trends to help you narrow down the best places to be the best time of year:
https://www.inaturalist.org

eBird is another citizen scientist tool that tracks sightings, though this one is specific to birds. It was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and user data helps them to track migration patterns and population trends. By using the ‘explore hotspots’ tool, you can find out the area’s most recent sightings or determine the best places to explore in the future:
https://ebird.org/
You can also sign up to receive rare bird alerts via email for the entire state or by county:
https://ebird.org/alert/summary?sid=SN35555

OBOL (Oregon Birders OnLine) is a listserv dedicated to birding in Oregon, moderated by the Oregon Birding Association. You can read the archive of this listserve on the American Birding Association website by selecting “Oregon Central” under the list option here:
https://www.aba.org/birding-news/

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife puts out a weekly recreation report that is broken down by zones throughout the state. It’s a wonderful resource for planning your next adventure and for keeping up to date on the most recent area regulations and closures.
https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/wildlife-viewing-report/central-zone

In the end, while tools can help, often it’s simply about putting in the hours in the field. Getting that perfect wildlife photo may mean a lot of early days, long hours, and late nights. And once that elusive animal finally makes an appearance, don’t be in a hurry to move on. Sit and watch and wait; you may be lucky enough to witness an exciting behavior or pick up on clues as to how to find this animal in the future. If the animal is reacting to your presence, you’ve done something wrong. You are too close, too loud, or interfering with its behavior. Responsible wildlife viewing means your presence shouldn’t impact the animals or their environment.

Finally, don’t forget to manage your expectations. Wild animals are just that — wild. Try to take each sighting as they come rather than worrying about what you feel you might be missing. Be present, and remember to enjoy the little things. The smell of sagebrush after the rain. A spider’s web sparkling with dew. It will often be these things you remember most fondly, not the tally of how many species you saw.