Discover 11 Animals Living Underneath the Golden Gate Bridge

Written by Justin Zipprich
Updated: August 7, 2023
© Mathieu LE MAUFF/
Share this post on:


Key Points

  • The American peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.
  • The California red-legged frog is a threatened species with a unique reddish coloring and dark mask.
  • Sea lions are highly intelligent and trainable creatures that can grow up to 800 pounds and are often used for entertainment and Navy assistance.
  • The purple sea star is a keystone species that can dominate and cover rocks, with only two natural predators: seagulls and sea otters.
  • The salmon shark is a massive predator that can grow up to 10 feet wide and weigh close to 1,000 pounds and is commonly spotted near bridges during late spring and early summer.

San Francisco is known for many things, from its rich culture and friendly people to its infamous hilly roads. The city is also famous for its architecture and awesome landmarks, including Alcatraz Island, Pier 39, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, we’ll talk about that bridge and the animals living underneath it. From colorful frogs to beautiful starfish, there’s plenty of wildlife to discover in this area. Here are the 11 animals living under the Golden Gate Bridge.

1. American Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon sitting on branch
The peregrine falcon is a fast bird that you could see zipping through the forest at 200 miles per hour.

©Harry Collins Photography/

Our first San Fransisco animal is the majestic American peregrine falcon. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this bird is found near the bridge, since it’s one of the most widespread birds in the world. People have been training this falcon to hunt for over one thousand years. You can identify this bird by its pointed wings and long tail.

The peregrine falcon is a medium-sized bird that soars through the air while searching for its meals on land. It’s a fast flier too, often reaching speeds of 69 miles per hour when flying toward a target, and then close to 200 MPH as it drops to snatch the prey. 

2. Red-Legged Frog

Northern red-legged frog in the Pacific Northwest, USA.
The California red-legged frog is a common critter along the Bay.

©Amy Devine/

Take a walk down to the water, and you may see the California red-legged frog. This frog is almost exclusively found in California, and you can identify it by the reddish coloring on its belly and legs. The top of the legs is covered in black spots and dark blotches. The frog’s face is unmistakable due to the dark mask and a stripe that runs from its jaw to its shoulder. You’ll have to watch out for these little critters because they’re only about 2 to 5 inches long. You’ll also want to be careful because this frog is federally listed as threatened.

These funny frogs eat just about everything they can get their tongues on, typically smaller amphibians and mammals. If you don’t see the red-legged frog, then you’ll probably hear it. The males have a mating call that consists of soft grunts and a growl.

3. Western Harvest Mouse

salt marsh harvest mouse
The harvest mouse is small but highly populated in San Francisco.

©Pacific Southwest Region USFWS/CCBY2.0 – License

Another tiny critter living underneath the famous bridge is the western harvest mouse. At most, this medium-sized breed will only grow to about 6 inches in length and weigh only about eight ounces. It’s distinguishable from many other common mice because of its small head and long tail. Additionally, a broad stripe usually runs along its spine.

Females can breed at four months of age and will have two to three litters per year. Your best chance of seeing this mouse is at night, as it is strictly nocturnal. And you’ll find them year-round. Unlike the red-legged frog, this animal is far from endangered.

4. Sea Lion

Animal, Animal Wildlife, Animals In The Wild, Aquatic Mammal, Argentina
The sea lions are really cool and on a good day, you can see 90 at a time!

© Cruz

One of the coolest animals living underneath the Golden Gate Bridge is the fun and friendly sea lion. In 1989, a group of sea lions was looking for a place to rest, and they found their way to the area. If you visit the city on the right day, and you could see over 90 sea lions laying out in the sun. 

Sea lions are wonderfully intriguing creatures. They typically live between 20-25 years. One reason for their long lifespan is that they are opportunistic feeders, eating just about any prey they find. This also explains why males can grow to over 800 pounds. Sea lions are very intelligent, which is why they are often trained for entertainment and to help the United States Navy.

5. Black-Tailed Deer

Black-tailed deer
The black-tailed deer often makes an appearance near the bridge.


Visitors to the bridge also have a chance of spotting black-tailed deer. A subspecies of mule deer, the black-tailed deer is distinguished by its large ears and dark brown or black coloration. This breed is smaller than most mule deer, and it has a unique triangular tale. You’ll often catch them chewing on grasses, fruit, and lichens. 

6. Northern Spotted Owl

Northern spotted owl watching from a tree branch
Look up in the trees at night to see the northern spotted owl.

©Georgia Evans/

Look up in the trees later in the day, and you’ve got a shot of checking out the northern spotted owl, which calls the bay home. This bird is found in many forests of the west. At night, you may be able to see this bird of prey silently stalk small mammals, like flying squirrels. 

Though not completely endangered, this owl is facing a reduced population due to competition with barred owls. Additionally, they don’t breed every year. In fact, some don’t breed for five to six months at a time. Amazingly, the oldest northern spotted owl lived to age 21.

7. Purple Sea Star

A bright purple sea star in the shallows of a tide pool, surrounded by shells and rocks
You might have to get in the water to see the purple sea star but it’s amazing to see.

©Kaitlin Kelly/

Officially known as Pisaster ochraceus, the purple sea star is a fairly common sea creature found near the Golden Gate Bridge. Though it has the word “purple” in its name, this sea star can range from purple to orange to reddish brown. Like many of its kind, the purple sea star will typically have five rays or arms, but it can have up to seven and as few as four. The bottom of the sea star is covered with white spines that keep its body free of parasites.

This sea star will feed on numerous species, ranging from snails and mussels to barnacles. They are considered a keystone species, which means they have a major impact on the environment. These sea stars can cover rocks to the point that other species cannot thrive, and they only have two predators: seagulls and sea otters. They are quite fascinating creatures.

8. Garter Snake 

Animal Wildlife, Canada, Footpath, Garter Snake, Grass Area
There are several color variations for garter snakes, and you can see many near the bridge.

© R Kostron

You will also find many common animals living underneath the bridge, including the noble garter snake. This snake is often found in woodlands, hillsides, and even urban areas. They often hide behind rocks, stumps, and even garbage, so you may have to look very carefully to find one. This is a small snake, which typically measures about 18-26 inches long. Though there are variations, many garter snakes have a brownish or greenish stripe running down their side. 

Garter snakes typically feed on a variety of small animals, including amphibians, mice, small fish, insects, and spiders. Your best chance of seeing a garter snake is between March and April after they emerge from their winter dens. Garter snakes do not lay eggs. Instead, the young develop within the female until they have a litter. As soon as they’re born, the young disperse to start their own lives.

9. California Gray Whale

gray whale popping its head out of the water
Seeing a gray whale near the bridge would be an awesome sight!

©Mogens Trolle/

In the deep waters beneath the bridge, lives the amazing California gray whale. Instead of teeth, this cool whale has baleen fringes that allow it to eat its food without much chewing. The California gray whale also has two blowholes. Gray whales typically consume a wide range of invertebrates. If you’re lucky, you may get to see them hunt, which they do by rolling over on one side and sucking up ground and sediment, along with all the small creatures that live within it.

The best chance to see this whale is between the months of December to May because that’s when they’re most active. However, they frequent the area throughout the year. 

10. Salmon Shark

Salmon Shark close-up
Spotting a salmon shark would be amazing but always be careful when you’re near the water.

©Warren Metcalf/

One of the most exciting animals living underneath the Golden Gate Bridge is the salmon shark. Your best chance of seeing this awesome predator is between late spring and early summer when females typically give birth. As the name suggests, this shark likes to eat salmon, but they’ll eat whatever is abundant and available, from spiny dogfish to squids and Pacific mackerel. 

The salmon shark has a short and compressed body and a cone-shaped snout that gives it an appearance similar to a great white shark. They often come in different colors, from dark blue to medium gray. Salmon sharks can grow up to 10 feet wide and weigh close to 1,000 pounds. They typically live up to 30 years of age.

11. Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel vs sugar glider
Look carefully and you could see this amazing gliding creature.

©Laura Fiorillo/

A better name for the elusive flying squirrel would be “gliding squirrel” because this rodent can’t actually fly, but it can glide for 150-300 feet. Like other squirrels, flying squirrels are typically a gray-brown color with belly fur that is all white. They can glide because they have a special membrane between their back and front legs that allows them to soar through the air as they travel between trees. 

Flying squirrels are omnivores, and they’ll typically eat a combination of nuts, seeds, insects, and fruit. This animal will usually live for about 10 years when in captivity. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, so you’re most likely to spot them at night.

Summary Of 11 Animals Living Underneath the Golden Gate Bridge

NumberAnimal NameFound Near The Bridge?
1American Peregrine FalconYes
2Red-Legged FrogYes
3Western Harvest MouseYes
4Sea LionYes
5Black-Tailed DeerYes
6Northern Spotted OwlYes
7Purple Sea StarYes
8Garter Snake Yes
9California Gray WhaleYes
10Salmon SharkYes
11Flying SquirrelYes


There’s an awesome variety of critters and sea life under the Golden Gate Bridge. Stop by the amazing city of San Fransisco to see the unforgettable sights, including the famous bridge and the animals that call it home.

Share this post on:
About the Author

Justin Zipprich is an animal lover who has enjoyed having birds, cats, and dogs as pets. He is thrilled to share his knowledge of the animal kingdom and the natural world with you!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.