Discover The 8 Largest Animals In California, and Where To Find Them

Written by Volia Schubiger
Updated: October 10, 2022
Share on:


The state of California is a vast coastal region, and this makes it home to some of the most diverse topography and wildlife. There is something for everyone when it comes to outdoor enthusiasts in California, from gorgeous sandy beaches to great mountaintops and valleys. The wildlife of this state is worth learning more about, however, if you plan to explore its great outdoors. You might want to know what to watch out for when visiting this incredibly diverse state. Here are the 8 largest animals in California and where you’ll find them!

1. Mountain Lions

Deadliest Animals in America

Deer are the main food source for mountain lions; hence why mountain lions can be found anywhere there are deer.


Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are one of the largest animals in California. Approximately 4,000-6,000 mountain lions live in the wild in California. They are indeed big cats, but they are one of the slenderest and most agile members of the Felidae family. Among all cat species, they rank fourth in size. At the shoulders, adults measure 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in). Among America’s wild animals, the mountain lion has one of the largest ranges, from Canada’s Yukon Territory to Chile’s southern Andes. Mountains, coastal forests, and even deserts are home to these big cats in Cali.

2. Bobcats

What Eats Snakes

Bobcats are native to California and can be found in arid deserts, thick forests, and high alpine zones.


The bobcat is a part of the family of cats that are roughly twice the size of the average house cat and are sometimes called wildcats as well. It is a native species of California. Historically, bobcats were found throughout southern Canada and even as far south as Oaxaca in Mexico. Today, various habitats are home to bobcats in California, including desert regions, forests, and even cities. There is an average weight range of 15 to 30 pounds for bobcats. In general, the males are larger than their female counterparts. Still, the length of their bodies ranges from 20 to 50 inches.

3. Coyote

Exotic Pet Ownership coyote

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are between 250,000 and 750,000 coyotes in the state.

©Jukka Jantunen/

The coyote (Canis latrans) lives throughout North America, including Southern California. There are a variety of habitats where you can find this canine species, including deserts, coastal regions, and other types of landscapes. There has even been an increase in coyotes entering metropolitan areas in the last few years, and it is because coyotes have a very high degree of adaptability. Although size varies geographically, males average 18 to 44 lb in weight, while females average 15 to 40 lb.

4. Red Fox

red fox wandering in field

Two species of red fox live in California, one of which is native to the state.


California is home to two Red Fox populations. One is the Sierra Nevada Red Fox, found exclusively in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, while the other is the more widespread, non-native Red Fox. Male Sierra Nevada red foxes can weigh up to 9.2 pounds and measure up to 3.4 feet long, and females can weigh up to 7.7 pounds and measure up to 3.2 feet long. Non-native red foxes are usually bigger, weighing 10 to 15 pounds while only 2 feet long. Red foxes are found in lowland areas of California, like the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, San Francisco Bay-Delta, and the Southern California Coast Range.

5. Black Bears

Black Bear Showing Teeth

Black bear populations in the state are estimated to number between 30,000 and 40,000.

©Jim Cumming/

There are only one species of bear that lives in California, and that is the black bear. Despite this, they can be found in various colors, from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common color. Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 black bears are estimated to be living in the state. A typical adult female sow weighs 100 – 200 pounds, and a male boar generally weighs 150 – 350 pounds, with some weighing as much as 500 pounds. There is no doubt that the black bear is one of the largest animals in California! There has been a noted expansion of the black bear’s range across California, resulting in them being widely distributed throughout the state. These animals inhabit a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, deserts, valley foothills, and areas between urban and wilderness areas.

6. Whales

gray whale popping its head out of the water

Several kinds of whales can be seen off the coast of California, including gray whales, blue whales, and orcas.

©Mogens Trolle/

As you might expect from a coastal state, California has abundant marine life. Some of the largest animals in California happen to be marine mammals. Among these are whales, and whale watching allows you to see some of them. It is common for killer whales to grow to 32 feet in length and weigh as much as 12,000 pounds, and this is very different from the enormous gray whale, which can grow to about 49 feet long and weigh about 90,000 pounds. From December through May, you will have the best chance of spotting gray whales and orcas in Northern California.

7. Elephant Seals

Loudest Animals: Northern Elephant Seal

The Channel Islands off the coast of southern California are home to the largest colonies of northern


seals in the world.


Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are one of two elephant seal species. Usually, northern elephant seal males weigh 3,300–5,100 pounds and measure 13–16 feet. But they can weigh as much as 8,200 pounds. Compared to males, females weigh 880 to 1,980 lbs and measure from 8.2 to 11.8 feet in height. It is possible to see elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Rookery throughout the year. The northern elephant seal population in California is estimated at 200,000.

8. California Sea Lions

Are Sharks Mammals

California sea lions are found along the western coast of North America and its islands, ranging from southeast Alaska to central Mexico.

©Daniel Avram/

The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) is an eared seal native to the west coast of North America. In fact, it is one of six species of sea lions that exist on earth. It is estimated that there are around 257,000 California sea lions in the wild, and that number is growing steadily. There are many places along California’s coast where you can see them. However, if you’ve been to San Francisco, Pier 39 is a popular place to see them! They are pretty big marine life, with males growing up to 8.2–8.9 feet long and weighing up to 1,153 pounds, while females reach around 6.9 feet and weigh up to 220 pounds. They are one of the largest animals you can see in California, as these sea lions are massive!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jim Cumming/

Share on:
About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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