Discover the 6 Official State Animals of Oregon

© Layne VR/

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: July 28, 2023

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Here are six official state animals of Oregon.

Every U.S. state has official symbols that represent the history, culture, economy, and environment of the state. Oregon has over 30 official state symbols, such as the state beverage (milk), state flower (Oregon grape), state microbe (brewer’s yeast), and state nut (hazelnut). The state also has six animal symbols, with a possible seventh on the way.

Here’s a look at all of Oregon’s official state animals.

1. State Animal – Beaver

It comes as no surprise that the beaver (Castor canadensis) is the state animal of Oregon since the state’s nickname is The Beaver State. That nickname originated in the nineteenth century. Beaver pelts were popular for hats and clothing, and Oregon’s rivers were teeming with semi-aquatic rodents. Some of the routes used by those early fur trappers would become part of the famous Oregon Trail.

Beaver meat was also an important food source for both native peoples and early Oregon settlers. Due to the demand for both pelts and meat, beavers were overhunted and nearly extirpated from much of the state. Conservation efforts have helped the beaver stage a comeback in Oregon.

North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) eating Alaska

What other choice could there be for the official animal to represent The Beaver State?

©Frank Fichtmueller/

The Beaver’s Importance

While the beaver is no longer central to the Oregonian economy, the animal still plays a critical role in the ecology of the state. It has been suggested that other than humans, beavers do more to form and change their environment than any other mammal. Beaver dams shape the ecosystem by creating ponds. Those ponds are important for certain fish species. Some aquatic birds prefer to inhabit these ponds rather than a swiftly flowing stream, as well. Beaver ponds also help with water clarity. Since a beaver dam slows the water flow, sediment has time to sink to the bottom.

The industrious beaver helped shape Oregon’s culture and history long before it became the 33rd state admitted to the Union in 1859. Oregon honors the beaver’s significant contributions to the state in multiple ways. The beaver was included on the reverse side of the state flag, which was adopted in 1925. (Oregon is the only state which features different images on the front and back of its flag.) The beaver was later named the official state animal of Oregon in 1969.

The nickname of the Oregon State University athletic teams is Beavers. Oregon State University adopted the school’s mascot, Benny Beaver, in 1952.

New York joined Oregon by honoring the beaver as its state animal in 1975.

2. State Bird — Western Meadowlark

The Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) became the first state animal of Oregon in 1927. The Oregon Audubon Society conducted a poll involving schoolchildren all over the state, and the students chose the Western Meadowlark to represent their state. You can frequently spot this bird across the western two-thirds of the continental United States. It often perches on fenceposts in the open countryside.

The Western Meadowlark looks quite similar to its close relative, the Eastern Meadowlark. Meriwether Lewis was the first to note the differences between the two songbirds. 

A Beautiful Western Meadowlark Perched on a Fence Post on the Plains of Colorado

You can see Western Meadowlarks perched on fence posts in the western United States.

©Kerry Hargrove/

Oregon is hardly alone in its recognition of this bird. The Western Meadowlark is also the state bird in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The Northern Cardinal is the only bird with more official recognition, as seven states have named it their state bird.

You can listen to the Western Meadowlark’s flutelike vocalizations in the video below.

3. State Crustacean — Dungeness Crab

The Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) was named the state crustacean of Oregon when lawmakers passed House Joint Resolution 37 in 2009. This came at the behest of the fourth-grade class of Sunset Primary School in West Linn.

The resolution affirms the Dungeness crab is an iconic symbol of Oregon. It also notes the crab’s economic impact. The resolution states the Dungeness crab fishery “is the most valuable single-species fishery in Oregon.”

The Dungeness crab can be found along the Pacific coastline of North America, from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Santa Cruz, California.

Oregon’s crab harvest begins in December and runs through August. These crabs are highly sought after for their mild, sweet flavor. Dungeness crabs are among the most popular crabs for table fare in the world today.

Oregon is one of a small handful of states with official crustaceans. Others include Alabama (shrimp), Louisiana (crawfish), Maine (lobster), Maryland (Maryland blue crab), Missouri (crawfish), and Texas (shrimp).

Dungeness crab

Dungeness crabs have a profound impact on Oregon’s economy.

©Jennifer Nicole Buchanan/

4. State Fish — Chinook Salmon

The chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) was named Oregon’s state fish in 1961. Alaska followed suit and named this salmon as its state fish one year later.

The chinook is the largest Pacific salmon species in North America, which is why it is also known as the king salmon. (Other names include the spring or tyee salmon.) Fish weighing 10-20 pounds are common, but they can grow to 50 pounds or more. The Oregon state record chinook salmon weighed a whopping 83 pounds. Ernie St. Clair caught that monster salmon on the Umpqua River in 1910.

Chinook salmon range from Alaska to California on North America’s Pacific coast. They have also been introduced in the Great Lakes.

Chinook salmon are anadromous fish, meaning they live much of their adult lives in the ocean but then return to freshwater rivers to spawn. These salmon are semelparous, meaning they only spawn once and then die shortly after.

Chinook salmon fishing is critical for native tribes. It is also a valuable commercial and recreational industry in Oregon.

A fisherman with a Chinook Salmon caught in Canada. They typically measure about 3 feet long and 30 pounds in weight.

Chinook salmon are the largest of all Pacific salmon species.

©Crystal Kirk/

5. State Insect — Oregon Swallowtail

Oregon legislators approved the state insect in 1979, and they chose one that bears the state’s name in both its common and scientific names: the Oregon swallowtail (Papilio oregonius).

This butterfly that bears Oregon’s name is only found in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and south-central British Columbia. It varies in color, depending on its range. The colors can even vary within the state of Oregon alone. Butterflies in the western part of the state have more yellow, while those in the east tend to be more black. Females choose mates based on the vibrant color patterns on their wings. The more vivid the colors, the better chance a male has of being chosen.

The adult lifespan of these lovely butterflies is remarkably short, lasting only about three weeks. They are typically found in areas where food is abundant. Adults feed on wildflower nectar from phlox, daisies, asters, thistles, milkweed, and the like. 

Papilio machaon oregonius or the Oregon swallowtail butterfly eating nectar from a flower.

The Oregon swallowtail butterfly is found in areas where there is plenty of wildflower nectar available.

©Steve Byland/

6. State Shell — Oregon Triton

In 1989, Oregon chose the Oregon triton (Fusitriton oregonensis) as its state shell. Nineteenth-century conchologist, John Howard Redfield, named this shell in tribute to the Oregon Territory, a place known for frequently finding this particular shell.

While in the ocean, this shell houses a predatory sea snail. The name Oregon triton actually refers to the mollusk itself, not just the outer shell. The body is an exoskeleton that protects the snail from predators.

This snail is also known as the Oregon hairy triton. That name comes from the bristles (periostracum) that cover the shell.

Oregon triton shells wash up on beaches during high tide from Alaska to California. 

Oregon triton

The Oregon Triton’s shell washes up on Oregon beaches at high tide.

©Shellnut / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

The Next Possible Oregon State Animal

Oregon could add a seventh official state animal. A resolution declaring the Oregon state pet is currently progressing through the legislative process. If the resolution successfully crosses the finish line, the official state pet of Oregon will be shelter dogs and cats. 

The resolution states, “Oregon is the land of the second chance, something every shelter dog or cat deserves.”

The resolution faces little opposition, so Oregon could soon have seven state animals.

Animal shelter

Shelter dogs and cats may soon be named the official state pet of Oregon.

© Volkonskiy

Summary of the 6 Official State Animals of Oregon

Here is a list of the 6 Official State Animals of Oregon:

RankState Animals
2Western Meadowlark
3Dungeness Crab
4Chinook Salmon
5Oregon Swallowtail
6Oregon Triton

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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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