Elk, deer, and bear. Three species you will find, when you do find them, in the least likely places. Elk, the most common of the three, are as big as a horses (ooh, typo there, misspelled horse as house but that would’ve been fine as many are as big as houses!) and don’t scare easily.
The likely places elk are found are Elk Meadow, Stone Lagoon, Orick beach, and the squiggly part of the 101 between Davison Road and Stone Lagoon. You will also find them by the Ship Ashore motel park in nearby Smith River (in a field on the west side of the 101) and sometimes on private land to the north of there. All visible and sometimes shockingly close to the highway.
Deer can shock you. They might dash across the road in the flats off Hwy 197 (seen that a few times) or you might see them grazing on the shoulder of the road on 101 east of Gasquet. I’ve seen deer walking down here on Monument Drive.
California Black Bear are sighted less frequently but they are everywhere. On the beach, in the brush, still eating shriveled blackberries that cling to the vine. I’ve seen bear dead on the side of the road (roadkill), out by my shed (scrambling for fish carcasses), up by the postal boxes on Monument, and by the covered bridge on Howland Hill Road. Except for the muscular juvenile gorging himself on tuna guts, the others had no interest in us humans. They scattered in the light or with the clap of hands.
The elk are truly magnificent, the Roosevelt Elk is a protected species that walk the roads and on to private lands with the authority of a sacred cow in Delhi. Save for a true roadway accident (the most prevalent danger they face) there are few threats to these elk and they hang around eating grass as if they know it. Historically, they were down to double digit numbers in northern California before laws were passed to protect them. Now the herds number above 10,000. It’s common for elk to draw a crowd but be cautious around these especially territorial animals. They are hundreds of pounds of beauty, raw energy, and guile, so watch out around them.
The Columbia black-tail deer are more elusive then elk. I’ve seen hundreds of elk in the past few years but only a dozen or so deer (and the same number again on the sides of roads, dead from being hit by cars). They are elusive, stick to overgrown brush that masks their scent and like to travel at night. On a late-night approach to the bnb, be cautious on the roads nearby. These critters can come out of nowhere and surprise you.
And while bears are less of a problem then you might think, some nervous nellies will walk the trails with concern. I’ve never spotted a bear in the national park though I’ve seen plenty of bear poo, so I know they are out there (watching??).
There aren’t heaps of wildlife in the forest here but knowing the most common might help you spot one of two on your stay. Elk are gimmes. You’ll need more luck when it comes to the bear and deer.