The Lakedale Guide to San Juan Island Wildlife

by | Mar 11, 2023 | All About Lakedale, Blog, Wildlife | 0 comments

We are blessed to live in an area full of native and unique wildlife. The San Juan Islands are a veritable paradise of birds, deer, foxes, fish, whales, and critters of all kinds. As a refresher, check out what our Operations Director, Richard, had to say about the wildlife we see at Lakedale and the many species that bring visitors to the San Juans here

In this guide to San Juan Island wildlife, we’ll dig into what we see on our grounds and the best times to spot them. Lakedale is a great place for bird-watching, so we’ve been hard at work putting together a book about what you might encounter while you’re here. 

Cover of Birds of Lakedale book

In light of our forthcoming Birds of Lakedale mini book, let’s start with our feathered friends. Bird’s the word here! 

Birds of Lakedale

Over the years, we’ve made more than one beaked bestie, including the friendliest of feathered fowl, Commodore Steve, a starling who was the star of our Summer 2018 season. You may be most familiar with the elegant Trumpeter Swan couples who visit us annually, though. We’ve seen as many as 14 gliding around the lakes in pairs, honking, and telling stories only they know. These migratory birds mate for life and live in the wild 20-30 years, virtually guaranteeing repeat visits—granted, we continue to provide them the level of service they’ve come to know and expect. 

Our annual Trumpeter Swan guests also put “snow birding” in perspective. They stay with us each winter (typically between November and March, but the exact dates are moving targets) and come from Alaska, which makes Lakedale a much balmier layover than what probably comes to mind when you think of skipping town for the winter. 

trumpeter swans at Lakedale

Not only are they North America’s biggest bird, but they’re also often quite reclusive, so seeing them on our lakes can be a real treat! We’ve spent many a sunset lazing on the Lodge deck, watching them on Dream Lake, completely mesmerized by their sonorous conversations. Seeing our Trumpeters during this time guarantees you a quieter stay overall, but not when they really get to chattin’! 

Ducks, Hawks, Quail, Towees, and Bald Eagles Galore

duck at Lakedale

Often paddling in parallel with the Trumpeters (but not too close lest they invade our special guests’ special time), ducks abound at Lakedale. They, too, are often spotted in pairs, with males sporting bright plumage to show off for their female paramores. 

California quails at Lakedale

We’re also no strangers to Great Horned Owls, bald eagles, towees, woodpeckers, or California quail. What sets this sweet little waddler apart is its forward-dropping plume. If you have a birding book, you can check off hundreds of species while on San Juan!  

Fish in The Lakes

We stock our 40 acres of lakes every year before busy season with Rainbow Trout and Largemouth Bass. It’s become a super-fun tradition for our team and our guests. We host an annual contest of who can catch the biggest fish, with photos of you and your catches displayed at the General Store. You can read more about that and enjoy a deeper dive into all things small and finned here.


Other Critter Encounters at Lakedale

Birds provide quite the playground for the felines you may see roaming around the grounds. They don’t *belong* to us per se, but does any cat really belong to anyone? Asking for ourselves. 

While you’re exploring Lakedale, don’t be surprised if you encounter young river otters wrestling in the lakes, find a raccoon rummaging through your unsecured (tsk!) trash, see a black-tailed deer grazing in the grass, or spot a red fox roaming The Meadow. Red foxes patrol the grounds relatively frequently, but black foxes are actually more common on San Juan Island. The fact that there are more black foxes than red foxes on San Juan Island is somewhat ironic given that black foxes are rare in most other places in the world. It is something that makes us unique, though. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that red foxes were brought to San Juan Island to help solve a booming rabbit problem, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

red fox at Lakedale

No season is the same at Lakedale, and we can never predict which critters will find food and refuge in our 82 acres. We love that they find comfort with us, just as we hope our guests do. We respect their space, keep a safe distance, and tend to let them do their thing—unless they’re raccoons rifling through the trash, of course. But, sometimes, even then… 

Viewing Wildlife on San Juan

No matter where your adventures take you on the island, you’re bound to run into a new species of something exciting. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or fiftieth, you’ll want to add a wildlife tour to your itinerary. From orca whales to humpbacks, bald eagles, Mouflon sheep, and Sika deer, you’ll want to keep your binoculars handy to catch sights of them all. We wrote a whole guide to our favorite wildlife and whale watching tours here. We have a hunch you’ll get a big kick out of the wildlife on Spieden Island, which has a storied history of its own. 

We can’t wait to see what wildlife finds you on your next trip to see us. Please share if you capture a photo or video (for the record, we very much support no phone zones, especially while on vacation). We’re @lakedaleresort on Instagram and Facebook and always share what we’re seeing around the property, too! 

Many thanks to our friend, John Miller, for the amazing wildlife photos!

whalw watching with orca whale in San Juan Islands

Thanks to San Juan Safaris for this great orca pix!



Call now: 800-617-2267
4313 Roche Harbor Rd,
Friday Harbor, WA