Mt St Helens Wildlife

Mt St Helens Wildlife...After the Eruption

Gerry J. Lamarre is a world-class wildlife photographer headquartered outside of Castle Rock. Over the years, Gerry has collected over 500,000 different photographs, and sells them professionally through gallerys and on his web site at, which also contains an e-mail link. Gerry actively ventures into the wilderness to see his wildlife subjects.In order to photograph the animals, he finds it necessary to sail, scuba, kayak, river raft, canoe, mountain climb, backpack and horse ride. Some of his trips have consisted of 40 days of rafting and climbing in northern British Columbia, 10 weeks of horse packing in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, 30 days sailing off the coast of British Columbia, and countless 3-10 day adventures throughout the Continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada.

There are many great places to photograph and observe wildlife in our Mount St. Helens backyard.

The Eagles Have Returned

It has been decades since you could count a handful of bald eagles feeding on spawning salmon on the river banks of the Toutle, Cowlitz and Green Rivers. The American Bald Eagle is making its return to the Mount St. Helens area and staying. More and more are nesting in the area making them full-time residents.

The main attraction is the abundance of water that provides a source of food for the eagles. You can drive out to the mountain and observe off the road or you can canoe or raft a 20 mile stretch of the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers during safe water levels. In addition to eagles, you may also see hawks, geese, ducks and deer. Just remember, the quieter you are the closer you can get to the wildlife.

Wild Mustangs are Photogenic

Near Headquarters Road southeast of Toutle, you sometimes can find the elusive wild horses that inhabit Weyerhauser land. The legend of the story is that 20 or 30 years ago a rancher died and left his herd of horses to run wild in the forest. Ten or so years ago a new stallion was added to bring new breeding blood to the herd. The highest count at any one time was estimated to be around 40 horses. And as of this summer, I spotted three small groups consisting of less than 10 animals per group. They consisted of a stallion, mares and offspring. The actual count is uncertain because they behave very wildly. When photographing, it is delightful to see their full, tangled, ungroomed manes and the tails that nearly touch the ground. However mangy they appear, don't let their appearance deceive you. These animals are very muscular and agile as they move very well throughout the blow downs and forest debris. When photographing or viewing these horses, use extreme caution. A 50 mm lens is not adequate. I recommend that you use anywhere from a 300mm to 600mm lenses. One word of caution... be careful of the stallion for he can be aggressive and defensive of his mares. You can drive to different clear- cut areas and use binoculars to spot them in early morning or late afternoon. I have had opportunities to photograph them off and on for 12 years now. They are magnificent to watch and are as elusive as the local elk.

Roosevelt Elk Unmistakeable

The Roosevelt elk cannot be mistaken for Rocky Mountain elk which are found on the other side of our state east of the Cascade mountain range. Roosevelts are bigger bodied, more massive and support racks with distinctive cluster points around the royal tine. The elk are still one of the main attractions for the Mount St. Helens area in the winter time. They can be seen more readily on the Toutle mud flow and there are many turnouts on the road up to Cold Water Visitors Center that offer great opportunities to view and photograph. Most shots will be long distance, but nevertheless, enjoyable. Bring warm clothes, binoculars, a tripod and lots of film. If you get lucky, you might even spot a cougar, for they too are making a return to this area.


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