Much of the excitement and attention around Door County wildlife is focused on plants and plantlife—the huge variety of trees and other greenery found year-round, the famous cherry blossoms in the spring, abundant wildflowers in summer, the cherries themselves in late summer, and of course the stunning colors of the leaves and trees in fall.
But what we often overlook when appreciating local wildlife are the mammals, birds, and fish who live and thrive in our favorite outdoor spaces. If animal and wildlife viewing is on your Door County itinerary, here are the kinds of animals you might see and where to go to safely and respectfully admire them from afar.
Before you head out, be sure to brush up on the Door County Leave No Trace Principles so you can help us keep wildlife wild.
Door County is a true bird-lover’s paradise, with more than 300 species of birds having been spotted in the area over the years, including cranes, chickadees, pelicans, tundra swans, cardinals, indigo buntings, great blue herons, osprey, meadowlarks, waterfowl, woodpeckers, and even bald eagles.
So many winged creatures have flown and lived in these parts, numerous Door County towns have earned the Bird City Wisconsin distinction, including Baileys Harbor, Ephraim, Egg Harbor, Sturgeon Bay, and Washington Island, meaning birds not only gather in these places but they and their habitats are protected and cared for.
Bring your binoculars, camera, and this local Birding Guide (PDF) and observe the beauty of the bird world in these spots:
- Open Door Bird Sanctuary
- The Clearing Folk School
- Door County Land Trust properties
- Plum Island or Washington Island
Forest-dwelling creatures such as white-tail deer, gray and red squirrels, chipmunks, badgers, red and gray foxes, fishers, beavers, and a host of other small mammals and rodents can be found throughout the woods, forests, and wetlands of Door County.
And although you’d probably prefer not to run into one, black bears and grey wolves have also been spotted on the peninsula. Bears and wolves are definitely not day-to-day concerns in Door County and are typically very fearful and therefore avoidant of humans, but these predators do live in or wander into the county and make very occasional appearances.
Your best bet for spotting deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and other mammals are areas such as:
In Lake Michigan, fish enthusiasts can catch (or catch-and-release) trout, sturgeon, bass, chinook salmon, whitefish, walleye, and northern pike. In inland lakes, they’ll find panfish like bluegill and perch. Some fish can be found in shallower waters and can be caught and admired from marinas or kayaks, but other require full boat trips out onto the lake or Green Bay.
In addition to fish, the Door County area has plenty of other water-dwelling wildlife, such as:
- Amphibians: frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts
- Reptiles: turtles and nearly 10 species of snakes
- Mollusks: snails, slugs, and mussels
Spotting local fauna won’t necessarily be easy, quick, or simple; it requires patience, luck, and, most elusively, the cooperation of the animals. You can’t exactly plan out a wildlife sighting or be certain your outing will yield amazing photographs or memories.
But this unpredictability, this risk, is what lends meaning and excitement to wildlife viewing. It’s what makes the reward—whether locking eyes with a white-tailed deer for a fleeting moment or photographing a red-haired pileated woodpecker for an hour—all the sweeter and more satisfying.
More on Protecting Local Wildlife
Keeping wildlife wild and doing one’s part to protect local wildlife of all kinds—from the largest mammals to the tiniest insects—is everyone’s responsibility. Here’s how to do your part.
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