“Land Animals” and the Ocean

by Youth Ocean Advocate Clara L.

We often see “ocean animals” and “land animals” as living in separate realms independent of each other. However, in the Pacific Northwest, and other coastal regions, animals living throughout the watershed area affect life in the ocean, and the ocean affects the ecology of the entire region. All of the following local animals interact with the marine environment, some in ways more obvious than others.

Black and Grizzly Bears: Both black bears and grizzly bears (also called brown bears) are omnivores, eating a variety of plants, insects, and meat including fish. While vegetation is often a more reliable food source, meat is an important part of the bears’ diet because it is high in calories, protein, and fat. This means that in the Pacific Northwest, salmon and other fish play a crucial role in the bears’ diets.


Black bears are the smaller of the 2 species standing 2 to 3 feet tall and weighing 150 to 500 pounds.


A grizzly bear rests behind a long.  Grizzly bears are larger than black bears with a height of 3 to 3.5 feet and a weight of 200 to 850 pounds.  There are a few remaining in Washington state due to habitat loss, human poaching, and other threats.

North American Beavers: Beavers are considered a keystone species — a species that is essential to the survival of their ecosystem — because they create new wetlands habitat by damning rivers. Wetlands are important to the health of our oceans because they increase water quality downstream by filtering out sediments, pollutants, and nutrients.


A swimming North America Beaver.

American Bison: Bison play a crucial role in the grasslands ecosystem by preventing excess growth of grasses, fertilizing the soil with their manure, and stirring up the soil with their hooves which helps plant seeds and creates pockets of moisture. The grasses that the bison preserve cover 40 percent of North America’s remaining natural landscape, and play a crucial role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, bison were brought to near extinction in the late 1800s due to hide hunting and a variety of other factors. Conservation efforts have led to a partial recovery of bison populations. While bison are not as directly connected to the ocean as bears or beavers, their role in the grasslands ecosystem improves overall environmental health, and provide an example of a somewhat successful population restoration.


A resting male bison.


A female bison nurses her young.


Categories Science

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