Welcome to our wildlife glossary page. Here you'll find—in alphabetical order—explanations for many of the words, scientific terms, and phrases we use in our wildlife resource library and the stories we publish on our blog.

If you have any specific questions about Washington wildlife, wildlife rehabilitation, or the work we do here at PAWS Wildlife Center, please contact our experts via or 425.787.2500 x817.


Abundant: Existing or available in large quantities; plentiful.

Anthropogenic: Of or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature.

Apex predator: A predator residing at the top of the food chain, such as the wolf.


Caching: Food storing behavior (from the verb meaning to store away in hiding or for future use).

Cambium: The living layer just below the bark on trees.

Canid: A member of the family that includes dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals and coyotes.

Carcass: The dead body of an animal.

Carnivorous: Eats only meat.

Carrion: Carcasses of animals.

Commensal: Living with, on or in another, without injury to either.

Commensalism: A relationship between two organisms where one receives benefit and the other is not affected.

Coniferous: Producing cones and evergreen needles.

Crepuscular: Active at dawn and dusk.


Deciduous: Shedding its leaves annually.

Disperse: Distribute or spread over a wide area.

Diurnal: Active during the day.


Embryonic: Immature or underdeveloped.

Endemic: Native or restricted to a certain country or area.

Extirpation: Local extinction, or when a species ceases to exist in a geographic area.


Flagship species: A species that is selected to act as an ambassador icon or symbol for a defined habitat, issue, campaign or environmental cause. 

Fossorial: Adapted to digging, like moles.


Game animal: An animal hunted for sport or for food.

Genus: Rank used in biological classification between family and species.


Habituated: Accustomed or used to.

Herbivorous: Eating only plants.

Hydrology: Water's movement in relation to land.


Indicator species: An organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a specific environmental condition. They can signal a change in the biological condition of a particular ecosystem and be used to diagnose the health of an ecosystem.

Introduced: A species living outside its native distributional range which has arrived as a direct result of human activity.


Keystone species: A plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in an ecosystem.


Leveret: Baby hare.


Marsupial: Pouched mammal, such as the opossum.

Mast: Fruit of forest trees such as acorns, nuts and berries.

Morphology: Form and structure of organisms.


Nocturnal: Active at night.


Olfaction: The action or capacity of smelling; the sense of smell.

Omnivorous: Eating both plants and meat.

Opportunistic: Able to take advantage of whatever food source or habitat is available.

Order: Taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms.

Organism: An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.


Pelt: Fur.

Phocid: Comes from the family Phocidea, any of several seal species (including the Harbor Seal) lacking external ear flaps and having a stiff hairlike coat, with fore limbs reduced to swimming flippers.

Physiological demands: Needs that are required for survival.

Pinniped: A carnivorous aquatic mammal of the order Pinnipedia, such as the Harbor Seal.

Polydactyl: Having more than five fingers or toes on one or each hand and foot.

Precocial: Hatched or born in an advanced state and able to feed itself almost immediately, as with waterfowl some species of rabbits.


Sedge: A type of grass.

Semi-aquatic mammal: A warm-blooded vertebrate animal who spends time on land and in the water.

Sexually dimorphic: The condition in which the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs. Many birds are sexually dimorphic.

Solitary: The state of being alone.


Take: To harass, hunt, capture or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill.

Territorial: Protection of an animal's home range/area.

Territory: An area defended by an organism or a group of similar organisms.


Understory vegetation: In forestry and ecology, refers to plant life growing beneath the forest canopy without penetrating it to any extent.

Ungulate: A hoofed mammal such as deer, elk, moose, and cow.


Velvet: Vascular skin on the antlers of animals such as deer, which delivers nutrients to the growing bone.


Watershed: An area of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins or seas.