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Minnesota Wildlife

Minnesota wildlife is a prime attraction for state visitors.

Minnesota wildlife moose

Hiking the trails will greatly increase your odds of seeing some of our most elusive wild animals, however many of our most spectacular animals and birds may readily show themselves while you are driving through Minnesota. Be ready with your camera!

If you are not seeing wild animals while you are driving or camping, there are several Minnesota wild animal sanctuaries where you can get close up views.

About eight thousand moose call Minnesota home.

You are most likely to see them in the northeast corner of the state though we have seen them much farther south. Elk are quite rare but a few still inhabit the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge located in northwest Minnesota.

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The Deer Family

Any time you drive anywhere in Minnesota you are likely to see members of our Whitetail Deer herd.

They live in all parts of the state--even in the cities and towns.

It is important to be aware of them and be able to avoid a collision.

If you see a young deer, or any baby animal, please leave them alone. Mom is likely near by.

This graphic is courtesy of our daughter Tanya Ramsey.


Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!!

Minnesota wildlife bobcat

Well, not quite. But, while they are extremely elusive, you could see one of the large members of the cat family in Minnesota.

Lynx, bobcats and mountain lions--or cougars--are resident wildlife in Minnesota. Most often they stay "up north". but they have been spotted in almost all areas at one time or another.

The Ely area's wolf center and bear center are great places to learn about, and observe, these wild creatures.

The area around Ely is also one of the best spots in Minnesota to see a moose in the wild. Check out our page about Ely Minnesota vacations.

Minnesota Wildlife

The black bear population in Minnesota has reached nearly 30,000, so your chances of seeing one are pretty good.

Minnesota's black bears are various shades of brown or black but all are members of the same species.

Safety Tips: 

  • Avoid carrying food that a bear might smell.
  • Make noise .. sing, whistle, or clap two sticks together.
  • Hike with a group.
  • Bears are more active at dawn and dusk. Plan your hike for daylight hours.

To guarantee sightings safe of black bears, you can visit the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.

If you are very fortunate, and sharp-eyed, you might spot a river otter, badger, pine marten, or fisher.

Minnesota Wolf Population

Minnesota wildlife wolf

Timber Wolves have staged a comeback in Minnesota with the passing of the Endangered Species Act.

Estimates are that nearly 3,000 wolves now roam the northern forests and sometimes travel to the more southern parts of the state.  About 400 grey wolves live in the Superior National Forest. 

If your desire to see Minnesota wildlife includes spotting wolves, your best bet is to visit the International Wolf Center near Ely, MN.

Birds in Minnesota

Minnesota Wildlife Swans

Migration season in Minnesota is an exciting time to see our birds. We are part of one of North America's primary migration corridors. Hundreds of thousands of bird travel through the state back and forth from spring and winter feed grounds. You might spot pelicans on Pig's Eye Lake near St. Paul, kingfishers and black billed magpies in the wetlands of the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and herons in the marshes of the Mississippi River Valley.

If you want to spot large numbers of eagles you will likely see them at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

Minnesota's state bird is the common loon. We love to hear (and try to imitate!) it's haunting call.

Other water birds include: Canada geese, mallards, and other types of ducks; several types of herons, egrets and cormorants as well as swans and pelicans. 

Each year, from November through February, more than 2,000 trumpeter swans gather at a warm spot on the Mississippi River, at Monticello, MN. You can watch Jim Lawrence feed the swans at 10:30 a.m. every day.  

More than 400 species of songbirds have been observed in Minnesota with at least 300 species being residents of the state.

Magnificent birds of prey that live here include the Great Gray owl, the Snowy owl, red-tailed hawks, falcons, osprey and, of course, the Bald Eagle.

To watch eagles in Minnesota, be sure to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

You can also watch eagle's in winter at Red Wing's Colville Park.

Wild About Minnesota Birds: For Bird Lovers of All Ages

Viewing Minnesota Wildlife

Here are just a few tips about hikes you might take where you are likely to see some of Minnesota's wild species.

  • The Crow Wing Confluence Trail: In the Brainerd Lakes and Mississippi River Valley.
  • The Lake Rebecca Loop: Also in the Brainerd Lakes and Mississippi River Valley.
  • Swinging Bridge and Riverbend Trail and and Riverbend Trail: St. Croix River Valley
  • Bid Woods Loop to Timber Doodle Trail: Southern Minnesota.


Minnesota wildlife eagle


Learn much more about Minnesota wildlife and where you can experience encounters with our animal residents at the Minnesota DNR website.

Minnesota Wildlife

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