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Mammal Checklists of the United States

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

small state map showing location

Bloomington, Minnesota


This land had been carved by glaciers and scoured by the River Warren when the last ice age ended about 11,000 years ago. The earth warmed to the sun again. Life returned and primitive man followed the herds into the Minnesota Valley.

Buffalo, elk, bear, and wolves all lived here. The Dakota Indians knew them as an integral part of their lives and legends. To most of us, they are no more than pictures in a book, flat with neither dimension nor life. . . they have been gone too long.

This is a checklist of the 50 mammals which remain and the habitats where they may be found. Many are fairly common, adaptable, and readily seen. Others are rare, secretive, or appear only at night. Should you spot an unlisted, rare, or uncommon species; please contact the refuge office. We would appreciate your help in updating our records.

Scientific names and the order in which they appear follow Jones, et al., "Revised Checklist of North American Mammals North of Mexico, 1975"; while common names are taken from Burt & Grossenheider "A Field Guide to the Mammals, 1952."

Codes used for habitat types and occurrence are:

1 - oak savanna and dry prairie uplands
2 - floodplain forest and low prairie or meadow
3 - marsh and open water

a - abundant
c - common
u - uncommon
r - rare

OPOSSUM                                         1    2    3

Virginia Opossum                                r    r    -  
(Didelphis virginiana)
The 'possum is cat-sized but heavier with a white face, thin black ears,
and a scaly rat-like tail. They are North America's only marsupial (head
and body = 15"-20")

SHREWS 1 2 3 Masked Shrew - u - (Sorex cinereus) Gray brown and mouselike, masked and other shrews must consume at least their own weight in small animals and insects daily to keep their hearts beating more than 1200 times/minute (2"-2 1/2") Arctic Shrew - r - (Sorex arcticus) Dull brown in the summer, their winter coat is tricolored with a dark brown back, light brown sides, and a lighter belly (2 3/4"-3") Pigmy Shrew - r - (Microsorex hoyi) Minnesota's smallest mammal, the pygmy shrew weighs about as much as a dime (2"-2 1/2") Shorttail Shrew r c u (Blarina brevicauda) Lead-colored with no external ears and very small eyes, the saliva of this shrew is poisonous (3"-4")
MOLES 1 2 3 Eastern Mole u u - (Scalopus aquaticus) Makes ridge-covered burrows just under the surface of the ground by pushing through the soil with its piglike snout and spadelike front feet (4 1/2"-6 1/2") Starnose Mole - r - (Condylura cristata) A small dark brown mammal which compensates for a poor sense of smell by having 22 fingerlike tentacles around the end of its nose (4 1/2"-5")
BATS 1 2 3 Little Brown Myotis - c - (Myotis lucifugus) Long glossy tips on the back of this small brown bat help to identify this summer resident (1 1/2"-2") Keen Myotis - r - (Myotis keenii) A dark brown, larger-eared bat which may hibernate here during the winter (1 1/2"-2") Silver-haired Bat - r - (Lasionycteris noctivagans) A dark brown bat easily recognized by white-tipped hairs in the middle of its back (2 1/3") Eastern Pipistrel - r - (Pipistrellus subflavus) A slow, erratic flyer; this small bat is a yellow to drab brown (2") Big Brown Bat - c - (Eptesicus fuscus) A large dark brown bat with black membranes which lives throughout North America (2 3/4") Red Bat - c c (Lasiurus borealis) This bat is brick to rusty red colored with white-tipped hairs (2") Hoary Bat - c - (Lasiurus cinereus) Yellow brown to mahogany-brown, also with white-tipped hairs over most of its body (3 1/3")
RABBITS 1 2 3 Eastern Cottontail c a u (Sylvilagus floridanus) This rabbit is America's most important small game mammal but winter concentrations can wreak havoc to shrubs and small trees (14"-17") Whitetail Jackrabbit u - - (Lepus townsendii) A nocturnal species which prefers sand prairies and is distinguished from the Eastern Cottontail by its long ears and larger size (18"-20")
RODENTS 1 2 3 Woodchuck a c - (Marmota monax) Sometimes considered pests, their extensive burrows provide home or refuge for many other mammals. Brown with frosted hairs (16"-20") Richardson Ground Squirrel - u - (Citellus richardsoni) Smoky gray with light bordered brownish tails, "picket pins" sometimes establish colonies around old dumps (7 3/4"-9 1/2") Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel c u - (Citellus tridecemlineatus) True to its name, this small rodent has 13 white stripes on its sides and back (4 1/2"-6 1/2") Franklin Ground Squirrel u u - (Citellus franklinii) This long-tailed gray gopher can climb trees but is usually seen on the ground on sunny days (9"-10") Eastern Chipmunk a c - (Tamias striatus) A pert little squirrel-like mammal which runs with its tail straight up and will climb trees if you approach too closely (5"-6") Eastern Gray Squirrel c c - (Sciurus carolinensis) The common town and country squirrel with a very bushy tail bordered with white-tipped hairs. These squirrels have become unwitting foresters because they never find all the nuts and acorns they store in the ground (8"-10") Eastern Fox Squirrel - c - (Sciurus niger) Rich yellowish red in color, these squirrels spend much of their time on the ground along wooded field edges (10"-15") Red Squirrel - c - (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) Noisy little squirrels with a light ring around their eyes, they store their food in caches and can cause considerable damage around campsites (7"-8") Southern Flying Squirrel - u - (Glaucomys volans) Olive brown fur above and white below but rarely seen because they are nocturnal. A folded layer of loose skin along each side of their bodies enables these animals to glide from tree to tree (5 1/2") Plains Pocket Gopher a - - (Geomys bursarius) These solitary dwellers like open areas with loose soil where they build large fan-shaped mounds when excavating their tunnels (6"-9") Plains Pocket Mouse u - - (Perognathus flavescens) Pale yellow with a white belly, these small mammals are nocturnal, have fur-lined cheek pouches and prefer sandy soil (2 1/2"-2 3/4") Beaver - - c (Castor canadensis) The largest rodent in Minnesota, beavers build stick and mud lodges and dams where suitable trees are abundant, and bank dens elsewhere in the Minnesota Valley (25"-30") Western Harvest Mouse r - - (Reithrodontomys megalotis) Rare in the area, this prairie mouse builds grass nests in dense vegetation (2 4/5"-3") Deer Mouse u - - (Peromyscus maniculatus) Grey buff to deep red-brown with a handsome two-colored tail that is dark above and light below (3"-4") White-footed Mouse c c - (Peromyscus leucopus) Upper parts pale to rich red-brown, belly and feet white. Prefers deciduous woods and brushy areas (3 3/5"-4 1/5") Gapper's Red-backed Vole - u - (Clethrionomys gapperi) Distinctive for its rusty-red and yellowish color, it can be found on damp forest floors where there are rotting logs and stumps (2 2/3"-4 2/3") Meadow Vole - u - (Microtus pennsylvanicus) Most widely distributed of the voles. Usually dark brown fur on top with a silvery or gray belly (3 1/2"- 5") Muskrat - - a (Ondatra zibethica) Dense rich brown fur and a long scaly tail distinguish one of the most important mammals on the refuge. They build conical houses in the marsh and are important managers of marsh vegetation (10"-14") Norway Rat u - - (Rattus norvegicus) Commonly found in areas of human habitation where it finds suitable food and cover (7"-10") House Mouse u - - (Mus musculus) Occasionally found in fields and uplands near buildings, this is another urban immigrant from the Old World (3 1/5"-3 2/5") Meadow Jumping Mouse r c - (Zapus hudsonicus) Small with long tails and large hind feet, these olive-yellow mice have been mistaken for frogs (3"-3 1/3")
COYOTE/FOX 1 2 3 Coyote r - - (Canis latrans) Like a medium-sized dog except with a more pointed nose and bushier tail, coyotes are adaptable but rare here (32"-37") Red Fox c u - (Vulpes fulva) Dark red-yellow back with a white belly and bushy tail. Legs and feet are black (22"-25") Gray Fox u - - (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) Salt and pepper coat except for the rusty yellow sides of its neck, ears, legs, and feet. Gray foxes are mostly nocturnal and secretive (21"-29")
RACCOON 1 2 3 Raccoon - c c (Procyon lotor) Widely distributed mammals with black bandit masks, 'coons' are primarily nocturnal and will eat almost anything (18"-28")
WEASEL/SKUNK/OTTER 1 2 3 Ermine/Shorttail Weasel - u - (Mustela ermina) Ermine are dark brown with white underparts and feet in the summer and are all white in the winter except for their black-tipped tails (6"-9") Least Weasel u - - (Mustela rixosa) Looks like a small version of the Ermine except that it has no black tip at the end of its tail. Feeds primarily on mice (5 1/2"-6 1/2") Longtail Weasel - u - (Mustela frenata) Most widely distributed weasel. Larger than the Ermine but without the white line down the inside of that species' hind leg (8"-10 1/2") Mink - - u (Mustela vison) Mink have valuable rich dark brown fur with a white chin patch and are never found very far from water (12"-17") Badger r - - (Taxidea taxus) Yellow-gray with a white stripe from the nose over the top of its head. Black feet. Badgers are furious diggers and fearless if cornered (18"-22") Spotted Skunk u u - (Spilogale putoris) Black with a white spot on its forehead and under each ear and 4 broken white stripes along its neck, back, and sides. Known some places as the Hydrophobia Cat because they may occasionally have rabies (9"-13 1/2") Striped Skunk c c - (Mephitis mephitis) The size of a house cat and easily recognized by its black body and narrow white stripe up the middle of its forehead (13"-18") River Otter - - r (Lutra canadensis) A large weasel-like mammal with valuable rich brown fur, otters will often den in abandoned beaver bank lodges. They are playful, sociable, and rare (26"-30")
DEER 1 2 3 Whitetail Deer c a c (Odocoileus virginianus) The most visible mammal on the refuge easily identified by the white flag of its tail moving back and forth as it runs into the forest (3-3 1/2 feet tall)
For additional information, and to report unusual animal sightings, please contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
                 3815 East 80th Street
                 Bloomington, Minnesota 55425-1600
                 Telephone: 612/335-2323 Visitor Center
                            612/335-2299 Recorded Information

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Mammals of the Minnesota Valley 
     National Wildlife Refuge, recreation area and state trail.  U.S. 
     Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Mammals of the Minnesota Valley 
     National Wildlife Refuge, recreation area and state trail.  U.S. 
     Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.  Jamestown, ND: Northern 
     Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 22MAY98).

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