Where to Find Minnesota Wildlife

By Erica Wacker

BearFrom zoos to aquariums to the great outdoors, wildlife can be found virtually everywhere in Minnesota. Native species including loons, bald eagles, moose and bears are prevalent in the state's parks, forests, and designated wildlife management areas and refuges. For more exotic species, zoos and aquariums throughout Minnesota are home to everything from lions to monkeys to sharks.

The Great Outdoors

To observe animals in their natural habitat, birding trails, wildlife management areas and refuges are good places to start. The Department of Natural Resources has designated more than 1,400 wildlife areas, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has 20 wildlife refuges. For bird-watching, check out the Pine to Prairie, Minnesota River Valley, Great River and North Shore birding trails.

Moose, deer, foxes, bobcats, more than 240 species of birds and the largest population of timber wolves in the lower 48 states make their home in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest. Along the Mississippi River, common species include bald eagles, river otters, freshwater mussels and numerous waterbirds.

In addition to all of the wildlife you're likely to stumble upon while hiking, boating, or even walking down a city street, several sites are dedicated to wildlife viewing, education and preservation. In Ely, a trio of bears reside at the North American Bear Center, and the International Wolf Center is home to a pack of wolves and accompanying exhibits. In southern Wabasha, the National Eagle Center offers opportunities to observe golden and bald eagles in the wild as well as daily programs with its five resident eagles.

Zoos

In the Twin Cities, two zoos welcome animal lovers to view their favorite species up close. At Como Zoo in St. Paul, gorillas, lions, giraffes and polar bears are among the highlights, and Sparky the sea lion puts on a daily show in the summer months. To the south, the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley has more than 500 animals on six trails -- including tigers, sea otters and penguins -- and a year-round bird show.

Australian, African, Asian and North American animals live at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, which also features a barnyard, nocturnal animal building and Primate Preservation Center. In southern Owatonna, alligators, snakes, and other scaly and slippery animals are the focus at the Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo.

Aquariums

The Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth focuses on freshwater creatures and habitats, specifically those found right outside the aquarium's doors in Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes. In addition to fish, visitors will see river otters, bald eagles, herons and turtles.

At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 underwater creatures, including jellyfish, stingrays, sharks and a green sea turtle. Walk through the 300-foot-long ocean tunnel to see these animals swimming all around you.