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Minnesota is fairly unique among the 50 United States in that it does not have an official state animal or mammal, whether land- or marine-based. While some coastal states have an official marine animal but no land animal — and some have both — few states have neither. Minnesota has attempted many times to pass legislation to recognize an official state animal but has failed to do so each time. There also is no official state nickname, though an unofficial one is The Gopher State, leading some to think — mistakenly — that the gopher is the state animal.
There have been several attempts to declare a state animal of Minnesota, none of which has passed. The four most popular choices have been the white-tailed deer, the Eastern timber wolf, the black bear and the gopher. The white-tailed deer has garnered the most legislative attempts to make it the state animal of Minnesota.
Minnesota has three state nicknames, one of the most well-known being The Gopher State. This has led to the incorrect assumption that the gopher is the state animal. In fact, the nickname came about because of a political cartoon created in the mid-1800s. The Gopher State nickname remained prominent despite some efforts to refer to Minnesota as The Beaver State because of the animal's large population there. The nicknames the Land of 10,000 Lakes and The North Star State — based on the state motto, a French phrase that translates to mean “Star of the North” — also are popularly used.
The state animal of Minnesota, as of mid-2011, remains undefined and the subject of legislative efforts. A bill submitted in May 2011 again proposed the black bear as the state animal, though no action was immediately forthcoming. Those who tire of waiting for a Minnesota state animal or mammal to be named do have a few official options in related categories. For example, the official state bird is the common loon, while the state insect is the monarch butterfly, and the state fish is the walleye.
Over the years, there have been several attempts to hold polls and contests to see what residents thought the state animal of Minnesota — as well as several other symbols — should be. Citizens participated and often came up with firm choices. Still, no legislation ever passed as a result.
It's kind of hilarious that it's become such an ordeal to vote on an official state mammal for Minnesota. I'm trying to imagine the arguments made while trying to pass this legislature and the amount of time put into this.
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