Minnesota is fairly unique among the 50 United States in that it does not have an official state animal, 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 repeatedly failed to do so. Most proposals have centered on the white-tailed deer or the timber wolf, both of which are native to the Minnesota forests and are familiar to most residents. There also is no official state nickname, though an unofficial one is “The Gopher State,” leading some to believe, though mistakenly, that the gopher is the state animal. Minnesota does have a state bird, insect, and fish, however.
Understanding State Animals Generally
Many states have declared certain animals as the “official state animal,” though this designation is usually more a formality than a truly meaningful declaration. The symbols and insignia of most states are proposed by the citizens, often in tribute to something that is native to the land or beloved by large percentages of the population; that proposal is then forwarded to the legislature, which votes to make the item an “official” state symbol. Animals that are “state animals” don’t usually get any special privileges or protections, though this can vary based on location.
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There have been several attempts to declare a state animal of Minnesota, none of which has passed. It can be somewhat difficult to identify a precise reason for this failure, but indecision could be at the heart of it. Minnesota is home to many animals, and there is often public support for more than one at once. In busy legislative sessions, it can sometimes also be difficult to get lawmakers to vote on bills that seem trivial or frivolous. Of the numerous bills that have been proposed, though, the white-tailed deer tends to be one of the most popular options. This particular deer is commonly hunted in the state and is native to the entire state, living in every county.
The timber wolf is another commonly suggested option. This wolf is also sometimes known as the grey wolf, and is what is known as a “threatened species” in the United States. Its numbers are dwindling, often as a result of human expansion and building projects in areas that once were untouched woodlands. Minnesota is one of the few U.S. states where this wolf still has active population groups.
Minnesota has a number of unofficial state nicknames, one of the most well known of which is “The Gopher State.” This has led many people into 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, a name derived from the state motto, a French phrase that translates to mean “Star of the North,” are also are popular.
Continued Legislative Efforts and Informal Polls
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 typically participate in high numbers and often come up with firm choices. Still, no legislation has ever passed as a result.
Birds, Insects, and Fish
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, a water bird that populates the state’s many lakes and waterways. The state has also named an official insect, which is the monarch butterfly, and a state fish, the walleye.