Minnesota is home to abundant populations of several squirrel species. These rodents are so prevalent that the state's department natural resources overseeing hunting and trapping offers an annual squirrel season from mid-September through the end of February. For those not interesting in hunting but focused on observing these playful critters, the state has no restrictions on feeding, although wildlife officials don't recommend the practice in urban areas.
Five Minnesota squirrels are considered tree dwellers: gray, red and fox squirrels, northern flying squirrels and southern flying squirrels. Red squirrels usually have only one litter per year but the other four generally raise two litters each year. These five species of tree-dwelling squirrels don't hibernate -- they're active all year except during extreme weather conditions.
Two ground squirrel species exist in Minnesota. They are Franklin's ground squirrel and the Richardson ground squirrel. Both hibernate, choosing to spend the winter months holed up in underground burrows. The Franklin species prefers tall prairie-grass areas, whereas the Richardson breed likes to make its home in shorter grass. Both are omnivores, eating seeds, nuts, grains, bulbs, green vegetation, insects and other types of small invertebrates. While they do store food in their burrows, they don't eat it over the winter. Rather, it's a buffet awaiting their springtime wake-up call.
Minnesota has two species of chipmunks: least and eastern. Both species feature alternating dark and light stripes running the length of their bodies. The least chipmunk has nine stripes; the eastern chipmunk has seven. The eastern species makes its home near oak trees, which includes nearly the entire state save a few portions of its southern boundary. The least prefers Minnesota's northern coniferous forests.
The 13-lined squirrel technically is a ground squirrel, but Minnesota wildlife specialists place this critter in its own category. This is due to his unique pattern of 13 stripes running the length of his body, from head to tail. There are seven darker stripes separated by six lighter stripes. The stripes feature yellowish dots. They prefer grassland but are also adapted to city life invading attics as a nuisance pest. Despite this, the 13-lined has gained a following as the official mascot of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
- University Of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Richardson's Ground Squirrel
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Mammals Of Minnesota
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Flying Squirrel
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Fox Squirrel
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Gray Squirrel
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Red Squirrel
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel
- Minnesota Wildlife: Flying Squirrel
- T.R. Michels': Minnesota Game Animals And Mammals
- The Website Of Everything: Franklin's Ground Squirrel: The Downcast Omnivores
- Minnesota Nuisance Wildlife Control: Squirrel Removal
- The Bemidji Pioneer: Blane Klemek Column: Minnesota: Home Of Many Squirrels
- Animal Humane Society: Infant And Juvenile Squirrels
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Shadow Tails
- Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources: Chipmunks
- University Of Minnesota Extension: Squirrels
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.