Prior to European expansion, large mammals such as bison, antelope, and elk roamed throughout the area that is now Pipestone National Monument. Today, over 25 species of primarily smaller mammals (rabbits, beavers, thirteen-lined ground squirrels) and deer call the Monument home. The following mammals have been recorded within the Monument's boundaries:
Opossum (Didelphis virginianus)
Size: ~2.5' long (nose to tail), between 8 and 13 lbs.
Appearance: Thick bodies with (typically) grayish fur and a lighter colored face. They have large ears and a long, bare tail that they use to help with climbing. Their feet have an opposable toe, which also helps with climbing.
Diet: They will scavenge roadkill, eat grass and nuts, hunt smaller animals, and dig through human containers such as dumpsters looking for food. It should be noted however, that they do humans a huge favor since they absolutely love to eat ticks, so try to avoid hitting these animals if you see them while driving!
"Playing possum": This saying originated from the opossum's tendency to play dead in the face of predators in order to confuse them long enough to make an escape.
Their unique distinction: Opossums are the only marsupial in North American and Canada. Their babies are born the size of a honey bee, and crawl into their mother's pouch to finish developing.
Types: Masked Shrew and short-tailed shrew
Size: 2.5-4" long (masked), 4-5.5" long (short-tailed)
Appearance: Shrews have gray, brown, or black velvety fur. Their faces are pointy and the masked shrew has a long, skinny tail while the short-tailed, as the name implies, has a short tail.
Diet: Insects such as ants and spiders as well as small mammals. Shrews have a poisonous saliva that helps them dominate prey and can cause severe pain in humans for days.
An Impressive Metabolism: The heart of a shrew beats approximately 1200 times per minute, resulting in a feeding habit that occupies their time both day and night.
Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Size: Body length is approximately 4-5" with a wingspan of 13-16"
Appearance: Their fur is brown, their ears are short and blunt, and they have a broad mouth and snout.
Diet: Mostly they eat beetles, but they also prey on flies, wasps, moths, and other flying insects.
Do they really have bad eyesight? No, this is a myth. They have very good eyesight, but hunt at night when it's naturally more difficult to see small, flying insects. That is when they use echolocation to accurately target their prey.
Their Benefit to Humans is Enormous: Bats have voracious appetites, consuming upwards of 1,000 insects each hour during the night. In fact, one colongy of 150 big brown bats can protect a farm from over 30 million rootworms every summer.
White-Nose Syndrome: Millions of bats are being killed in North America by this fungus, and there is a world-wide effort to stop the spread of the disease. It is widely considered the worst wildlife disease in modern times.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Size: ~3' long, 9-12" tall at the shoulder, and 15-23 lbs.
Appearance: Dark gray and black fur, a ringed and bushy tail, black markings on the face that strongly resemble a mask, and extremely dexterous hands.
Diet: Frogs, insects, crayfish, fruit, nuts, and bird eggs. In urban areas, they are known for dumpster-diving and eating whatever food they can get their hands on.
Natural Problem Solvers: Raccoons are known for their intelligence. In the early 1900s, researchers put food in a box locked by several devices, including locks, latches, levers, hooks and more. The raccoons were able to figure out 11 of the 13 different mechanisms.
Fit for a President: President Calvin Coolidge had a racoon named Rebecca as a pet in the White House. She frequently accompanied him on walks around the White House grounds.
Dogs and Foxes (Canidae)
Types: Red fox and coyote
(Red fox) ~15-20" tall at the shoulder, 3' long, 8-15 lbs.
(Coyote) ~21-24" tall at the shoulder, 3.5-4.5' long, 15-50 lbs.
(Red fox) Rust-red fur with a white-tipped tail. Black legs, ears, and nose.
(Coyote) Gray and reddish-brown fur with tall, pointed ears and narrow face.
(Red fox) Barks and shrill screams
(Coyote) Short, high-pitched howls interspersed with yips and barks
Diet: Both of these animals eat meat, but will occasionally eat vegetation as well. In fact, foxes are one of the few predators who will bury surplus food they gather for future use.
Formidable Athletes: You have to be quick to get away from both of these predators. A coyote can run up to 40 mph and the red fox can clear 15 feet in a single leap!
Types: Woodchuck, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and fox squirrel
(Woodchuck) 16-20" long with 6" tail, 4-13 lbs.
(Thirteen-lined ground squirrel) ~11" long (nose to tail), 4-9 oz. in weight.
(Fox squirrel) ~20" long with 8" tail, 1.5-2 lbs.
(Woodchuck) Grizzled brown fur with frosted-looking guard hairs and a bushy tail; short limbs with thick claws.
(Thirteen-lined ground squirrel) Brown with 13 alternating brown and tan stripes and spots running the length of its body.
(Fox squirrel) Very large squirrel with reddish-gray fur. They are the biggest tree squirrel in Minnesota.
(Woodchuck) Vegetation, nuts, tree bark, and small critters like snails. Unlike other members of the squirrel family, they do not bury food for future use.
(Thirteen-lined ground squirrel) Mostly grass and seeds, but they will eat insects like crickets and caterpillars.
(Fox squirrel) Mostly nuts, but they will also take advantage of mushrooms and maple seeds.
An Underground Network: Thirteen-lined ground squirrels build short, dead-end tunnels for emergencies and more elaborate burrows for nesting and hibernating. Woodchucks will build separate chambes in their burrows as well - even for sanitary purposes. They are known to build one burrow for nesting/hibernating and another for going to the bathroom!
Last updated: March 18, 2019