Click here to view the video on animals in the Basin.
Over thousands of years, fish, birds, rodents, large and small mammals, reptiles, and "microscopic sized critters" have inhabited the ever changing ecology of the Minnesota River Basin. In the earliest days of the river ecology beginning about 10,000 years ago, the landscape was primarily forest which determined the nature of wildlife that was present. As the basin evolved into prairielands, bison, elk, and deer emerged as predominant mammals as a source of food for all cultures. Descriptions of the extent and distribution of wildlife prior to the 20th century are found in the written accounts of explorers and fur traders of European heritage and the cultural knowledge of Dakotah elders.
Today the wildlife in the Minnesota River Basin is monitored by a number of organizations for many purposes including population control, habitat improvement, oversight of hunting and fishing, education programming, and recreation activities. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has several divisions devoted to wildlife management each of which has a web site devoted to reporting on its activities. In recent years, the three Dakotah communities in the Minnesota River Basin at Shakopee, Upper Sioux, and Lower Sioux have employed Natural Resource Managers to oversee wildlife and natural resources on reservation lands.
Other information on the extent of particular wildlife in the Minnesota River Basin may be found by interacting with such wildlife advocacy organizations as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever as well as organizations of bison and elk ranchers.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service manages riverfront lands along the Minnesota River in Hennepin and Scott Counties and monitors and manages wildlife populations and habitat. It's office and interpretive center in Bloomington has considerable information about River Basin wildlife.
The birds of the Minnesota River Basin range across a large number of habitats and wetlands, woods, prairie land, rivers, streams, agricultural areas and urban areas. The Minnesota Chapter of the National Audubon Society has developed a listing of birding trails throughout the Basin.