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Wildlife Notes

Long-billed curlew

Long-Billed Curlews

Long-billed curlews are one of the 13 shorebird species known to nest in North Dakota. Learn more about these neat little birds here.

Bluegill under water

Bluegill Spawn

Bluegill spawn late May and June when water temperatures near 22 C (71.6F). Large males build nests in colonies where they spawn and protect eggs. Some smaller males will mimic females to fertilize eggs instead of nest building and defense.

White-tailed doe (left), mule deer doe (right)

North Dakota Deer Species

North Dakota is home to two deer species, whitetail and mule deer. Learn more about their similarities and differences in this video.

River otter caught on trailcam

River Otters in North Dakota

River otters can be found in certain river corridors in North Dakota. Learn more about this species in this short video.

Rattlesnake

Prairie Rattlesnakes

Contrary to popular rumor, there are prairie rattlesnakes east of the Missouri River in North Dakota. Learn about one population in this video.

Yucca moth

Yucca Moths

Did you know that yucca moths are the yucca plant's only pollinator? Learn more here!

Eastern kingbird

Eastern Kingbird and Chitin Pellets

Eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus), which can be found across North Dakota in the summer, feed primarily on insects during the breeding season. Like owls and some other birds, eastern kingbirds regurgitate pellets of indigestible prey parts, in this case insect chitin. Here is a series of photographs demonstrating this behavior (because we knew everyone would appreciate this visual to start your day out right!)

Tick waving front legs looking for dinner

Ticks

Ticks sit on the tips of vegetation with legs outstretched waiting for dinner to wander by. Learn more about one of North Dakota's least favorite insects here.

Black terns displaying fish flight courting

Black Tern Fish Flight

Black terns (Chlidonias niger) can be found across North Dakota during their breeding season. These birds do a courtship display called a Fish Flight. During a Fish Flight a male tern will catch and carry a fish or other larger food item in an attempt to attract a female. If he finds an interested female, he’ll feed her the item.
Coot chick with pare t

American Coots in North Dakota

American coots are a fairly common water bird in North Dakota. Check out this short video to learn more.

Richardson's ground squirrel

North Dakota Ground Squirrels

So is that ground squirrel you see in the North Dakota countryside a Flickertail or a Franklin's?

Wild turkey

Wild Turkey in North Dakota

Wild turkey, a popular upland game species in North Dakota, are not native to the state. Learn more in this Wildlife Notes post.

Ten-Petal Blazing Star

Ten-Petal Blazing Star

If you want to see one of the state’s most impressive wildflowers in full bloom, you need to know not only where to look, but when.

Weasel with white winter coat

Winter Camouflage

Did you know that North Dakota's two hare (white-tailed jackrabbits and snowshoe hares) and three weasel (long-tailed, short-tailed and least) species turn white in the winter.

Moose with bad case of winter ticks

Winter Ticks and Moose

Stories about ghost moose are being told with increased frequency across the southern portion of moose range in North America. Winter ticks are the cause.

Killdeer chicks

Newly Hatched Killdeer Chicks

Newly hatched killdeer chicks, while not the most graceful of creatures, are arguably one of the most adorable. These chicks were filmed in a gravel area right outside of one of the Department's offices.

Bison in badlands

Bison in North Dakota

Watch this short video for some facts on bison in North Dakota.

Sharptail

Sharp-Tailed Grouse Lek

Arguably one of North Dakota's more entertaining upland game species is the sharp-tailed grouse. In the spring these grouse can be found on leks (dancing grounds) where males display to attract mates.

Dam sign

Lowhead Dam Dangers

Lowhead dams can be great locations for fishing, but they can also present real safety hazards. Find out more in this short video from a 2018 North Dakota Outdoors program.

softshell turtle

Softshell Turtles in North Dakota

Spiny and smooth softshell turtles can be found in the southern portions of the Missouri River System in North Dakota.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtles are common throughout North Dakota. These big turtles can live 40-50 years or more in the wild and can grow to around 65 pounds (though most are in the 10-35 pound range). 

Porcupine in tree

Porcupine Fur

Did you know that porcupines have three types of fur? Learn more in this Wildlife Note post.

Dirt Tube

Dirt Tubes

Have you ever been driving down a back road during the spring and seen tubes of dirt meandering along a ditch? These tubes are created by northern pocket gophers.

Sagebrush lizard

Sagebrush Lizards Escape Mechanism

Did you know that sagebrush lizards (found in the North Dakota badlands) can drop their tail to distract an attacking predator? They escape while the predator goes after their still twitching tail. Later their tail grows back.

Spotted towhee

Spring in North Dakota

Sights and sounds of spring advancing across our North Dakota

Sharp-tailed grouse

Sharp-Tailed Grouse and Snow Caves

One strategy sharp-tailed grouse use to survive winter is to burrow into the snow. Find out more in this post.

Plains gartersnake

Plains Gartersnake

Plains gartersnakes can be found across North Dakota and can be identified by three stripes, with the middle stripe often being bright orange or yellow. 

molt stages in black terns

Molting

All birds molt - shedding their old, weathered feathers with new ones. Some birds molt once per year, others two or three times per year. Sometimes the molt process is simultaneous, such as with waterfowl when they lose all of the primary feathers at once, leaving them flightless for 3-4 weeks. You’ve probably seen them this time of year in a wetland doing a breast-stroke swim to escape to cover.