23 Types of NOCTURNAL Animals in Minnesota! (2024)

What kinds of nocturnal animals can you find in Minnesota?

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

Heading outside after dark can turn up a surprising number of creatures. Keep reading to learn about what you may encounter!

23 Nocturnal Animals in Minnesota:


#1. Great Horned Owl

  • Bubo virginianus

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

  • Adults are mottled gray-brown with reddish faces.
  • They have prominent feather tufts on their heads and large yellow eyes.

You may not see Great Horned Owls often, but they are common nocturnal animals throughout Minnesota.

These raptors can actually be found from the Arctic south to the tropics. Its habitat is practically unlimited as long as there are trees and rocky nesting sites available. It is hard to find a bird that can adapt better than a Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl Range Map

great horned owl range map

These owls are quite large and look fierce! To identify them, look for their long tufts of feathers that resemble ears on their head. Also, check out their intimidating eyes. I know I would not want to have a staring contest with one!

Both sexes hoot, but males are lower-pitched than females. Males give territorial calls that can be heard a few miles away at night. I don’t think there’s another owl species that does hooting better than a Great Horned Owl!


#2. Coyote

  • Canis latrans

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

  • Their coloring is grayish to yellow-brown on top with white underparts.
  • They have a bushy tail, large, triangular ears, narrow muzzle, black nose, and yellow eyes.

Coyotes are some of the most common nocturnal animals in Minnesota.

These predators have a large range in North America and are found in various habitats, from the tropics to the tundra. They have expanded their range after the near extermination of wolves and cougars by European settlers.

Coyotes are also highly versatile in their food selection. Despite being primarily carnivorous, they consume various plants, including berries, grass, and food crops. They will eat almost anything, and this extensive menu allows them to thrive in nearly every environment in Minnesota!

Even if you haven’t seen one, you’ve probably heard a Coyote before! They’re extremely vocal and communicate through howls, yips, whines, and barks. These vocalizations are used to warn pack mates of danger, greet each other, and play.


#3. Common Nighthawk

  • Chordeiles minor

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

  • Adults are camouflaged gray, white, buff, and black.
  • They have short legs, flat heads, and tiny bills.
  • They have noticeable white patches near the bend of their wings.

These odd-looking birds are one of the most interesting nocturnal animals in Minnesota.

Common Nighthawks are sometimes called “bullbats” because their awkward, erratic flapping makes them look like bats. While they can be tough to spot in the, you’ll probably hear their sharp peent call as they soar through the night skies feeding on insects.

Common Nighthawk Range Map

Common Nighthawk Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may also see males putting on a “booming” display. The males will dive towards the ground, pulling up at the last second.

The air rushing across their wingtips during this maneuver makes a booming or rushing sound like a racecar.


#4. White-Tailed Deer

  • Odocoileus virginianus

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

  • Their coloring is tan or brown during the summer and grayish in winter, with white on the throat, chest, and underside of the tail.
  • The males have antlers, which they shed in the winter.

White-tailed deer have an extensive range in North America and are able to thrive in various habitats, including coniferous, mixed, and deciduous forests, sawgrass and hammock swamps, cactus and thorn brush deserts, brushy areas, and farmlands.

While they are somewhat nocturnal, you’re most likely to see White-tailed Deer in Minnesota around dawn and dusk when they forage.

They are also completely comfortable in suburban environments, and it’s common for them to live in small wooded parks near housing developments. The herd in my neighborhood is particularly fond of our bird feeders. They stop by for a snack almost every evening!


#5. Big Brown Bat

  • Eptesicus fuscus

Types of nocturnal animals in Minnesota

  • Larger-sized bat with around a 12-inch (30 cm) wingspan.
  • Brown fur with black ears, wings, and feet. Wings are hairless.

These flying nocturnal mammals are widespread in Minnesota.

If you know where to look, you’ll find Big Brown Bats inside caves, tunnels, or other human structures.

Big Brown Bat Range Map

big brown bat range map

These bats primarily eat insects, especially ones that fly at night. However, their preference is to eat beetles. The Cucumber Beetle is their favorite, which benefits farmers because these insects are terrible pests for agriculture. Many farmers even use bat boxes to attract Big Brown Bats to their property!

Though rabies is common in all bats, research has shown the disease is rarer in this species. The reason for this fact is that many Big Brown Bats have immunity to rabies. Interestingly, researchers discovered that these rabies antibodies get passed down from generation to generation!


#6. Bobcat

  • Lynx rufus

  • Their coloring is buff to brown, sometimes with a reddish tint, and black and brown spots and stripes.
  • They have facial ruffs, ear tufts, white spots, and short, bobbed tails.

Bobcats are solitary, elusive, shy, nocturnal animals that are rarely seen in Minnesota.

These cats are highly adaptable and found in various habitats. They may be observed in residential areas. However, they generally avoid extensively cleared agricultural lands.

As carnivores, Bobcats are highly skilled hunters. They can climb, run up to 30 miles per hour (48 kph), and leap high enough to grab low-flying birds. They spend their nights patiently stalking their prey until they are close enough to pounce.

The largest threat to Bobcat populations is habitat fragmentation due to their large home ranges and elusive nature. However, rodenticides can also cause issues in populations when they feed on contaminated prey.


#7. Raccoon

  • Procyon lotor

  • Their fur is grayish-brown with 4 to 6 black rings on the tail and a black “mask” marking around the eyes.
  • They have bushy tails and paws with five long, finger-like toes.

Raccoons are one of the most common nocturnal animals in Minnesota around people!

Due to their ability to adapt to humans, Raccoons have an extensive range and are found in forests, wetlands, suburbs, parks, and cities. They generally avoid large open areas and thrive in areas with water sources, abundant food, and den sites.

Raccoons feed on practically anything they can fit in their mouths. Individuals living in urban locations are often larger than those in unpopulated areas because they have adapted to live on human hand-outs, pet food, and trash.

Raccoons often pick up food items and rub them with their paws, sometimes removing unwanted parts. This gives the appearance that they’re washing their food.

Lastly, they have REALLY cute babies. 🙂


#8. Red Fox

  • Vulpes vulpes

  • Their coloring ranges from pale orange or red to deep reddish-brown on their upper parts with white on their underside.
  • They have black feet, a fluffy white-tipped tail, and large, pointy, black-tipped ears.

Red Foxes are arguably the most beautiful nocturnal animal in Minnesota!

These canines are often thought of as cunning and smart, with good reason! They’re excellent hunters and foragers. They also cache food and are adept at relocating it. Although they prefer rabbits, fish, and berries, they won’t hesitate to eat anything readily available.

This species has a distinctive way of hunting mice and other small rodents. Once the prey has been detected, they stand motionless, waiting and listening. Then they leap high into the air and bring their forelegs straight down, pinning the rodent. Their incredible hearing makes it easy for them to hunt at night.


#9. Striped Skunk

  • Mephitis mephitis

  • Their coloring is black with two thick white stripes running down the back and tail and a thin white stripe from the snout to the forehead.
  • They have a bushy black tail, small triangular heads, short ears, and black eyes.

Striped Skunks have perhaps the worst reputation of any nocturnal animal in Minnesota.

They’re best known for their unusual defense system. When threatened, a Striped Skunk will first stomp its feet or handstand as a warning.

If these aren’t heeded, the skunk bends its hindquarters to face the animal and releases its defensive smelly spray. The unpleasant, oily liquid can reach up to 20 feet (6 m) and may cause nausea, intense pain, and temporary blindness.

Despite their foul odor, Striped Skunks provide benefits to humans in the form of pest control. In the summer, they’re largely insectivorous and spend their nights feeding heavily on grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and bees. The best thing to do if you see a skunk is to give it space. They usually move on quickly when they notice humans!

These small mammals are typically common in suburban areas but are rarely seen because they are nocturnal. As seen below, they often visit bird feeders to eat leftover seeds on the ground!


#10. Eastern Cottontail

  • Sylvilagus floridanus

  • Their coloring is reddish-brown on the upper body with white on the underparts and tail.
  • They have distinctive, large eyes and a round, fluffy tail.

These nocturnal animals are vulnerable to many predators in Minnesota, so they require a habitat with good cover. Areas with a mix of grasses, dense shrub thickets, blackberry bushes, and brush piles are ideal.

One of their favorite places to nest is suburban yards! So, if you notice Eastern Cottontails hanging around your property in the evening, be careful when you mow your lawn. Although rabbit nests are usually slightly below ground level, lawn equipment is still dangerous for baby rabbits and mothers.

Eastern Cottontails consume a wide range of plant materials. They can be a nuisance for gardeners by eating garden plants and flowers. However, in winter, they eat woody materials from birch, oak, dogwood, sumac, and maple trees.


#11. Spring Peeper

  • Pseudacris crucifer

spring peeper

  • Adults are small and range from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) long.
  • They’re typically tan or brown, with the females being lighter in color.
  • Both males and females usually feature a darker cross or ‘X’ on their back.

You’ll typically spot Spring Peepers on the forest floor among the leaves. However, they do have large toe pads that they use for climbing trees.

Spring Peeper Range Map

spring peeper range map

You can find them in ponds and small bodies of water in the spring, where they breed and lay eggs. After hatching, the young frogs remain in the tadpole stage for about three months before leaving the water.

These tiny nocturnal frogs are the sound of spring throughout Minnesota.

Spring Peepers get their name from their distinctive nighttime spring chorus. They’re thought to sound a bit like baby chickens’ peeps, and they are most often heard in early spring! LISTEN BELOW!


#12. Gray Tree Frog

  • Dryophytes versicolor

gray tree frog

  • Adult body lengths range from 1.5 to 2 inches (4-5 cm).
  • Mottled gray, green, and brown coloring. Look for a whitish spot beneath each eye.
  • Bumpy skin, short snouts, and bright orange on the undersides of their legs.

Gray Tree Frogs are nocturnal animals that can be incredibly hard to find. They’re active at night and during the day.

Chameleons aren’t the only animals that can change colors! This incredible frog can slowly change colors to match what it’s sitting on to camouflage itself. They can vary from gray to green or brown. It’s common for their back to display a mottled coloring, much like lichen.

Gray Tree Frog Range Map

gray tree frog range map

Gray Tree Frogs are easier to hear than to see. Listen for a high trill that lasts about 1 second, which is commonly heard at night in spring and summer.


#13. Eastern Red Bat

  • Lasiurus borealis

  • Medium-sized tree bat with thick, long fur. Ears are short and round.
  • Males have distinctive rusty red-colored fur, and females have more of a soft shade of red.
  • Both have white patches of fur on their shoulder.

These nocturnal animals like to spend their days roosting in trees in Minnesota.

Eastern Red Bats often roost hanging from a single foot, allowing their body to twist slightly in the breeze. This helps give them the appearance of a dead leaf!

These bats are relatively fast flyers with good maneuverability. They are insectivorous, which means they prey primarily on different insects, with their favorite being moths. You might spot them zooming around lights at night.

Eastern Red Bat Range Map

eastern red bat range map

Eastern Red Bats have few predators. However, sometimes hawks, aggressive Blue Jays, and crows attack them. This bat is also killed by flying into cars or wind turbines. Unfortunately, this species has the second-highest mortality rate from wind turbines.


#14. Barred Owl

  • Strix varia

  • Adults are mottled brown and white with large, dark eyes.
  • They have yellow bills and rounded faces.

Barred Owls (aka the Hoot Owl) are a common nocturnal animal in Minnesota. The name “barred” derives from the horizontal stripes of alternating light brown and dark brown on the wings, back, and tail.

Barred Owls are incredibly curious and inquisitive and are known to watch humans as you walk past them. Even if they get nervous as you approach, they typically just fly off to another tree to continue observing.

Barred Owl Range Map

barred owl range map

Barred Owls rely on mice and other small rodents but eat just about anything made of meat!

And speaking of classical noises, their hoots are the classic sounds featured in movies and scary Halloween tales. It’s easy to recognize their call as it sounds like they are asking, “Who cooks for you?Barred Owls will sound off during daylight hours, too, and they mate for life.


#15. Black-crowned Night Heron

  • Nycticorax nycticorax

black crowned night heron

  • A relatively small, stocky, compact heron.
  • Appears a bit hunchbacked, as it often tucks its neck into its body.
  • Black head and back, which contrast against its white belly and gray wings.

Black-crowned Night Herons are nocturnal birds found in wetlands across Minnesota. In fact, they are the most widespread heron in the world, but they are often hard to actually locate and see!

Black-crowned Night Heron Range Map

black crowned night heron range map

As their name suggests, these herons are most active at dusk and during the evening. While the sun is out, they spend the day hiding among brush and vegetation near the water’s edge. By foraging at night, these birds avoid competition from other heron species!

When surprised or under duress, Black-crowned Night Herons give a loud, barking “quawk.” While at their nesting colonies, you can hear a variety of other croaks, barks, hisses, screams, clucks, and rattles.


#16. Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Megascops asio

  • They are either mostly gray or reddish-brown.
  • They are small, stocky owls with ear tufts and almost no necks.

These little nocturnal animals may remind you of professional wrestlers since they are short, stocky, and have no necks! Eastern Screech-owls can either be grey or red, with about a third of all individuals being red.

These small owls will settle in almost any wooded area. They are extremely well camouflaged and often spend their days pressed against the tree that they’re resting in.

Eastern Screech-Owl Range Map

eastern screech-owl range map

Even if you’ve never seen one, you may have heard an Eastern Screech-owl at night. They make various hoots, calls, and songs, but their most popular is an even-pitched trill, often called a tremolo.

The tremolo is used by pairs to keep in contact with each other and lasts between 3 to 6 seconds. I think this tremolo call sounds a lot like mating toads, and I sometimes get the two confused!


#17. Eastern Whip-poor-will

  • Antrostomus vociferus

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are among the most rarely seen nocturnal animals in Minnesota.

While these birds can be hard to spot, they’re easy to identify by ear. On spring nights, you can hear their namesake “whip-poor-will” song. These nighttime ballads have been the focus of many fables and legends.

Eastern Whip-poor-will Range Map

Eastern Whip-poor-will Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Eastern Whip-poor-wills inhabit deciduous and mixed forests. They spend their days resting in trees and their nights feeding on flying insects.


#18. American Woodcock

  • Scolopax minor

  • Adults are mottled brown, black, buff, and gray-brown.
  • The face is buff with a blackish crown.

American Woodcocks are odd-looking nocturnal animals!

They’re also known as Timberdoodles, Labrador Twisters, Night Partridges, and Bog Suckers. They occupy habitats with a mix of forests and open fields and spend their days in forests with moist soil.

Woodcocks have a sensitive and flexible bill that allows them to find prey by touch. Sometimes they’re observed performing an odd rocking motion while standing. The vibration from this motion disturbs earthworms to make them easier to find.

However, they often spend their nights in clearings such as abandoned farm fields, open swamp edges, pastures, and forest openings. You may hear them making their distinctive “peent” call.


#19. Southern Flying Squirrel

  • Glaucomys volans

southern flying squirrel

  • They have reddish-brown or gray fur with creamy white bellies.
  • They have large black eyes.

These little squirrels may be one of the cutest nocturnal animals in Minnesota!

Though they are common, almost nobody knows they exist or sees them! Southern Flying Squirrels are nocturnal and spend most of their time in the canopies of deciduous forests.

Range Map – Southern Flying Squirrel

southern flying squirrel range map

If you do get the pleasure of seeing one, you may catch a glimpse of their white bellies as they glide through the trees. Southern Flying Squirrels have large, black eyes which take up much of their head, helping them to see at night.

Southern Flying Squirrels often visit bird feeders at night, feeding on sunflower seeds and peanuts. Luckily, I have a camera that watches my bird feeding station, and it has incredible night vision! Check out the video below to see one come down from the trees and stay for dinner. 🙂


#20. Northern Flying Squirrel

  • Glaucomys sabrinus

northern flying squirrel

  • They have cinnamon or light brown fur with whitish bellies.
  • They have huge black eyes and flat tails.

These nocturnal animals are so stealthy that few people even realize that they’re around. They have big black eyes which help them to navigate as they soar from the treetops in the dark of night.

Northern Flying Squirrel Range Map

northern flying squirrel range map

To find a Northern Flying Squirrel, you will need to look in forests dominated by conifer trees.

It is rare to find these squirrels on the ground since they are incredibly clumsy walkers. If a predator approaches, they will typically try to hide instead of run away.

Most of their time is spent at the tops of trees, gliding from branch to branch. Their average length of glides is between 16 – 82 feet (5 – 25 m). I wish these squirrels could be seen during the day because watching them glide these distances would be incredible to see!


#21. Dekay’s Brownsnake

  • Storeria dekayi

dekays brownsnake

  • Adults typically range from 6 to 13 inches (15-33 cm) in length.
  • Coloration is light brown or gray to dark brown or black with two rows of dark spots down the back.
  • They have a dark streak down the head and may have a light stripe down the center of the back.

Dekay’s Brownsnakes are nocturnal animals that occupy various terrestrial habitats in Minnesota. They prefer areas with plenty of cover available, such as rocks, logs, boards, and all sorts of trash and organic debris. They’re often found in backyards and gardens under objects.

dekays brownsnake range map

These secretive, nocturnal snakes hunt during the evening and night, feeding primarily on slugs and earthworms. Prey is typically grabbed and quickly swallowed alive.

These docile snakes usually don’t bite in defense. Instead, if captured, they often squirm vigorously or flatten their bodies and may release foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tail.

This species is considered common in most of its range and is not a major conservation concern. It adapts well to human development and has a reputation as a “city snake.”


#22. American Badger

  • Taxidea taxus

  • Their long fur is brown or black with white stripes on their cheeks and one white stripe running from their nose to the back of their head.
  • They have a large, flat body, short, powerful legs, triangular face, small ears, and long, sharp claws.

The American Badger is an intimidating nocturnal animal that primarily feeds on small burrowing creatures, like ground squirrels, rats, gophers, and mice.

They spend their nights digging prey out of burrows with their strong claws or entering the burrows and waiting for the creature to return. Interestingly, Coyotes regularly stand nearby and wait to catch animals fleeing from badgers.

American Badgers create their own burrows as well. They regularly dig upwards of 32 feet of tunnels that reach 10 feet below the surface, with enlarged chambers for sleeping, storing food, and giving birth. Their burrows have one entrance with a pile of dirt next to it.


#23. North American Porcupine

  • Erethizon dorsatum

  • Their fur ranges in color from brownish-yellow to black, with white highlights on their quills.
  • Porcupines are covered in approximately 30,000 hollow quills.

This nocturnal animal is the second-largest rodent in Minnesota!

While North American Porcupines generally spend much of their time on the ground, they can also climb trees, using their tail for support. But they aren’t the best climbers; one study found that 30% of the porcupines had healed fractures from falling from trees.

North American Porcupine Range Map

North American Porcupine Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They’re well known for their sharp quills used for defense. When threatened, porcupines draw up the skin of their back, bristling so that the quills face all directions. The porcupine keeps its back to the predator and moves its tail back and forth.

But, despite their effective defense, porcupines are still preyed on by fishercats, coyotes, wolverines, and other predators that have adapted to hunting them.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines can’t throw quills at their attacker! 🙂


To learn more about animals in Minnesota, check out these other guides!


Which of these nocturnal animals have you seen before in Minnesota?

Leave a comment below!

Some range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.