STrib: How did Minnesota become the Gopher State?


Well-known member
per Mary Lynn Smith:

Although Minnesota eventually became known as the Gopher State, the gopher — or the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, for that matter — is not listed among the state’s symbols. The loon, monarch butterfly and walleye, however, are among those designated by law.

Now let’s get back to the debate over whether those striped rodents are gophers.

The pocket gopher, which is native to Minnesota, is a medium-size rodent with huge claws on its front feet — a nice asset for burrowing into the ground, said Lori Naumann with the Nongame Wildlife Program at Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources. “But gophers don’t have stripes,” she said.

Sharon Jansa, who knows all about rodents, confirmed that. She’s a University of Minnesota professor of ecology, evolution and behavior and curator of the Bell Museum’s mammal collection.

Although chipmunks have stripes, she believes Minnesota’s rodent mascots are actually thirteen-lined ground squirrels, which also are found in Minnesota.
“The kicker is that they have striped coats, not striped tails,” she said. As for the striped-tail mascots: “That’s just artistic license,” she said.

Stripes or no stripes, it could be that the Minnesota gopher mascots aren’t trying to be one rodent or another. “The lowercase gopher is generic for any rodent that lives under ground,” Jansa said.

Go Gophers!!

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