The tallgrass aspen parkland serve as critical habitat for several species of Minnesota wildlife, some of which are declining and have little habitat left.
Moose: Northwestern Minnesota's moose population has plummeted from around 4,000 moose two decades ago to less than 250 today. But the parkland appear to be a last stronghold for them. In my three days in Caribou WMA, I saw three moose—a cow and calf, and a bull.
Bear: Black bears abound in the parkland. Local DNR wildlife manager Donovan Pietruszewski says it's because of the abundance of hazel brush—a favorite bear food.
Elk: One of Minnesota's only two wild elk herds roam the Minnesota-Manitoba border in Kittson County and spend a lot of time in the Caribou Wildlife Management Area. The herd has grown from about 40 elk four years ago to about 100 elk today. Read more about this elk herd and watch them bugle.
Wolves: Even if there aren't grand stands of timber in the parkland, timber wolves still live here. Cindy Auguston-Adams, curator of the Kittson County History Museum in the town of Lake Bronson, says she hears wolves howl at the horns on the freight trains that rumble through town in the middle of the night.
Sandhill Cranes: The parkland are a staging ground for a massive fall sandhill crane migration. Near Karlstad, it's not uncommon to see more than 2,000 cranes in a single farm field in September.
Sharp-tailed Grouse: One of the last refuges of sharptail country in Minnesota today is the parkland. I flushed sharptails every time I drove along the gravel road that leads into Caribou WMA.