Friday, June 26, 2020

One Small Rodent with a Huge Impact




I've been stepping out farther
this week into neighboring
Red-tailed Hawk Park.

Many people enjoy
its picnic area, playgrounds,
and sports facilities,
but I go for its boardwalk,
cottonwood stands,
and prairie dog colony.
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA  June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



Since I don't come from a Colorado ranching family, I love prairie dogs!
Red-tailed Hawk Park's noisy, energetic little critters are​​​​​​​ black-tailed prairie dogs
(Cynomys ludovicianus), and they have lived along the Front Range
for thousands and thousand of years.  At one time their "towns" or colonies
covered as much as seven million acres in the eastern third of Colorado.
They typically live east of the foothills at elevations below 6000 feet (1828 meters).

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





The black-tailed prairie dog is one of three species in Colorado,
and it can be identified by the black tip on its tail and where it lives in the state.
It's not very big, weighing one to three pounds (about a kilogram)
and reaching 14 to 17 inches (36 to 43 centimeters) in length.
The prairie dogs have tan fur tinged with reddish-brown,
short ears, large eyes, and a long, round head.  These animals are rodents,
burrowing ground squirrels with sharp claws perfect for digging. 


Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs are highly social animals,
and they live in large colonies of close knit family groups or coteries
consisting of a male, two or three females, and their pups.
They are active during the day and do not hibernate in the winter.
They dig extensive burrows underground
and mound the excavated dirt around the entrances to their burrows.

These mounds help to protect the burrows from flooding
and allow the prairie dogs to see approaching predators.
Typically the prairie dogs clip the plants around these mounds
to spot predators more easily.
Lots of predators hunt black-tailed prairie dogs:
coyotes, hawks, eagles, badgers, rattlesnakes, owls, bobcats, foxes, and ferrets.


Prairie Dog Town
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Entrance to a Prairie Dog Burrow
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Prairie dogs are very vocal.  They have a complex system of communication
of yips, chirps, whistles, growls, and barks
that rivals the languages of chimps, dolphins, and orcas (Scientific American).
It's almost impossible to sneak up on a prairie dog.
They are constantly on the alert, and the moment one spots you,
its short, shrill barks ring out repeatedly.
Step a little closer, and the prairie dog dives into its burrow
and others farther away take up the alarm cry.
Their calls identify the type of predator and describe what it looks like.


Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Prairie dogs eat grasses, leaves, stems, sedges, roots, forbs, and seeds.
They obtain water from plants such as the prickly pear cactus.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs are a keystone species in the short grass prairie.  
They provide food for many predators, and their foraging and burrowing activities
increase the diversity of plants and animals in their area.
They overturn, aerate, and enrich the soil,
help to move rainwater down to the water table,
and encourage the growth of native grasses by clipping vegetation.
Over 150 species of birds and animals depend on
the food and shelter provided by prairie dog ecosystems.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs have decreased drastically in number
because of habitat destruction, poisoning and shooting, and the sylvatic plague.
It's unfortunate that many people don't appreciate the importance
of this animal to the health of the short grass prairie ecosystem.


Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

 








Till next time ~
Fundy Blue



On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




    








For Map Lovers Like Me:


Location of Aurora, Colorado, USA




Area Where I Took the Photographs
(by the asterisk in the lower middle)
Map Data © 2018 Google United States


Southern Aurora and Northern Parker
Map Data © 2019 Google United States





Adapted from a Sign in the Park
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

14 comments:

  1. Awesome photo's Louise, it's good you're getting out and about....I must try it sometime soon.
    Enjoy the weekend.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Yvonne! I will continue to go farther away from my home on my walks. Things are not looking good here in the US regarding the spread of the coronavirus, so I have to remain disciplined. My sister Bertie sent me a care package from Nova Scotia and it arrived yesterday: yeast, homemade rhubarb preserves, and my favorite Canadian chocolate bars, Coffee Crisps. I'm going to bake the first bread I've made in decades later today.

      Last night the networks showed the beach at Bournemouth on tv ~ Wow! It was jam-packed with bodies. I hope that you remain careful, too, Yvonne. It's frustrating to be at home, but it's way better than getting the virus. I hope you make time to do things you enjoy this weekend. Hugs to you!

      Delete
  2. Yes, ranchers kill them on their land. Like you, I think they are adorable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy Friday, Diane! I missed their baby season this year because we weren't allowed to drive to nearby parks. The babies are so much fun to watch. Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  3. I love prairie dogs! The Winnipeg Zoo used to have (and may still have, for all I know) a big prairie dog colony enclosure. I used to go just to sit and watch them run around and interact -- so entertaining!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Entertaining they are for sure, Debra! I, too, have spent time at zoos watching them. Now I can enjoy them in their somewhat natural state. You and your rare One have a happy and safe weekend! Hugs to you!

      Delete
  4. Super photos, but the last one, "I'm looking this way, you check out the other" is great. Natural wildlife and their habitat is so important. Stay safe, and if that means home, close to home, isolated walks ad careful shopping, far better than catching this Covid 19. Down here, we had no new cases for a while, now others are coming back, several are popping up, and are straight into quarantine, I was so thankful my cardiac adventure was not during our total lockdown. I have not visited a friend in reality since early February, phone calls or txts has to be the way for some time, or blogland that supasses all international messaging!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jean! I was happy to catch the two prairie dogs together.

      I'm glad that your cardiac adventure is behind you and that things went well. I'm also glad that you didn't have it during the total lockdown. I'm sure it was scary enough in better times. I still haven't seen my dentist or eye doctor, and I must do that.

      I ventured out to have coffee and goodies with three friends on Tuesday. It was wonderful, but considering how things have deteriorated in the US in the past few days, it will likely be a while before I do that again.

      I wish we had a leader like your Jacinda Ardern. I won't even bring up ours. I am more determined than ever to be cautious and stay safe, especially when I feel like Terry and I are on our own. The virus response in our country has been stunningly bad, and even though we're living it, I find it hard to believe that this is how the US responds.

      I do feel it's okay to walk outside, and Terry continues to play pickleball outside. Other than that, for now, it's essential things only, always with a mask and as much social distancing as possible.

      Yes, thank goodness for our Blogland buddies. They have stuck by me, even when I've struggled to visit. Some days it's hard to keep my spirits up, but I'm coming out of that.

      All my best to you and Hugh, Jean. May your recovery continue and may you both and your loved ones be safe and healthy!

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sandi! I have a soft spot in my heart for prairie dogs. Take care!

      Delete
  6. Hi Louise :)) Oh those are just adorable, I've never seen them before, they remind me a little bit of gophers. How nice that you can visit them like that, lovely photos!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Prairie dogs are adorable in every way!

    ReplyDelete
  8. They sure are cute indeed. Stinks that they are being eradicated so much. Helping the ecosystem sure shows they are important, but humans just ignore that and do what is right for them. Then they'll be the same humans whining when things don't grow etc.

    ReplyDelete
  9. wow

    this is really interesting to know prairie dogs even if they don't look like dogs
    i never heard of them before dear Louise ,they eat grass only wow and still human find it disturbing how unfair
    thank you for taking along to red tailed park my friend

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.