Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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Saturday, August 21, 2010
"Prairie-dogs are abundant...; they are in shape like little woodchucks, and are the most noisy and inquisitive animals imaginable. They are never found singly, but always in towns of several hundred inhabitants; and these towns are found in all kinds of places where the country is flat and treeless."Theodore Roosevelt (about the area that became Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
This extremely cute animal, once a major component of Great Plains life, was unfortunately the victim of a wide spread extermination by human. Once there were vast prairie dog towns stretched for miles across the open plains. In 1901, scientists surveyed a single Texas "dog town" covering 25,000 square miles and had an estimated 400 millions (that's 9 zeros) prairie dogs.
Unfortunately, prairie dogs were often considered pests and their fragil habitats were destroyed by ranchers who were convinced that were damaging the food source of their cattle. Extensive poisoning programs and other bad practices virtually eliminated the prairie dog and many of its predators from vast areas of the plains. The ranchers failed to realize that the removal of prairie dogs caused undesirable spread of brush that does more harm that any benefit that could be gained.
Today, you can find scattered populations of prairie dogs in protected areas like national parks, monuments, grasslands, and wildlife refuges.