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Posts Tagged ‘black-footed ferrets’

Entrance to Prairie Dog State Park, Kansas — Photo by Mike Blair

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle

Adventures with Pepper: Day 12   

Prairie Dog at Lake Arrowhead State Park in Texas. The Kansas prairie dogs were too quick for my camera. — Photo by Pat Bean

         Kansas’ Prairie Dog State Park was indeed a great place to spend the night, so I spent two.

Pepper and I had a peaceful camp site that offered a tree-framed view of Keith Sebelius Reservoir out Gypsy Lee’s rear window. While I saw several of the critters for which the park was named on the drive in, birds were the only wildlife I saw in the camping area.

These included an osprey that hung out in a tree overlooking the lake, killdeer near its shore, a lone great blue heron that sat on a rock in the water about a hundred feet from shore and turkey vultures frequently hovering overhead.

Black-tailed ferret, a cute little thing but deadly to prairie dogs, which make up about 90 percent of the ferret’s diet. — Wikipedia photo

But it was the sighting of the black-tailed prairie dogs roaming free in this high plains grass prairie that delighted me most.

That’s because I once participated in an endangered wildlife project that didn’t bode well for a pack of these prairie dogs that roamed the Utah-Colorado border.

The project involved transplanting endangered black-footed ferrets, thought to be extinct until a pack of about a dozen of them were discovered in 1981, into their midst. Prairie dogs are the black-footed ferrets favorite food, even though the two species are near the same size.

The discovered ferrets were captured and entered into a breeding program and some of the offspring began being transplanted back into the wild. Today there are slightly over 1,000 ferrets once again inhabiting North America.

If the number of prairie dogs I’ve seen in my travels are any indication, they are surviving quite nicely – thankfully.

Book Report: 54,312 words. The number is better than it sounds because I cut almost as much as I edited.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat:  I Can’t Afford It http://tinyurl.com/8vnkbw8 I’m pretty thrifty but it’s good to be reminded every now and then that it’s OK to say no to things we want but may not need.  

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 “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Sioux proverb

A healthy crop of young prairie dog pups. -- Photo by pat Bean

Good Reasons to be Cautious

An adult prairie dog giving me the eagle eye after she shooed all the young ones below. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I don’t often get a chance to see prairie dogs, and even rarer do I get to walk among them.

But that’s the opportunity I had at Texas’ Lake Arrowhead State Park just outside of Wichita Falls.

To get some photographs of them, I left my canine traveling companion, Pepper, in the RV. She loves to chase anything on the ground that moves. So far, robins and butterflies have been her favorite targets, but I’m sure prairie dogs would also be high on her list.

While I keep her in check with a 10-foot retractable leash, I figured her quick dash toward a prairie dog would send them deep in their underground tunnel homes.

All about prairie dogs sign at Lake Arrowhead. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The truth is they didn’t let me get too close before they would dash below, especially since there were babies among them. On my approach an adult would shoo them below and then turn around and give me a chittery war cry while keeping an evil, eagle eye on my movements.

I did, however, manage to snag a few pictures.

I sort of feel I owe prairie dogs an apology. As a reporter I covered the release of rare and endangered black-footed ferrets in the middle of a prairie dog colony in the Browns Park area of Colorado back in the late 1990s.

Prairie dogs are ferrets preferred menu item. They are also on the coyote’s menu as well, and Lake Arrowhead is full of coyotes. Even so, I must say that the prairie dogs numbers don’t seem to have diminished since I last visited the park. Prey usually  reproduces quicker and more abundantly than predators.

Bean’s Pat: Love Thy Bike http://tinyurl.com/cdsrs2o See Los Angeles beaches from a bike seat.

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