I got a surprise this morning when I checked the blog. I thought I was actually ahead of the game but it turns out my post output is lagging a bit. For some reason I thought I was already at 5 which put me right where I wanted to be – knowing the topic for the final post was already determined. Not a huge problem, just means I had to dive back into the Yellowstone trip pictures, do a little post processing, upload to our Smugmug site and I’m all set. Well, except for the hard part of actually writing something.
Having uttered the word “rats” when I tallied the posts this morning, I thought it would be fitting to go with the proverbial “rat” of the prairie lands. Fortunate not to live in an area infested with these rodents, I can still relate to the feeling having to constantly battle moles. There are two major differences when it comes to Prairie Dogs, one negative and one positive. On the negative side their destructive capabilities far exceed our local moles. Now, on the positive side, they can be so darn cute! Contrast that with moles which have to be the most hideous creature ever to crawl this earth.
Case in point, look at this scared little creature. Out there all alone in the wild wondering where it’s next meal will come from. Living in a state of constant worry if some human is going to pick them off with a high powered rifle just for fun or some taloned demon was going to descend from the sky and whisk away their brothers or sisters.
It is obvious they are clever creatures (as, of course, all dogs are!). Just look at this example of how they’ve adapted to their dangerous surroundings.
The distant and vacant gaze paired with the stiff joint walk – what predator in their right mind would even come close to touching a ZOMBIE!?! Umm, that would be NONE. (It might want to roll in the remains of a wolf kill to take that disguise to the next level (although recommend, waiting until the wolves move on). I should probably mention that these shots were actually taken at Custer State Park. We took a drive through there on our way back from the Yellowstone National Park trip.
Hit the jump to read more about these playful creatures.
These animals always fascinate me. Linda can attest, when we come upon their colonies I tend to spend a loooong time watching them through the shutter. They are clearly very social animals that tend to spend a large percentage of the day engaged in play. The rest appears to be a combination of digging and well… making more of them. For the curious they tend to have 4-5 in their litters which arrive in the March-April timeframe. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide (Rocky Mountain edition) their colony can grow anywhere from 100 to 1,000 – holy crap, can you imagine what a 1,000 moles would cause beside a major shortage in bullets?
Moles get lead shot, but these furry creatures get the gentle click of the shutter. I can hear every resident of South Dakota cringe after reading that, likely in the same manner as coastal residents when you start taking interest in Seagulls. Before going off on them, one thing to consider is (according to Wikipedia – thank god the blackout is over having won fight against SOPA) they are a key element in the food chain for a number of predators which include eagles, hawks, foxes and badgers. Without them our most majestic birds would go hungry and we just cannot have that now can we? Oops, stated that a little too loud, apparently one of them overheard it and it looks a little upset.
This has apparently driven it into action as it decided to stop playing for a little bit and STARTED DIGGING. It is amazing how efficient they are with their excavating skills. I wonder if we could build out the Caterpillar small Building Construction Products business and start marketing a line to this target audience. Of course we might need to engage Cat’s Trade service seeing as how they would probably have to pay in nuts.
We’ll have to jump on this fast, I am sure our competitors are already discussing this in their boardrooms. As confirmed by Wikipedia, there is a dangerous side to the world of Prairie Dogs. There is a theory that they pose a serious threat to horses and cattle and therefore have become mortal enemies of ranchers and farmers. I can actually see their holes being a potential for catching legs and such. But then again these same ranchers and farmers have completely overblown the danger of wolf reintroduction so for that reason alone I’m taking the dog’s side on this one.
For the record, most of the time I’ve had the opportunity to watching them they tend to be extremely social and very content. I had The Beast pointed at the subject in the picture above and noticed a change of expression on its face (a nice benefit of the big glass). It was unclear exactly what the change was due to until I zoomed back a little for a broader view. Ah, there is the catalyst. Apparently a rival was getting a little too close to the bungalow.
The teeth came out, the ears folded back and the claws were sharpened. This didn’t really deter the new arrival much to the point it gave the impression of being downright bored by the display of aggression. Caution boys and girls, there may be blood.
Wait, wait … I might have misunderstood this little display of aggression. Could it just be total surprise at seeing a long lost relative? Or maybe the unexpected arrival of a parent back from a long perilous trip across the street to check on Grandma. How about a nuzzle of appreciation for a safe return. (I should mention Linda’s counterpoint here who is convinced they are not actually nuzzling but rather engaged in a vicious life or death battle… counterpoint counterpoint.. she’s wrong, I’m right ‘nuf said)
As a final tidbit of information (from Wikipedia again), these creatures are susceptible to some nasty diseases including bubonic plague. They were actually banned from sale and their transport restricted by the FDA in 2003. As of 2008 this has been federally rescinded, but some states still have restrictions. Unfortunately, this means their young will once again be sucked out of their holes by vacuum devices by traders. Imagine a tiny tear rolling down this critter’s face.
That’s all I got … sigh, cheer up, there’s thousands of them out there.. well, those that aren’t simply shot for sniper sport. If you want to see larger images, be sure and check out the Eddiesoft Gallery: EddieSoft