Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wildlife and Weather

Can you see the little guys in this photo?  It's hard to get a good picture of Prairie Dogs (or as my son would say "Whistle Pigs"), if you aren't prepared to spend lots of time waiting for them to return above ground after you've scared them all back to their holes.


Anyway, this picture is taken at a large Prairie Dog "town" not too far from my home.  Notice how short the fragile prairie grass is around their holes?  That's because the Prairie Dogs eat everything within their reach down to the ground.  And, the holes they dig are huge, creating a hazard to cattle, horses and humans that stray into a town.  Prairie Dogs are extremely prolific, and their towns will increase in size exponentially if not kept under control.

Why am I mentioning all of this?  Because I had a chance to snap a few pictures of the little critters yesterday, and because Nebraska has been in the news recently on this subject.  Nebraska has been given an "F" for our Prairie Dog "conservation" efforts.

The group, WildEarth Guardians, gave Nebraska a failing grade of F this week for its performance in protecting the state's native black-tailed prairie dogs. Many other Western states and federal agencies barely scored passing grades, but no others flunked WildEarth's tests. 

Nebraskans, though, will wear the F as a badge of honor for having fended off federal fingers from their farmland.  Across the state, ranchers and farmers despise prairie dogs as grass-robbing, cow-crippling varmints. A colony of the squirrel-like rodents typically will have 30 to 50 burrow entrances per acre. Cattlemen say the holes are a danger to livestock.

According to the Prairie Dog population map, Lincoln County alone has more than 4,500 acres of Prairie Dog town.  Doesn't sound like they need conserved to me.  They are cute, though, and can be fun to watch.  My sons also tell me that they are fun to hunt.  I wouldn't want to live in a state that had completely gotten rid of them, but they do need to be controlled.

So, what would a blog about Nebraska be without a discussion of the weather?  I have to include a mention of the weather in my first official post.  

It's changing.  No surprise.  

We've had unseasonably (to say the least) warm weather over the past few days.  There were even some record highs all across the central and western part of the state.  Now the forecast is for rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow tonight and over the next couple of days.

Can't complain, though.  The warm and dry weather brought with it extreme fire danger warnings.  We can use the moisture.  For those cattlemen who have already started calving, it's going to be kind of tough.  Wet and freezing is not a good forecast for newborn baby calves.



Did I mention the wind?  Nebraska can get wind, too.  Here is a picture of what the wind can do in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

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