American Prairie Reserve Purchases 150,000 Acre Montana Ranch

bison

More bison could start to live naturally on the prairie with the American Prairie Reserve’s purchase of 150,000 acres of Montana grassland.

The American Prairie Reserve, a non-profit land trust based in Bozeman, Montana, recently purchased a sizable plot of land (150,000 acres) adjacent to the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.  South Ranch, the purchased land, was originally set up as a cattle ranch and is located 60 miles south of the Canadian border.

In purchasing the ranch, the American Prairie Reserve has taken one step towards their main goal of creating a wildlife preserve larger than the state of Connecticut.  Their goal involves acquiring more land, pulling down the fences that once contained cattle, and allowing the area to return to the natural ecosystem that once existed in that part of the U.S.  This means bison, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and their natural predators free flowing through an uninhabited area of prairie land.

To learn more, see:

The Montana Standard
American Prairie Reserve

Prairie Dog Language

Prairie dog jump yip callPrairie dogs are very social animals.  In order to survive the predators of the plains, prairie dogs have a system of calls to alert members of the colony of danger.  Professor Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has spent the last 30 years delving deep into the nuances of prairie dog communication.  In his research, he performed a series of experiments recording the prairie dog sounds when certain predators entered the scene.

What he found was surprising.  Prairie dogs use different frequencies and pitches to not only distinguish a hawk, a coyote, a dog, or a human, they also describe the predator specifically. For example, prairie dogs distinguish a fat, short human from a skinny, tall human.  Interestingly, they do not discern male versus female humans, however.

You can hear the different prairie dog calls in an interactive graphic at NPR.org.

To learn more about prairie dogs, see Animal Fact Guide’s article: Black-tailed Prairie Dog.

Great Animal Escapes

Sometimes animals outsmart us. This year, we witnessed several bold and cunning escapes.

Otter Escapes from Kansas Zoo
Kyra, a resident of the Hutchinson Zoo in Kansas, escaped from her zoo habitat on Valentine’s day and spent the week pond-hopping. Easily catching fish in other area ponds, she was unfazed by zookeeper attempts to lure her back with fish treats. But finally, she succumbed to the temptation of a hard-boiled egg.


Octopus Escapes New Zealand Aquarium

An octopus named Sid spent 5 days on the lam after escaping from his tank in a New Zealand aquarium. Sid managed to elude detection for those days by hiding in a drain that pumped fresh sea water into the aquarium.  He was caught after being spotted making a dash for an open door.


Orangutan Plans Great Escape from Adelaide Zoo

Jamming a stick into the wires of the electric fence surrounding her, Karta, a 27-year old orangutan, short-circuited the system. She then piled up debris near the concrete and glass wall and climbed out. However, after literally sitting on the fence for half an hour, she decided to go back in the enclosure after all.


Wily Prairie Dogs Escape New Exhibit at Maryland Zoo

Ten minutes after the opening of a new $500,000 prairie dog exhibit, the clever rodents found multiple escape routes.  Climbing and jumping over the walls, the prairie dogs had zoo workers in a frenzy chasing after them with nets.


Chimp Escape at the Chester Zoo

Thirty chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure at the Chester Zoo in England.  They made their way into a food preparation area and had the feast of their lives.


Harbor Seal Makes Trek into a Cape Cod Hatchery

Although this is less of an escape and more of a break-in, we had to include it. A young harbor seal was discovered in a state fish hatchery in the town of Sandwich in Cape Cod, where she had her pick of delicious trout to eat. What makes the story so interesting is that the seal would have had to waddle on land for 2 miles, including stretches on the boardwalk and through a tunnel under a busy highway, to make it into the hatchery.

Harbor Seal

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs Denied Protection

Federal officials have denied protection under the Endangered Species Act to black-tailed prairie dogs  last week after they determined that populations are rebounding.

In the 1900s, prairie dog populations numbered around one billion.  But their numbers had decreased dramatically to around 20 million as a result of habitat destruction, poisoning or shooting by farmers,  and the sylvatic plague.

Prairie dogs are considered a keystone species because they play an integral role in promoting animal and plant diversity in the Great Plains.  Their grazing and burrowing activity promotes a fertile environment for a variety of vegetation, which in turn attracts a multitude of herbivores like pronghorns, bison, and rabbits. Their burrows sometimes become homes for rabbits, salamanders, snakes, and burrowing owls. Finally, prairie dogs provide an ample food source for golden eagles, hawks, swift foxes, coyotes, badgers, and endangered black-footed ferrets.

For this reason, environmental activists are concerned about the lack of protection for the black-tailed prairie dog.

For more information about the new ruling, see the NY Times.

To learn more about the black-tailed prairie dog, see Animal Fact Guide’s article: Black-tailed Prairie Dog.

Wily Prairie Dogs Escape from New Exhibit

Prairie dogs at Maryland Zoo

Yesterday, the Maryland Zoo opened its new $500,000 prairie dog habitat.  Unfortunately, within ten minutes, several prairie dogs tested the limits of their new home and found multiple escape routes.  Climbing and jumping over the walls, the prairie dogs had zoo workers in a frenzy chasing after them with nets.

In the end, all the prairie dogs were returned and the enclosure was secured.

For more info, see: Baltimore Sun

To learn more about prairie dogs and their interesting behavior, see Animal Fact Guide’s article about Black-tailed Prairie Dogs.