Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for May 6th, 2014

Prairie dog

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Black-Tailed Prairie Dog 1244

In addition to bison, one of which you saw the other day, prairie dogs have also recently been reintroduced at Caprock Canyons State Park. There are five species, and I infer that the ones I saw are black-tailed prairie dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus.

Prairie dogs are always on the alert for intruders into their territory, so whenever I tried to approach one, even very slowly, it began making high-pitched noises—presumably the “barks” that led Anglo settlers to liken these animals to dogs. Even scientists got in on the false naming, because Cynomys means ‘dog mouse.’ The truth is that prairie dogs are in the same mammalian family as squirrels, the Sciuridae.

From the open mouth in today’s portrait you can tell that this prairie dog was barking away at me. When I eventually got too close, as a prairie dog reckons distances, it darted into its burrow—the rim of which surrounds it here—and immediately stopped making noise. And I, who had purposely not been making noise, went back into my mobile burrow known as a car and continued on my way.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 6, 2014 at 6:03 AM

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