SD04135 Dog Town

At first glance, they are kind of cute.  Chubby little fur balls, sitting up on their hind legs as though they are begging for a treat or a pat on the head.  A field of fur balls.  Maybe a hundred of them, all looking around, quizzically, wanting that pat on the head. 

 Such timid little creatures.  At the first sign of movement, sound or danger they dash across the ground and scurry inSDTurkey2013 038to their holes.  Amazing such short little legs and such a roly poly body can move that fast!  Once they are safe in the hole, they intermittently rise up out of their holes with that same quizzical look and begin to chirp the official “alarm”. Back and forth, back and forth, chirping to each other, so there is no misunderstanding throughout the town, THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED A THREAT.  The alarm doesn’t stop until the threat is gone. 

 “The hills are alive, with the sound of… prairie dog……”  wait, that’s the wrong lyrics to that song…..

 If you have set up a blind near their town and they spot you—well—that’s when they stop being so cute. Suddenly the cute fur ball transforms into the rodent that it actually is. The bubonic plague carrying rodent that it actually is.  Hours of that shrill chirp is far from being cute.  A few minutes of that shrill chirp, and you are wishing you’d also carried a .22 250 with a scope.  Remember that video game “whack a mole”?  Now you get the picture. 

 The prairie dog is a highly social, territorial, and very industrial animal.  Did you know that one prairie dog will dig a tunnel maybe 50 feet long and 5 to 10 feet deep, with probably 6 different entrance holes, and no other prairie dog is allowed in that domain unless it is in imminent danger?  Each prairie dog has its own tunnel system which has at least 3 compartments; a food area, a birthing area and a living area.  Male dogs may have several females, each producing offspring. Once a prairie dog reaches adolescence, it is kicked out of the family hole and must create its own tunnel system.   One 40 acre “dog town” can have hundreds of residents.

 That’s a lot of tunnels.

That’s a lot of holes.

Not to mention, that’s a lot of prairie dogs.

 It’s a wonder that the whole darn works doesn’t just collapse when the cows come through trying to graze.  Certainly, the farmers get tired of the infestations of prairie dog rodents eating what little grass is out there. Oh, wait, sometimes the ground does collapse under a hoof, and that’s one of the reasons ranchers lose their cattle.  A cow may fall through a hole, break a leg, and become lame and an easy mark for coyotes.  Oh, but don’t punish the prairie dogs!  I think the activists call that “aerating and fertilizing the ground so more plant life can flourish”. 

 Hmmm, I call it more good reasons to take aim on the fur balls. 

 But despite all that, there are a few benefits to prairie dogs.  Yes they are destructive, and yes, they are a pain in the rear.  They don’t seem to serve a positive purpose, other than….dare I say…..target practice?  But, they are a food source for many other animals.  Eagles and coyotes are two, but surprisingly, the prairie dog rodents are also important to the endangered Black Footed Ferrett from the weasel family. 

 Not that I know about this because I actually saw one on my Turkey Trail several years ago, causing a stir in the Dog Town until it finally outsmarted a female dog, got down into a hole and… well…had dinner? Hard to say what I really saw.  I’m sure that little black and white face could have been some “other” weasel type creature……anyway……

 Ranchers typically welcome shooters onto their property to thin down the dog towns. 

 Activists want people to adopt the prairie dogs and bring back the 95% of their numbers that have been exterminated. 

 

 

(this space represents massive bursting a gut while laughing out loud)

 

 

Me, I just want them to shut the heck up when I’m trying to hunt turkeys near their town.  And of course, I want to continue to be able to rise to the occasion and do my part to help out any rancher who asks for my help.

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