Pray for the prairie dogs, please!


I was in the Bozeman, Montana airport last September, waiting for my flight. An  ordinary enough fellow--probably my age--was sitting nearby with friends or family. He began telling them about he loved to drive out to thus and such a ranch in some Montana county and shoot prairie dogs, and how he did it in Idaho, and  here and there and everywhere it seemed. He was matter of fact: I don't know if it was for "sport" or for some sort of bounty (various agencies have paid for prairie dog eradication)...There was an undertone of cheeriness in his repartee I found incredibly repellent.

I have become very fond of the works of Joe Truett--a champion of Western conservation who writes eloquently and knowledgeably about this much maligned and misunderstood rodents: I highly recommend reading his book entitled Grass: in search of Human Habitat. You will never look at prairie dogs the same way ever again.

I sincerely hope there is some celestial place where the prairie dogs have the guns, and our Bozeman bozo is the prey. I find America's gun culture to be repulsive and contemptible.

These pictures of a tiny prairie dog colony--not more than a few thousand feet in extent--surrounded by apartment houses just a few blocks from my house. I am astonished at how they have persisted (and they're obviously loved by the surrounding apartment dwellers). There's another colony a few miles away that has a huge sign saying "For Lease or Development" in the middle of it...otherwise you have to many miles to see these original denizens of our region.


Of course, not only black footed ferret--but many other birds and mammals require prairiedogs for their survival: burrowing owls in particular will not persist without them. The very prairie itself is sustained by the churning of nutrients they bring to the surface. But alas, they're rodents--and humans have very little sympathy for that Order of Mammalia.


I have driven by this colony many thousand of times (it's that close to my house). I am embarrassed to say that this was the first time I actually stopped to admire and photograph them. Pretty eloquent testament to my own myopia. And I only did so because of visiting friends who were charmed and asked to stop.


You have to admit, they're really just as cute as pikas. Hard to believe we've obliterated so many in such a tiny moment of geologic time.


If you Google "Prairie Dog hunting" you will find out that there is quite a market for gun "afficionados" who love nothing more than blasting these little critters to bits. This is a typical page that shows how macho he-men get their jollies. I like to think of myself as a card-carrying liberal, who tolerates all manner of nonsense. But I have become more and more repulsed by the vast number of people who are enmired in all manner of "passtimes" that devastate what little tatters of nature are left.

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