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February 2nd is officially recognized as Groundhog Day, but here in the West we celebrate Prairie Dog Day. Prairie Dog Day events invite the public to more fully understand prairie dogs and their communities, and learn how the status of prairie dogs affects the health of our western grasslands. WildEarth Guardians releases its annual Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog on Prairie Dog Day; the report evaluates and grades the performance of the many state and federal agencies responsible for prairie dog conservation. Prairie dog appreciation can happen any day of the year. Here are some of the ways we’ve been advocating for prairie dogs on the ground.
On Prairie Dog Day 2013, Guardians joined the Plains Conservation Center for a day of fun and education. Visitors to the Center could see prairie dogs in their natural habitat, talk with prairie dog advocates, and even meet a prairie dog from the Denver Zoo up close and personal. Activities for kids included planting native seeds to take home, making prairie crowns, a prairie dog scavenger hunt, and the Prairie Saga puppet show.
Endangered Species Advocate Taylor Jones ready to talk to visitors about
WildEarth's Guardians' work for prairie dogs.
Also in 2013, we attended the third annual Utah Prairie Dog Day at Bryce Canyon National Park. Face-painting, a prairie dog calling contest, and other fun activities were highlights of this family event.
In May 2012, WildEarth Guardians and local prairie dog advocates organized a weekend-long Prairie Dog Day event in Telluride, Colorado. Telluride recently purchased a parcel of land for town open space, now known as the Valley Floor. In response to concerns about possible poisoning of the Valley Floor prairie dogs, WildEarth Guardians worked with Telluride and the San Miguel Conservation Foundation to craft a “natural dispersal” management plan that prohibits lethal control and allows the prairie dogs to expand beyond the current boundaries of their colonies. In support of the management plan, we organized this free event to increase tolerance of and appreciation for prairie dogs. Events included a puppet show for children, a screening of the BBC documentary “Prairie Dogs: Talking Their Language,” and a presentation by Dr. Rich Reading, founder and director of Denver Zoo's Department of Conservation Biology. You can watch Dr. Reading’s lecture here.
In June 2011, Bryce Canyon National Park celebrated their second annual Utah Prairie Dog Day. WildEarth Guardians was happy to be able to participate by helping park staff educate visitors about Utah prairie dogs. Bryce Canyon holds this event each year, and it is a great opportunity to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
In March 2011, WildEarth Guardians and the Prairie Dog Coalition of the
Humane Society of the United States took Lowry Elementary School
students to the Plains Conservation Center for an educational adventure
exploring a prairie dog town.
Lowry Elementary School students visit a prairie dog colony and learn about the prairie dogs’ role in the ecosystem at the Plains Conservation Center. Photos by Judith Miller Smith.