Prairie Dogs. They were the first stop on the Ecotour of the National Grasslands Park. There is a large Prairie Dog town that stretches on either side of the road through to the Rest Area and a little farther along camping, if you want to stay in the Park. Their whistles fill the air and they will stand on their hind legs to get a good look at what is coming. These guys weren't overly alarmed by our presence; I think they are used to the invasion of humans along the groomed path through their town. There are five species of prairie dog but these cuties are the the black-tailed. They don't truly hibernate but go into a lower energy state and live from their accumulated fat. With the rain in the grasslands this year, there is lots of food. The prairie dog mainly consumes seeds and vegetation but also eats some insects and worms. They themselves may be preyed on by coyotes, hawks, foxes and rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes and burrowing owls may use their holes. Prairie dogs are an integral part of the grasslands. If badgers, coyotes, and foxes are to survive, prairie dogs are needed. Black-footed ferrets, horned lizards and rattlesnakes are given a better chance at establishment if there are prairie dogs present.
These cute rodents are quite large ground squirrels, measuring as much as 16" and weighing 1-3 lbs. There is marked sexual di-morphism, meaning the males are quite a bit larger than females. They are chubby and not built for speed. From behind, their little butts bobble when they run. Their gait reminds me of my own when I try to lope along.
It wasn't the dogs this time and it wasn't from Suffern Lake. This little sucker was on Gary (well, and his cousin was, too). We were camped at Lac Pelletier in Saskatchewan. It's a Regional Park; very nice lake with shady campsites. There's a golf course, mini-golf, Clancy's (a store/restaurant/pub) AND the ticks. We've treated the dogs with a flea/tick repellent from our vet's so they didn't pick them up and due to the fact that we both thought of rattlesnakes every time a blade of grass rustled, they spent a lot of time on groomed paths. Gary didn't. The lake had perch and walleye, something Gary can't resist. Down in the gully, one of the park attendants said, go down into the gully and you'll find worms for bait and maybe you'll catch perch off the dock.. Likely the ticks were in the gully. There are big trees around it and the worms were in the leaf detritus at the sides.
Gary didn't find the tick until the next morning and it was duly harvested and sealed in a bag. We did learn that from the last encounter. Then, last night, he found a second tick on his side and it received the same treatment, although it got its own bag. This morning when I was sweeping the floor, I saw something that might be a tick- and no, for anyone asking I wasn't wearing my reading glasses. I grabbed the suspected tick and popped it into the bag with the first one. The only trouble is, I had some last things to replace in the camper and neglected to seal the ziplock bag. Yup- the tick escaped and the suspect turned out to be some suspicious insect (only six legs.)
Cue frantic tick hunt. I had to find it before Gary got back from the grocery store. I moved everything on the counter and wiped it. I lifted the phone, the dish soap, the lazy susan. The tick was gone. I had to confess when Gary got back and he, too, was compelled to hunt for the tick. No luck. The tick was in our kitchen somewhere. We had to give up and have lunch.
Then as Gary put his lunch plate by the sink, he lifted mine to stack them. Underneath was Mr. Tick. We don't know where he came from and I had to "empty" the insect out of the bag. Then Gary put the tick into the ziplock - you can see it in the picture.
You'd think the tick would be tired from his adventure but, no! the tick is smart. It escaped from the pink/purple sealed end before and that's right where it headed. The seal held. Ha. Mr. Tick and his 'friend' will go off to the vet's for testing, too.
If you are outside this year, do be aware. The ticks are thick. And smart.
I've been married a long time and often write about everyday events.