Peek-a-boo at the Zoo


Pop, pop, pop! Another successful year for prairie dog day at the Denver Zoo!


Pop, pop, pop! Another successful year for prairie dog day at the Denver Zoo!


Prairie Dog Day, which is held once every year at the Denver Zoo, is a day dedicated to Colorado's furry little burrowers! Prairie dogs are usually found anywhere from Mexico to Montana. But this event isn't held to simply smile and coo at the prairie dog, Daisy, whom is currently a permanent resident of the Denver Zoo for education purposes. Prairie dogs have dropped by 98% since the 1900's. They are now an endangered species. Why? Mostly ranchers who pay people to poison the prairie dogs living on their land. Since ranches are almost always out on wide grassy areas, prairie dogs are commonly found there. But recently, prairie dogs have been popping up- no pun intended- around the utter most urban parts of Denver.


As prairie dogs spend most their time peeking out of their holes or staying inside roaming or building onto their elaborate series of holes and tunnels, they don't see the bulldozer slowly approaching. And the bulldozers don't see them. They do their job, clearing the land for new building, while the prairie dogs do theirs- until they find themselves buried under five feet of soil. When a bulldozer is going to clear the land, most companies bulldoze them over. Some have the common courtesy to poison them first.


But now, a small amount of companies are even are trying to relocate them. In fact, one rancher has let the prairie dogs stay on his land. Because, as it turns out, prairie dogs are good. For cattle, they trim the grass and take out the weeds. When the dead tops of grass it cut off, the cattle can munch on the juicy lower sections. There was no weight difference between cattle on prairie dog free ranches verses those with prairie dogs.


Some ranchers worry about cattle tripping in prairie dog holes and breaking a leg. When Richard P. Reading from the Denver Zoological Foundation, the presenter of the lecture at Prairie Dog Day, interviewed a couple thousand ranchers if they had ever had a cow break a leg in a prairie dog hole in the past 20 years, none of them said yes. Of course, over half knew a rancher who had a cow break a leg in the result of stepping in a prairie dog hole. The only reason this became known commonly is because when people used to drive cattle, the cows would fall into prairie dog holes. But now, people graze cattle. Cows don't see a prairie dog hole and make a beeline for it. So, legends replacing facts?


Yet others worry about prairie dogs spreading plague. If a prairie dog catches plague, it dies too quickly to spread it. Unless, of course, you pick up a dead infected prairie dog. So, please, don't pick up dead prairie dogs until the fleas that gave them the plague have wandered else where.


So, if prairie dogs are good, why has their number lowered? Mostly poisoning, but also some people use prairie dogs as live targets. Yes, that's right. Fathers will go out and teach their sons how to work a gun by practicing on innocent prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are also considered pests, so guess what? Pest control can help you with those pesky critters! Prairie dogs in Mexico have dipped into the thousands, and many more are still losing habitats.


Please, from me and all the other prairie dog lovers, help. Don't think you can make a difference? The Zoo is now expanding the teen volunteering program! You have to be 13 or older to help out. You can help prepare the animals food, maybe even hold some animals. There are limits, though. You don't want a 13-year-old grooming the lions! You can also help out with Boo at the Zoo and the Zoo Lights. Help the prairie dogs! Go to Prairie Dog Coalition for more information on how to help prairie dogs!