Prairie Dog Blog

prairie dog biology research

Stories from the field: site AZ4 May 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 09:19

Welcome to Springerville, AZ.  This lovely little town is a nestled in the forested hills of southeastern Arizona, a green oasis in the middle of a desert.  Still, the town itself is not much to look at (although Java Blues, the coffeshop/restaurant/bar on the main drag is pretty good, and plays great music).  There is a small prairie dog colony up on Forest Service west of town, but the site is remote and the animals cover a large area despite being few in number.  Yes, in hindsight, that colony would be better than the one recovering from plague (I presume) and constantly guarding against people (it is at a recreation area).

However, only hindsight is 20/20.  My actual vision is about 20/600 or so, and my figurative vision is usually better, but sometimes not by a whole lot.  (more…)


Stories from the field: site NM24 May 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 22:24

Field work is supposed to be straightforward, hard work, continue until a job is done, no complications.  Just pack up the truck and be prepared, and things will all go smoothly.  Right?

Borrowed truck equipped with trapping supplies, sleeping supplies, food and lots of reading material



The Perks of Being a Biologist May 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 23:23

I love my job.  Well, it has ups and downs… but overall, I am pretty lucky.

Today has brought me to Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site and Canyon de Chelly ( pronounced shay) National Monument, two beautiful places in eastern Arizona that are off the beaten track.  Hubbell has a collection of historical wagons, farm equipment and supplies used by early settlers (upon looking closely at the wagons, I instantly realized why broken axles were  a regular part of the Oregon Trail game… these were built long before the invention of shock absorbers, and any stress was taken directly by the axles).



Report from the field May 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 19:21

The prairie dogs are outsmarting me.  Again.

The site we are visiting this week is located at a recreation area, and yesterday (a beautiful sunny Sunday), dozens of people were out fishing, kayaking, and swimming at the lake adjacent to the colony.  Prairie dogs are already vigilant of potential predators, and their wariness is amplified when many people are around.  It is perhaps not surprising, then, that in a colony of low density, we have been unable to catch any prairie dogs in two days… We will keep trying.

In the meantime, we have seen a few other critters– different species than we have on black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Boulder.  In Boulder, we have seen Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophius tridecemlineatus), prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridus viridus), bull snakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi), desert cottontails (Sylvilagus adubonii), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and many insects and spiders (sorry, I need help with this type of classification…).

Desert cottontail at prairie dog burrow entrance



The search continues May 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 04:28

During the last few weeks, I have spent all my time trying to find prairie dogs.  A simple task in Boulder, it has proven to be tricky with the shier Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni), which live in less densely populated colonies and do not clip vegetation the way that black-tails (C. ludovicianus) do.  Because of these two life history traits, they are much less conspicuous, and can be difficult to spot even when you know you’re at a colony.  Furthermore, plague seems to be taking a heavy toll on populations at the edge of the Gunnison’s prairie dog range– dozens of people pointed me to colonies that had existed within the past few years, and I arrived to find only unmaintained, unoccupied burrows.

Prairie dog researchers at a colony that is slowly recovering from plague



Welcome to the pdogblog May 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lorensackett @ 04:31

Welcome to my prairie dog blog!  Here I will discuss science and adventure related to my research on prairie dogs in the Four Corners states.  For general information about my research, please check out my website:

Stay tuned for prairie dog science from the field!