Monday, April 20, 2009

Prairie Dogs

I've been trying to go for a 2 mile walk every day around Lake Charles, a small "lake" on the college campus. Wind or calm, I've walked around on the fitness trail that winds around that part of campus. I really enjoy the walk, it goes uphill and down, wanders around the lake and through a Prairie Dog town. There are usually a couple, or more, Canadian Geese on the lake and sometimes there are even Ducks there. Most days, there are even fishermen, as the State Wildlife Dept. stocks the Lake with fish--even Trout. There's often a couple of Jackrabbits around too.
The most common animal I see are Prairie Dogs. Since the trail wanders through a Town, it's only logical that I'd see many "doodle-dogs." They bark at me constantly. Some bark at a distance, some let me get pretty close to their hole, barking the entire time, and then at the last minute...bang! Down the hole they go! But, it's a constant sound as I walk the one mile route.

They are rather funny creatures. When they bark, they wag their tails. Just one sharp wag, with each bark. It almost looks as though the movement of the tail up and sharply down, is what forces the sound from their mouths. It makes me wonder...if a doodle dog couldn't wag it's tail; could it bark?

I've been around Prairie Dogs my entire life. One of my earliest memories is going out with Daddy to set poison out for the "Dogs." See, they destroy a pasture with their burrows and tunnels. Snakes like to share tunnels. Cattle can step in a hole and break a leg. Horses can trip in a hole and throw a rider, or break a leg. Rattlesnakes who live in Prairie Dog Towns bite livestock. The dogs eat all the grass, leaving none for livestock. Thus, most ranchers I know want to eliminate towns and dogs.

Way back when I was a little girl, it was legal to poison with Cyanide. That what I remember most, Dad stressing and scaring us when he told us to not touch the stuff. Never ever. "It will kill you faster than you can say help." The message got through. I never touched the stuff.

I remember watching him put it around holes. Can't remember if he put it in the hole, if he had gas capsules or what. But I remember watching him set poison out. My brother and cousins liked going out on a Sunday for a little target practice. My husband and son also enjoy going "doodle-dog" hunting. I've been along, but haven't shot any myself. I'm ok with it, because I know what a nuisance they are, and the dangers they present to Farmers and Ranchers.

Even knowing all this, I've enjoyed walking through the town. Except, I've noticed that the grass is gone, and without grass, the dirt really blows. As the dogs bark at me, I'll bark back, or comment to them, or just watch their fat little bodies run around.

Two weeks ago, something was missing as I walked. No one barked at me. At first, I thought that maybe...just maybe the dogs were all underground. Then I glanced over and saw a body lying near a hole.

And, it dawned on me. They had been...controlled...eradicated...removed....eliminated...

I knew the local population was too large.

I knew that near-by businesses had recently taken care of their population. The school did too.
I counted 4 living Prairie Dogs that day.

I understand the reason for it, but walk was lonely.

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