Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prairie dog 'Jump-Yip'

I adore prairie dogs. Within walking distance there is a prairie dog town and I go there every single day. I go at sunrise, sunset, and for short visits during the day. I need to be out more during the day when the light is good but it's been in the 100s this week and even with a hat on, I can't take the sun for too long.

Black-tailed prairie dogs only occupy one or two percent of the land they lived on two hundred years ago. They're very social and live in family groups called coteries (the /o/ sound is long). The have these vocalizations that are actually pretty complex but basically, to my merely human ears, they have a warning bark and an alarm yip. This photo show a guy doing his "jump-yip" alarm. Funny thing is, his buddy is sitting on his rumpus not looking too terribly concerned.

What I find fascinating is, I read that they recognize colors and they recognize danger or non-danger. Me, I wear the same red overshirt every time I go to the prairie dog town. I think maybe they recognize I am not a threat. I walk around real gentle and slow and quiet, and I think they know I mean no harm. Sometimes I can get rather close to one when he's busy eating and he seems not to mind.

I just read that the jump-yip happens after a predator has left the area and that makes sense to me. I've noticed the the jump-yips are always happening farther from me than any of the regular alarm yips. No wonder!

In 2005, when we were here last, I tried and tried to get a close enough photo of a prairie dog but I couldn't. I was calling myself Prairie Dog Woman because I was crazy about the prairie dogs, which really aren't dogs at all, but rodents. Ewww. But anyway.

Here's my post from July 2005 - Call Me Prairie Dog Woman. People liked this picture. I did too. I was so stealthy!