Saturday, August 29, 2009

Prairie Dogs with the Plague!

I could hardly believe it!

I've never heard of any animal having the plague!

As we drove through the Badlands National Park we saw signs all over that warned people to not get out of their cars because the prairie dogs have the actual bubonic plague!

We asked the ranger about it and she said that the prairie dogs just south of the park got the plague. They sprayed that whole area with some kind of pesticide that would kill the fleas that the prairie dogs carry. It is by the fleas that the plague is passed. They were hoping to keep the plague out of the prairie dog towns on the park. I had never seen a prairie dog town before so let me describe it for you. There are holes all over the ground with dirt mounded up around them. There are prairie dogs poking out of the holes here and there. They like to holler to each other. They are a danger to ranchers because their horses and cows can step in the holes made by the prairie dogs and break their legs or get stuck.
I did some research online.  I don't believe everything I read, but this is what I found out. The plague kills between 20 and 30 people a year in the U.S. It is spread by prairie dogs, squirrels, bunnies, mice, and other small animals. It is more prevalent in dirty conditions.
Well, we found out all of this and stayed far away from the prairie dog towns. We went riding ATVs Saturday and then again on Sunday at the Buffalo Gap Grasslands just south of the Badlands National Park. Shae and Cody rode some by themselves while the kids and I went to the visitor center. Of course, the guys had to get close to the prairie dog ghost towns, where most of the prairie dogs have already died. They saw a few live ones, and were a little close to them. I was pretty upset when I heard they got so close to them. We found out that you usually start seeing symptoms within 3-6 days. We were watching them for those six days! Yikes! What an adventure. We had a great time, just watch out for those prairie dogs!

How weird.....the prairie dogs! What an adventure!

Hanna didn't want to get out of the van to take pictures of the prairie dogs.

Prairie Dog on alert
Riding isn't allowed on the national park lands, but just south there was a great riding area.

Here are a few links for more info:


Animal Planet

For more info on the Buffalo Gap Grasslands, click here.

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