There are so many animals in need out there, but also there are so many amazing people who volunteer their time to help animal causes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of them while writing a series for All Creatures magazine entitled “Helping America’s Animals.”
This month, in the September/October 2019 issue of All Creatures, I interviewed James E. Trever, of Albuquerque New Mexico. He volunteers for an organization called Prairie Dog Pals. Prairie dogs in the area are losing their natural habitat, largely due to agriculture–they can be disruptive to farmers and ranchers. However, Jim also told me about a popular activity in that area–shooting contests, where people are given prizes for killing the most prairie dogs. Another thing Jim told me is that prairie dogs are sometimes collected for pets, by a truck with a vacuum that sucks them out of their burrows. That image is so heartbreaking. Prairie Dog Pals helps sustain the species by providing supplemental feeding, and also by trapping and relocating prairie dogs to a wildlife refuge.
Talking to Jim helped me see the passion other people have for different animals. For me, it’s dogs. For another, it’s cats. For others, it’s lizards or giraffes or woolly bear caterpillars. James cares passionately about prairie dogs, and keeps some that are unable to be returned to the wild. He even listens to special harp music at home, that helps keep him, and his furry friends, calm. He spoke about some of his favorite prairie dogs that he cares for, but he doesn’t recommend people keeping them as pets. Jim also participates in fostering awareness about the breed, and educates school kids about these amazing little critters.
Speaking with Jim reminded me that every animal has it’s place in the ecosystem and that there is so much more to prairie dogs than I knew. Here are some interesting prairie dog facts (credit: Sarah Wade, WWF)
- They have an advanced vocabulary, of squeaks and whistles with specific and detailed meanings.
- Their historical range has shrunk by more than 95%.
- They mate only once a year, and their entire mating season is only one hour long.
One of the most important things Jim hoped to get across in the article is that many other plants and animals depend on prairie dogs. If you harm the prairie dog population, you harm more than 200 species of plants, animals, birds, reptiles, and insects that depend directly or indirectly on prairie dogs.
Since I’ve never been to the western states, I’ve never met a wild prairie dog, so I learned a lot from Jim. Next month I’ll be sharing my interview with Kira Grant, from the Wild Bird Fund in New York.