Behold, the simple prairie dog. Cute, occasionally controversial, almost always an afterthought when contemplating our rugged Western landscape’s wildlife. We easily overlook these ground dwelling creatures until we hear their high-pitched warning call or see their fluffy backsides zipping down into a hidden hole.
Well, lo and behold, the once unoccupied Sculpture Park has its first formal resident in the form of a tawny-colored rodent known as the prairie dog. To the untrained eye, it’s difficult to decipher the gender of prairie dogs but, based on typical prairie dog behavior, males often live solo until they establish their families.
Over the years, Coloradoans have quibbled over prairie dog colonies. Developers, ranchers, and farmers often view the prairie dog as a nuisance, a pest and a hindrance to their livelihood. Colonies can cause topsoil losses, unsafe holes and hollow channels that threaten to collapse. And then there’s the plague, which can be contracted by fleas, and thus prairie dogs.
Activists, nature-enthusiasts, and animal lovers disagree and argue to protect the prairie dog, whose occupation also helps aerate the soil, provide homes for other burrowing creatures and even food for predatory animals and birds of prey.
The 1804 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition contained some of the first documentation of prairie dogs’ behavior, naming origin and sightings. To honor both adventurous, exploratory parties and for ease of reading, we’ll call this little guy Meriwether.
No matter which camp you’re in, there’s one thing we can all agree on — this prairie dog makes a cute addition to our charming Sculpture Park. Read on for a view of Sculpture Park, as seen from its current inhabitant.
July 8, 2019
The first month in my new home has been everything I dreamed of, and more! Since I was little, I yearned to settle in a place that was all my own. The farm fields of my home colony were overrun with my family and friends — and we all know what it’s like living just a little too close to mom and dad.
I knew I was a little different than the rest of my kin. I liked being on my own, roaming across empty land, discovering new grasses and seeds to snack on, gazing out at the clear blue sky and rugged mountains. I never realized there was so much out there open for exploration, so as soon as I was on my own, I took off and headed west, a few seeds stored in my cheeks and the ground beneath my feet.
My colony was a quiet one with whipping wind and rolling thunder as the soundtrack of my youth. But I knew I wanted to be around lively energy, right up next to vibrant life that is constantly moving and growing and inspiring. When I stumbled upon this little slice of paradise, I knew I had found it.
Now, here I am, at the intersection of progress and innovation, a glistening red STOP sign marking the entrance to my humble abode, artwork in my backyard. I’m a real city boy now.
Each night, glistening lights along the street flicker on as the golden evening sunset fades away. This is my favorite time in my new home. The park grows quiet, no more sounds of crunching gravel underfoot or dog snouts sniffing near the door of my home. Just me and the night breeze in my little corner of Niwot, all my own.
Meriwether, signing off.