Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is an herbivorous rodent that inhabits the central part of North America. The term “prairie dog” is based upon the open spaces where it lives and the warning calls or barks they use to inform others in their community of potential danger. Lewis and Clark first discovered this species on their trek westward and Lewis, writing a few years later, referred to them as “barking squirrel”.
Our interest in these animals is undoubted increased by their highly social nature. The family unit is the basic component in the life of a prairie dog. However, multiple family groups may loosely band together and form “towns” which can cover an extensive amount of territory. The largest prairie dog town recorded covered 25,00 square miles and may have contained 400 million prairie dogs!
It is believed these creatures have a highly specific language which allows them to communicate effectively and benefit from multiple guards which warn of potential danger. If, for example, a diving hawk should threaten, a certain call is given which sends those in the flight path of the hawk into their burrows. Others out of the flight path simply stand and watch. When humans enter the colony, another signal is given and all in the community dive into their burrows for safety. In response to the call warning of a coyote, the prairie dogs hurry to the entrance hole and set up vigil there while those inside the burrow come out and join their comrades in observing the predator.
It’s sad to think that rodents are more responsive to warnings than we are. II Kings 17:13,14 speaks of the exasperation God must have felt due to the unresponsiveness of His chosen people. “God had taken a stand against Israel and Judah, speaking clearly through countless holy prophets and seers time and time again, ‘Turn away from your evil way of life. Do what I tell you and have been telling you in The Revelation I gave your ancestors and of which I’ve kept reminding you ever since through my servants the prophets.’ But they wouldn’t listen”… (The Message) Sad for them, so sad for us if we won’t listen.