Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rain Delay

I promised to post last night, but then the most extraordinary thing happened. It rained. Twice! I wanted to get the final rain count before I posted anything.

But first, the prairie dogs. On Sunday we went out to the ranch to check on the prairie dogs.

(For new readers or longtime readers who have forgotten, two years ago (almost exactly two years), we "took in" a colony of prairie dogs who had to be relocated. Taos County was getting ready to build a new administrative and judicial complex on what was a prairie dog town. Rather than kill them, which would have outraged animal lovers and environmentalists, they hired a company that specializes in such relocations. We have 40 acres of land, fondly referred to as Scott Valley Ranch or just The Ranch, that we knew would be perfect for prairie dogs, so we offered our land. For details about the move, click on The Taos News to read the story.)

But back to Sunday. We've been worried about how the prairie dogs were handling the drought, but we know there's nothing we can do about it. We can't take them water (although Ron thought about taking them water-drenched lettuce). When we went out there Sunday, as soon as we turned off the overgrown road onto our property and drove a very short distance, we saw a tiny prairie dog head peeping out of one of the holes. Then he/she came all the way out, turned around, and went back in. It was a baby prairie dog! That was a good sign.

We drove further, got to the spot where we camp, and parked the car and started walking around, inspecting the burrows. We could tell by the pebbled appearance of the dirt that it had rained lightly in the last 24 hours, but there wasn't much sign of activity near the burrows and that concerned us. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up and saw an adult prairie dog standing up and then running to its hole and diving in. We walked around inspecting various burrows; most of them looked completely inactive and a few looked slightly active. We were pretty depressed about the situation, feeling like we'd brought these poor animals to their doom. As we started to leave, we saw another baby prairie dog.

When we got home, Ron did some research on the Internet and determined that the babies we saw were six weeks old. He also read that often, adult prairie dogs will leave the babies in the old burrows, where the babies are comfortable, and the adults will move to new ones, often several miles away. So that gave us some hope that just because we didn't see evidence of activity meant that they were all dead. But we still worried because of the drought. The grasses out there that they eat are dried up and brown.

Then yesterday the rains came. During the evening news, it started raining so hard it disrupted the satellite signal. The rain was so loud, I wished there were some kind of volume button for the rain so I could turn it down! The back courtyard became a muddy mess, with huge puddles in various places. I kept checking the weather station and reporting the rapidly growing accumulation. When the rain stopped after about half an hour, we had 0.57 inches of rain. That's huge! I looked out back after another half an hour and all the puddles had absorbed into the ground, leaving an almost totally dry yard, just barely damp.

We weren't sure if there had been any rain at The Ranch. We kept looking in the general direction of where it is from here.

A couple of hours later, it began to rain again! This was a slow, steady, soaking rain, the perfect kind. And this time we could tell it was raining at The Ranch. We could tell by looking at the sky and we verified it by looking at the doppler radar on the computer. It was raining more over there than it was here, and we got an additional 0.14 inches of rain for a daily total of 0.71 inches. If we get a few more storms like that, the prairie dogs may survive after all.

With ironic timing, I've just received a summons for jury duty. It will be at the recently-completed judicial complex, built where "our" prairie dogs used to live.


Barbara said...

You didn't move them to their doom, you know. You moved them FROM their doom to a place where they take their chances with nature, the way it should be. And I know you'd be sad if the colony on the Ranch didn't make it. But it wouldn't be your fault. Still, it's exciting to know that there are babies. That means there's hope for the colony.

Beth said...

I know, we know. And we've talked about it over the last two years. We moved them from a place that had poor vegetation to a place with great vegetation but a place with coyotes and hawks. And we know that's all part of the circle of life (coyotes and hawks need to eat, too). And record-setting drought is part of nature, too. We just feel protective of them.

It was great to see the babies; there IS hope for the colony.

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for the rain!!! I'm enjoying your blog so much! I was quite a bit behind so have had to catch up. It seems you've found your voice. Your writing is comfortable as well as good. Don't stop! We're hoping with you that things turn out well for the prairie dogs. I suppose the babies were such a surprise that you didn't get pictures.

Love and hugs,