Home, Home on the Range

Where the Mule Deer and the Pronghorn Antelope Play…

Reflections on the KABT Field Trip in Logan County, June 4-6, 2010

I am not sure what KABT’s goal for the field trip were but for me they were two-fold.  I wanted to provide an inspirational outdoor experience for four of my senior students, and two of my children, who eagerly participated in the trip, while learning myself about the wonderful short-grass prairie from our very own sage, the Yoda-like natural history master, Stan Roth. 

In both regards the trip was a resounding success, even though I failed to continue to follow Noah’s driving lead into better pastures where he was finally able to witness the character of our pursuit, the endangered a recently re-established Black-Footed Ferret (see Noah’s posts). 

If you are sad that you missed the trip, continue on since I did my best to record it all for you…

More specifically, follow along to see what I saw, learn what I learned, listen while I contemplate what KABT may have learned, and educate yourself on the prairie dog wars of Logan County, Kansas in hopes of a return trip to this wonderful county… 

I apologize up front for the lack of quality audio in some of the following videos…  I was just using a flip mino, and as you will see, it can get quite windy out west. 

Also, two the videos I am sharing are too large for YouTube standards (more than 10 minutes), so I have provided a link to the files being stored elsewhere.  They should open and play in windows media player but if not (which has happened to me already), just right-click, save to your local machine, and view using Quick Time.  I will continue to work on having them display in a more user friendly manner…

What did I see?

I know I won’t be all inclusive since I didn’t record all the plants and birds that we observed, but here goes…

yucca, indian blanket, prince’s plume, little bluestem, buffalo grass, western salsify, prickey pear and button cactus, sage, larkspur, stinkhorn mushroom, green sunfish (in the Smoky Valley River that had flowing water), great plains toad, woodhouse’s toad, plains spadefooted toad, ornate box turtle, prairie lizard, six-linned racerunner, earless lizard, coachwhip, plains garter snake, common kingsnake, bullsnake, prairie rattlesnake, racer, western hognose snake, eastern and western kingbirds, mocking bird, blue jay (two words), orchard oriole, barn owl, red-headed woodpecker, grasshopper sparrow, horned lark, barn swallow, cliff swallow, night hawk, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, unidentified rodents, kangaroo rat, cotton tail rabbit, black-tailed jack rabbit, raccoon, white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, and swift fox. 

It sounds like a short-grass prairie doesn’t it?

Well, we also saw humans, yellow sweat clover, corn, wheat, a dog, some cats, lambs, chickens, and quite a number of cows.  No herds of bison, at least out west…

  • View my pdf slideshow of images from KABT Spring 2010 Field Trip to Logan County, Kansas

What did I learn?

1. From Stan, How to capture a Kangaroo Rat… at least theoretically…

and the empirical results…

more on Kangaroo Rats from David Attenbourgh at YouTube…

2. Stinkhorns really do attract flies! 

Maybe these videos (or pictures from the slide show) could be used in conjunction with Brad’s recent images of aphids to begin to produce a class set of such “interaction” images that students could use as a springboard for learning about interesting and complex ecological relationships…

3. about the Cretaceous Seas of Kansas from Chuck Bonner (~15 minute video).

4. Cochineal scale insects, found on prickly pear cacti, produce a cool pigment called Carmine!

more on Cochineal insects at wikipedia…

5. From rancher Larry Haverfield, How to manage your land for Prairie Dogs (~50 minutes video)

6. How to spotlight for Black-Footed Ferrets!

listen for  Owen’s prophetic response to my saying “but we haven’t seen a ferret yet”…

What may KABT have learned?

Well, I don’t want this to come across wrong but it turned out to be a blessing that so many KABTers were unable to make the field trip this spring.  In an effort to boost participant numbers, Brain Coon approached Stan to consider opening up the trip to a few of our students, and he agreed.  Thanks Stan!  Thus, six lucky high school students were able to be moved by the western scenery of our state.

The trip proved to be a mutualistic group learning experience where besides the tradiational teachers-learning-from-teachers situation, students learned from teachers, teachers learned from students, and students learn from each other. 

My experiences with taking students on the Kansas Herpetological Society spring and fall field trips for over 10 years has taught me that such outdoor opportunities can change the trajectory of a student.  I know that KABT has been open to the children of participants in the past, and I certainly wouldn’t want student particpation to keep a teacher from participating or from overshadow learning by the members themselves, but I think the society should consider killing two birds with one stone and continue to open up appropriate spring field trips to student participation. 

Prairie Dog Wars History & Noah’s Ferret Sighting from My Perspective.

Larry Haverfield, on June 5, 2o1o discussing his ranching approach with KABT Field Trip participants

December 5, 2006, Outlaw Prairie Dogs Find Refuge with Rancher – NPR’s All Things Considered by Jeff Brady

December 6, 2006, In Kansas, a Line Is Drawn Around a Prairie Dog Town– New York Times by Felicity Barringer

August 5, 2007, Landowners, commisioners split over prairie dog control–  The Topeka Capital Journal by Jan Biles

December 20, 2007, Black-Footed Ferret’s Return to Kansas– Audobon of Kansas Website

December, 2007, Black-Footed Ferret’s Return to Kansas! – Defenders of Wildlife website

January 21, 2008, Poison talk not kaput – The Hays Daily News by Mike Corn (here is a link to an entire series of articles on the “Prairie Dog Divide” by Mike Corn)

December 20, 2008 – New war being waged against prairie dogs in Logan County by Mike Corn

November/December 2009, Doggone!– Audubon Magazine by Ted Williams

November 8, 2009, Prairie Dog Wars images – Mat Slaby images for Audubon article

April 2, 2010, Palco students help survey ferrets – The Hays Daily News by Richard Robinson

June 5, 2010, Larry Haverfield in his own words – video taped by Eric Kessler on the KABT Field Trip (same as the 50 minute video above) 

June 21, 2010, When some ranchers use poison – just like the old days – High Country News by Ted Williams

Noah Busch overlooking the prairie dog hole where he last observed the ferret just before sunrise!

Noah Busch and Stan Roth talking to Larry Haverfield about the mornings observations,
and here is the actual conversation…

If this post made you jealous, please consider joining us next year!



Author: Eric Kessler

I am a high school teacher in the Blue Valley School District who has taught a Bioscience Research course at the district's Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) since 2010. Previous to this teaching gig I was at Blue Valley North High School where I taught freshman Biology and Honors Biology, Field Biology, Zoology, and AP Biology for the past 18 years.

One thought on “Home, Home on the Range”

  1. Nice job documenting the trip. It looks like you had a great time! Now I know how to catch a kangaroo rat. Thanks Stan.

Comments are closed.