A Message from the President
In June, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Dr. Edward O. Wilson, a member of our Scientific Advisory Council, at the Aspen Environment Forum in Aspen, Colorado. Enthusiasm for American Prairie Reserve’s vision was palpable at the conference, which was co-sponsored by National Geographic, and I was delighted to meet many people who were interested in visiting the Reserve or joining us as volunteers. As we continue to raise awareness of the project through venues like the Aspen Environment Forum, you can play an important role by sharing your enthusiasm for American Prairie Reserve with friends and family. We’re making a lot of exciting progress this summer and I hope you’ll consider passing our newsletters along to others who might be inspired by our vision.
Your Donations at Work: New Interpretive Signs on the Reserve
Thanks to your contributions, American Prairie Reserve continues to evolve into a more visitor-friendly destination with the addition of interpretive signs. In July, we installed our first sign near the prairie dog town on Box Elder Crossing, just a short drive from the restored Prairie Union School. The sign features illustrations, facts and photos about black-tailed prairie dogs and their subterranean life cycle as well as some of the town’s other species. Future signs will follow a similar format, peeling back the layers of prairie ecology to tell the stories of the landscape and its inhabitants. We hope that the signs enrich the experience of visitors of all ages and our appreciation goes out to supporters who have helped make this project possible.
Mars Ambassador Program Returns to Build Second Trail
Mars Incorporated’s Ambassador Program returned for a second outing on American Prairie Reserve in June, bringing a new group of international volunteers to the prairie. The Ambassador Program, which focuses on corporate responsibility through global volunteer initiatives, drew eight participants who were selected for the program through a global application process in which they described their reasons for wanting to work on American Prairie Reserve. This year’s volunteers came from countries including The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Brazil and Belgium, as well as the United States.
Science Update: Protecting Prairie Dogs from Sylvatic Plague
In June, 400 acres of prairie dog colonies on American Prairie Reserve were dusted for sylvatic plague, a disease lethal to both prairie dogs and the endangered black-footed ferret. Sylvatic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and is transmitted by infected fleas to mammalian hosts. Using a dust insecticide to eliminate plague-transmitting fleas, World Wildlife Fund’s Kristy Bly and Jessica Alexander worked with a Montana Conservation Corps crew to treat 17,503 prairie dog burrows.
Wildlife Species: Woodhouse’s Toad
Known for its chilling, scream-like cry, the Woodhouse’s Toad measures about four inches in length and is colored in shades of grey, brown or olive with pale mottling. A distinctive white or yellow line runs down the toad’s back, and it has prominent cranial crests and a slightly pointed snout. The Woodhouse’s Toad breeds in ponds and slow moving streams, preferring shallow water with a muddy bottom. On American Prairie Reserve, the toads are usually found near Box Elder Creek, although recent anecdotal evidence indicates that populations are expanding their range into the area surrounding Yurt Camp.
Sights to See: Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge
Located just seven miles east of Malta in the Milk River Valley, the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936 to provide habitat for migratory birds. The Refuge is home to a variety of bird species, making it an enjoyable attraction for birders drawn to the Reserve and its surrounding landscape. The Refuge attracts migrating waterfowl and shorebirds by the thousands and provides breeding and nesting habitat for ducks, geese, grassland songbirds and nesting water birds. Many species of state and federal concern can be seen at the Refuge. The area is equally important to diverse wildlife, including white-tailed deer, pronghorn, sharp-tailed grouse and coyotes. Because many of the bird species in the Bowdoin Refuge can also be seen on the Reserve, a visit to both locations creates a well-rounded picture of the region’s avian abundance.
What We’re Reading Now…
A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky by Michael Driscoll & Meredith Hamilton
Hiking and wildlife viewing are only the start of the fun on American Prairie Reserve. At night the sky comes alive with sweeping views of the stars, making the Reserve an ideal destination for stargazers and amateur astronomers. Families planning a trip to the Reserve this summer should consider bringing along this accessible book, which introduces children to the sights of the night sky and provides colorful illustrations that deepen a child’s stargazing experience. Throughout the book, the authors provide stories drawn from science and history, while educational activities provide ideas and discussion starters for families to share around the campfire.
95 Estimated percent of decline in North American bighorn sheep populations since the late 19th century.
30 Average weight in pounds of a pair of bighorn sheep horns.
20 Miles per hour a bighorn sheep can charge.
15 Typical base circumference in inches of one horn.
Correction: In the April/May newsletter, we ran an article on long-billed curlew migration studies in the Reserve area. Although preliminary assessments were made to determine the extent of long-billed curlew nesting sites on Reserve lands, the Reserve was not selected as a site for the study and APR is not an official partner in this project.