Sunday, June 10, 2007

prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits: three survival strategies

Here's something a little different to relieve the tension of waiting...

Prairie dogs dig tunnels they can escape into, squirrels climb out of reach, and rabbits run and hide.

Not everyone has seen a prairie dog, so if you know about them please pardon me while I describe them a bit. They look a lot like squirrels (are in fact a kind of ground squirrel), except bigger, fatter, and lighter in color than most squirrels. Unlike their tree dwelling cousins, they’re gregarious, living in colonies that may number hundreds or even thousands of individuals, and may extend over many acres, digging networks of interconnected tunnels that protect them from all predators not slender enough to follow them underground. Adults will act as sentinels, standing watch at the thresholds of their holes, chirping sharply at the approach of anything that might be dangerous, warning all others to get to their tunnels.

It’s a little known fact that squirrels will also fight as well as climb to safety, especially the males during mating season. If you see a dog with scars on its face, there’s a pretty fair chance they were put there by a squirrel. But it’s rare to see this because mostly they make it to the nearest tree before getting caught, and nothing climbs a tree as well as a squirrel can, not even cats, who tend to be more interested in birds in any case.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are so good at hiding they can do it in plain sight. They hunker down and lay their ears back, and, unless you caught them in the act, you might swear you were looking at a stone. Once discovered, they’ll run until out of sight, then hide again. Jack rabbits do the same thing; they just run faster and farther before hiding.

So, you may be wondering whether I have a point, and the answer is yes and no. I was musing casually how these three animals might serve as metaphors for survival strategies employed by people, and thinking there might be a book in it. But that’s a project I don’t have time for, so I’ll just leave it at that, and leave it to you to draw whatever conclusions you will.

Hmmm... just one last example, a strategy used by a predator - the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. Wolves don't actually dress up in sheepskins, but they will roll around in what's left of a kill to mask their own scents, and there might be bits of sheepskin stuck to their coats afterwards, as they go off in search of the next kill. Again, I'll leave it to you whether a parallel exists in human behavior.

1 comment:

barneyandemily said...

I just wanted to know what a praire dog looks like, but interesting post.

Thank you.