Precious Pikas

pika_mt-quandry-co_lah_6325-001Living at 7,100 feet at the base of the Rocky Mountains, I sometimes complain about our cold winters, especially as they stretch into March and April. But imagine spending the winter on top of the Rockies, at 11,000 feet or higher. At these elevations, winter lasts from October to May. The wind howls, blizzards come without warning, and the snow that doesn’t blow away piles deeply over the tundra.

Many species that summer on top of the mountains migrate vertically to lower, more sheltered wintering grounds. Of the few that remain all year, most hibernate.  But amazingly, there’s one small mammal—six inches long, weighing a mere six inches—that chooses mountaintop scree slopes as its home: the pika.

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Where the Pronghorn Play

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One of my favorite Colorado animals is the pronghorn. Even after two decades of living here, I still excitedly point them out whenever we see them—and we see them a lot. They even grazed in the field across the street from our old house. I think part of their appeal is that I know that pronghorns are unique to this part of the world.

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IPM: Pest-eating Vertebrates, Part 2

Mountain Bluebird_Johnson'sCorner-CO_LAH_2843Last month I explained how amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, are beneficial to our gardens. This time I’ll focus on birds and mammals. Inviting these wild animals into ours gardens is yet one more way that we can control the pests that dine on our flowers and veggies.

Birds
As an avid birder, I have up to a dozen feeders scattered around our yard. It may seem as if I’m doing the birds a favor, but it’s really the other way around! While most birds attracted to feeders eat seeds, many of those same species switch to bugs, with their higher protein content, during the breeding season.

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