“The prairie dog is usually labeled a couple of different ways: either as a pest or a keystone species,” says Destin Harrell, wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Cody Field Office. They can be both—it all depends on one’s perspective.
At the next Draper Natural History Museum Lunchtime Expedition lecture, Harrell presents Prairie Dogs: Ecosystem Engineers. The free talk takes place Thursday, March 1, 12:15 p.m., in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Coe Auditorium.
“In the Bighorn Basin, the white-tailed prairie dog builds a foundation for the diverse sagebrush-steppe ecosystem,” Harrell notes. At his talk, he explores population trends of prairie dogs and the many animals linked to the habitat they produce. He also discusses appropriate prairie dog management, which can foster coexistence with this species that anchors animal communities across the vast basins and plains of the American West.
Throughout his 17 years working for the BLM’s Cody Field Office, Harrell has explored areas as diverse as fire effects, large carnivore management, eagles, rare plants, caves, and other ecosystem-level subjects. While working in the Colorado Gunnison Basin at the start of his career, Harrell developed an affinity for the sagebrush-steppe while working with, among other things, Gunnison sage-grouse and prairie dogs.
In addition to his work studying the interactive processes of ecosystems in Greater Yellowstone, Harrell also enjoys exploring the backcountry—via boots, skis, or kayak—as a way to increase his understanding of nature.
The Lunchtime Expedition lecture series is organized and hosted by the Draper Natural History Museum and supported in part by Sage Creek Ranch and the Nancy-Carroll Draper Foundation. Click here to learn more about the Center’s natural science programs, or contact Bonnie Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-578-4020.
The next talk in the series takes place April 5. Find the Center’s full calendar of events at centerofthewest.org/calendar.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For more information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s pages on Facebook and Google+. #100YearsMore
Image: Destin Harrell discusses prairie dogs at the Draper Natural History Museum’s March 1 Lunchtime Expedition. Prairie dog, NPS photo by John Good.