I have visited a lot of parks on my trip out west, and in a lot of those parks were prairie dogs. A lot of prairie dogs were in those parks. I have to admit that I couldn’t get enough of them. They are just so cute. Here is a collection of photos of prairie dogs from several different parks.
Mostly I use this blog to share my photos. Sometimes I use it to explain something. Right now I need to rant perhaps a little about something I saw at Custer State Park. There is a lot of wildlife there, which of course is one of the reasons that people visit it. When you enter the park, there are signs warning you that buffalo are dangerous and don’t approach them. I know I saw at least one sign that said don’t feed the wildlife. On the park’s website, it says don’t feed the wildlife. Yesterday, close to sunset, I was driving on the wildlife loop and saw donkeys eating in the grasslands. I pulled over to park, and there was a family out of their car feeding a donkey right next to their car. The donkey was clearly friendly and used to humans, but it was not in a harness, and it was a park. I knew it was wrong to feed the donkey as sweet as it appeared to be. The man was letting his young daughter feed the donkey, and the donkey was practically eating out of her hand. I was worried, perhaps overly so, that the girl might accidentally get bitten. [It doesn’t matter how sweet the animal, even with horses and dogs, there is a right way and wrong way to give an animal food from your hand to make sure you are not accidentally bitten.] I finally said something to the man. I said you are not supposed to feed the wildlife. He said I know. I said this is a state park. He said I know. He clearly didn’t care. They left soon after, and others came to park and see the donkeys. A women in another car brought them carrots and celery. The donkeys came up to the car windows. The women got out to feed them. Two other donkeys approached seeing how this one donkey was being fed from two different sets of people. The woman who brought the carrots and celery finally threw the vegetables at the donkeys and ran away because the donkeys kept trying to eat from her hand. Then the donkeys went car to car trying to get food. I initially had been outside my car taking photos of the donkeys in the field. I had to retreat to car after the donkeys kept going to everyone. I wasn’t afraid of the donkeys, but I was not going to give them anything, and I didn’t think I should be interacting with them at all.
Basic rule of thumb is don’t feed the wildlife. Unless there is a park ranger standing near you stating you can feed whichever particular wildlife and here is what to feed them, then don’t feed the wildlife. I don’t know why there are donkeys in a state park. I don’t even know if they are truly wild or maybe just feral or really domestic and somehow ended up in the park. I do know the park information says don’t feed the wildlife and no exclusion is stated for the donkeys. Animals that are fed start to depend on humans for food and don’t forage properly. You may not be feeding them proper food either. It may not be good for them. It may not have the proper nutrients, and then because they don’t forage, they don’t get proper nutrients. It is like people feeding bread to ducks. Bread is not actually all that nutritious for ducks. You could get accidentally hurt. The animal could get hurt. Think of those donkeys going right up to the cars. You think they are more likely to get hit by a car because they think cars mean food? Diseases can be spread to or from the animal.
It is really simple. Don’t feed the animals.
I saw and photographed quite a few bison while at Custer State Park, so I wanted to share some more photos in a separate blog post of just them. The first four photographs are of the same bison, who rather enjoys rolling around in the dirt.
I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.
About a month ago, I went for a ride on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. The train follows a gorgeous path through the West Virginia country side, the highlight of which is through a gorge of the South Branch of the Potomac River known as the Trough. The train is called the Potomac Eagle because you are almost guaranteed to see bald eagles while in the Trough. I think we saw almost ten. I got photographs of about five. Truthfully even if I hadn’t seen the eagles, the scenery was worth the trip.
I went snorkeling today off the coast of Belize on part of its barrier reef. I have no true idea where I was, other than they said the boat ride was going to be about 14 miles. So that clears that up. Anyway, I saw several lobsters, a couple of rays, and a couple of nurse sharks. I was super excited by the rays and sharks. The coral was lovely, but somewhat sparse in that area. Also, there seemed to be a bit of what I can only assume was coral bleaching, which was rather depressing.
I took a cruise up the Monkey River today. Getting there was an adventure into itself. An hour drive to Placencia, then at least a half hour boat ride to Monkey River Town, to finally then cruise up the Monkey River. The journey ended at a spot in the jungle which is completely overrun by mosquitoes, but there are also some howler monkeys. The howler monkeys are about as loud as you can imagine an animal that gets the name howler would be. The Monkey River flows through a grassy and mangrove area that is quite pretty. There were numerous birds just sitting along the edge waiting to be spotted. Our guide also spotted a crocodile on the way back that nicely ignored us.
I visited Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary yesterday. I did not get to see any jaguars, which is the reason the sanctuary was created. However, thanks to the rain the day before, I did get to see some of their tracks, which made me happy. It appears to me the sanctuary actually belongs to leaf cutter ants though. They are everywhere. They have created ant highways across all the paths, and their mounds are everywhere. I am rather in awe of what these tiny insects can do in transforming their environment. Numerous places of the hiking paths have the weeds completely mowed clear by the ants, so they can walk unhindered. The sanctuary is quite pretty, and I admit, one of my favorite things about it was the moss and fungus growing on trees that I became quite obsessed with photographing.
This past weekend, I got to check an item off my bucket list when I got a tour of Freshkills, the former landfill that is being turned into a park. This is probably not an item on most people’s bucket list, but I have heard so much about the landfill that when I found out New York City Parks Department gives tours, I jumped to sign up. The vast majority of the landfill has been fully capped and vegetated. The mounds are dotted by the landfill gas collection system with gas wells popping up from the high grass at regular intervals. The wildlife has already moved in. There were butterflies flying everywhere in the grass, and birds were everywhere. We also saw a family of deer. The wetlands are lovely and evidently filled with wildlife. Also, the view from the top of the mounds is spectacular. It will be a while before the area will be completely converted to a park and open to the public, but the transformation already is incredible. As an environmental engineer, I am incredibly happy to see it and proud of my profession that did it.
While in Sand Diego, I visited Cabrillo National Monument. Actually I visited it twice. I went in the morning, and the entire area was covered with thick fog. I explored the tidal pool area and met some cute crabs, limpets, and snails. I then went to the peak area and tried to view San Diego underneath the clouds. It was kind of amazing to be on a peak about 400 feet above the ocean and look at a giant fog encompassing almost everything below. I then came back in the afternoon and was finally able to get some good views.