The Greycliff prairie dog town is a curious part of the ecological landscape along the interstate highway in Montana state. It is the home to the black-tailed prairie dog, which is the most common of the five species living here in the United States.
The black-tailed prairie dog is a complex creature, known for the intricate methods it uses to build its own ecological system. This species is dialectical, using 11 different calls when interacting with it’s own kind. The black-tailed prairie dog is known to organize itself into coteries, which is a family unit for its species. Each coterie is comprised of one adult male and three to five females along with their offspring.
This species is known for building intricate structures within it’s own settlements, structures which feature a listening chamber, toilet, a dry chamber and even a regular chamber. These chambers tend to be burrowed deep into the ground, typically existing in numbers of 15-40 entrances per acre. With more activity during the winter and spring times, where the species is known to mate frequently, it is harder to spot the prairie dogs over the summer. So visiting the state park close to winter or spring time is much more ideal.
Not everyone is pleased with the presence of the black tailed prairie dog. Frequent concerns over the theft of livestock and destruction of farmland due to burrowing are often reported to the state park authorities. Studies report, that the threat the black-tailed prairie dog poses to livestock and farmland is variable per habitat. Studies also show that preserving the colony of the black-tailed prairie is essential to keeping other co-dependent species like the black-footed ferret alive. With over 80% percent of black-tailed prairie dogs in danger, the life of the black-ferret is also in danger, meaning their protection is also beneficial for the survival of other species.
Today, this ecological settlement is protected by the Montana State Parks, the Nature Conservancy and the Montana Department of Transportation. This was not always the case, as prior to this instituted development of the interstate highway in the 50’s, the black prairie dog was an endangered species, and it’s natural habitat was at stake. One person who was instrumental in saving the Black prairie dog is Edward Boehm, my father.
My father, Edward Boehm proactively led the charge to preserve the colony as it faced challenges to its survival. Establishing a partnership with the help of the Nature Conservancy, Edward Boehm spearheaded preservation initiatives to keep the species colonies safe from harm as further development of the interstate highway was underway. These initiatives led to the establishment of the 98 acre facility operated by the Parks Division of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to preserve the black-tailed dog eco system.
Here’s a picture of the award my father received from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks Division.
Today, the facility charges a day- use fee at the park entrance, welcoming visitors from all over the country who want to observe the animal in it’s habitat. The area is also frequented by visitors eager to sight these wonderful creatures in the late spring time.
To learn more about the black-tailed prairie dog and the conservation efforts of Edward Boehm and the Nature Conservancy, read this article by Ultimate Montana.com