Dear Long-tailed Chinchilla,
I’m sorry that your fur is soft, which makes humans want to make you into coats. If other animals wore a different species as a coat that would be super weird and super gross. Can you imagine a deer wearing a rabbit coat? Or a rabbit wearing a jacket made of mice? Ridiculous. Especially when cotton is so breathable. . .
When I was six years old, I lived in a small borough outside Pittsburgh called Greentree. I played outside, climbed trees, and ran around the neighborhood with my tiny friends. One of my favorite pastimes was sitting on my plastic lawnmower and riding it down my driveway into the basement garage. There was a satisfying “click-click-click” as the wheels rotated. I was low to the ground (for better wind resistance), and I weighed close to nothing: I was Speed Racer.
I remember very clearly on one run, I saw a “sleeping” chipmunk at the bottom of the driveway. Knowing this could be the famous Alvin, Simon, or Theodore, I called up to my mom who was weeding her garden, “Mom!!! I think Alvin is sleeping in the driveway!” My mother looked down, saw the half-dead chipmunk, and advised me loudly with very wide eyes to move away from the chipmunk. Now.
The rest of story involves a shovel.
Eastern chipmunks have distinctive stripes and large cheek pouches for carrying food. They dig burrows to store nuts and seeds for the winter since they don’t hibernate. On average, they live around three years in the wild. Sometimes, they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to be mercy killed by somebody’s mother.
Prairie dogs are charming. Their underground burrows have extensive tunnels, entrances, and exits. The chambers within have defined nurseries, kitchens/pantries, sleeping quarters, and bathrooms. They are highly social and greet each other with a prairie dog kiss or nuzzle. The family group or entire Prairie Dog Town share food, groom, play with each other, and defend their burrow.
They are considered a keystone species because their existence benefits around 150 other species of animal. They aerate the soil, which helps to diversify plant life in the open grasslands. They are food for many other prairie dwellers such as hawks, foxes, and ferrets. They make adorable noises and stand on their hind legs to survey the world around them.
They are facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild because they are viewed as “pests” in the agricultural community. Their numbers have decreased by over 95%, with current populations in the 10-20 million range where once there may have been over a billion.
Another disheartening instance of humans ruining the planet for the rest of the natural world. Our hearts and ecosystems will sorely miss the charismatic and adorable Prairie Dog should they reach extinction…