Friday, August 27, 2010

Flora and Fauna in the North Dakota Badlands

Our motor home is currently parked just outside of the Roosevelt National Park. Here we are surrounded by some of the badlands. We did not see elk within the boundaries of the park, but this morning while I was working on the computer, I happened to look up the hill in front of our home and see a herd of elk grazing. That certainly made my day. The national park is home to several prairie dog towns. It was shortly after we started on the scenic loop through the park that we saw one of those towns. I was fortunate to capture a picture of one of those critters, they do move fast when they sense danger! They yip loudly and wag their tails in a warning for the others to run into their homes below ground for safety.
President Roosevelt would have been happy to see the numerous herds of buffalo in the park now. In the early1900s he bemoaned the fact that they were becoming extinct. 
The herd above was quite near the picnic area where we stopped for lunch. I did not realize until after we finished lunch how close they were to us. That was when I started hearing snuffling sounds and a lowing sound. My first reaction was to bolt and run, but I became more enthralled by the sounds they were making and decided to stay where I was because they could not see me anyway. I deduced that the sounds buffalo make are quite similar to those of cattle. After we got into the car and started driving down the road a big bull got in our way. I was surprised when John decided to drive around him, thinking certainly that the bull would charge into our car! But he remained motionless as we drove in front of him.
Of course the park is home to many other animals as well; mountain sheep, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer, as well as wild horses, to name a few. We were there in the heat of the day, it was not surprising that we only saw bison. It is also not the time of the year for good viewing of wildflowers. The weather has been hot and dry.  Consequently hiking in the badlands yesterday was not a good idea what with all those rocks soaking up the sun!  But a grove of juniper trees did afford us some shade.
Roosevelt Nation Park has the second largest collection of petrified wood in the world. But they are found only in certain areas of the park accessible only by hiking certain trails. However we did see in the town of Medora a beautiful floral display set in a planter of petrified wood.

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