While out in the field, most diehard varmint hunters have seen the gruesome side of prairie dogs, ground squirrels and other rodents. Whether it’s cannibalistic ground squirrels that eat their own dead, or prairie dogs that eat their young, we know that rodents are not just “cute”, “fuzzy”, “kind”, animals that belong in a Disney film. Instead, we know that they are as vicious as the rodents humans tend to be okay with killing, like the Norway Rat, and other from the species “Rattus”. Finally, in a study released by “Prairie Dog Expert”, John Hoogland, in a National Geographic article that discusses prairie dogs that murder, it has been shown that prairie dogs are known to kill other rodent species that inhabit the same habitat, without eating them.
“In my 43 years of research, this is perhaps the most provocative, puzzling, and far-reaching discovery I’ve ever made,” says study co-author John Hoogland of the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Sciences.
These so-called “Serial Killer” whitetail prairie dogs, were shown to “murder” their neighbors, the Wyoming Ground Squirrel. This discovery came about when John Hoogland was out studying prairie dogs. He saw a small, lifeless, body being tossed around by a prairie dog. Upon closer inspection, he realized that it was a Wyoming ground squirrel that had been killed, and not a young prairie dog that was a victim of infanticide.
He then notified his students to watch for any other “killings”. Over the next five years, they identified 47 killer prairie dogs, both male and female adults.
Over the next five years, Hoogland and his students built dossiers on 101 ground squirrel murders, plus 62 suspected cases. Most murders occurred in May, when young ground squirrels emerged from their nests and began foraging.
As a life-long varmint hunter, I could have saved the study participants a lot of time, by explaining to them that this type of thing happens all the time. After seeing a ground squirrel chewing on the intestine of a dead squirrel that I had recently shot, I came to the conclusion that these cute little animals are driven by nature, and the urge to eat, procreate, and defend their territories, including the vegetation that grows in their immediate habitat. I didn’t need a grant, or half-a-dozen years to figure it out. All I needed was a riflescope to watch what these rodents were doing before I pulled the trigger and ended their murderous ways.
To read more about this study, head over to the National Geographic site here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/160322-prairie-dogs-squirrels-murders-animals-killers
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