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BLUFF LAKE NATURE CENTER PRAIRIE DOG MANAGEMENT -Updated Oct. 1, 2018

At Bluff Lake, prairie dogs are part of the natural habitat.  Like all species, they must be managed in our environment for the critical, long-term success of Bluff Lake.

Bluff Lake is taking an innovative Adaptive Management Approach to our Prairie Dogs, with the long term goal of maintaining a healthy population.  A healthy prairie dog population helps to minimize risks including disease. Our ultimate goal is to have a healthy and thriving prairie dog population and environment.

In partnership with Colorado State University, we are testing the feasibility of reducing breeding in prairie dogs in colonies that are suffering from overpopulation. In the Great Plains and large natural areas, prairie dog colonies can expand when they need to. But in urban settings prairie dogs are surrounded by man-made habitats, and so they can reach high densities which have associated problems: over-grazing and erosion, destruction of habitat etc. Lethal control isn’t always successful, especially as remaining (or newly arriving) prairie dogs will reproduce more in the now-empty colony. So, not too long after lethal control, the problem is the same as it ever was.

Of course, prairie dogs also have benefits! They provide habitat for other creatures (e.g., burrowing owls, rabbits), and prey for foxes, birds of prey etc. And they can be charismatic and fun to watch. So we don’t want to remove them from the landscape.

We are hoping to be able to manage prairie dogs in the sweet spot where they persist but do not cause problems. Consequently we are investigating whether we can use individually administered contraceptives, which will suspend breeding for a year. That way, growth and density of the prairie dogs will be diminished, but there is no euthanasia.

Our short term plan involves reducing prairie dog numbers to ensure a healthy colony and for the protection of diverse native grassland plant species.  The long-term plan involves management of the reserve with continuing education on prairie dog ecology.

Click HERE to read more about Prairie Dog Management at Bluff Lake.

 

BLUFF LAKE SEEKING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION VOLUNTEERS

Our volunteers play a key role in fulfilling Bluff Lake’s mission as our leaders in our education field trip programs.  Volunteers introduce groups of students (K-6th grade) to the natural world through hands-on exploration in topics including wetland ecology, habitat diversity, urban wildlife, food chains, and life cycles.  Through their enthusiasm and guidance, volunteer educators make it possible for each student to experience a meaningful discovery at Bluff Lake.  Education field trip programs are on Tuesday– Friday mornings (9am-12:30pm) throughout the school year. (Volunteers are asked to work at least one morning per week.)  Bluff Lake naturalists provide training on the job and during several education workshops offered throughout the year. No experience is necessary, although teaching and/or outdoor experience preferred. Please contact Rachel Crouch at rcrouch@blufflake.org.

 

SUMMER SOLSTICE SUNRISE AT BLUFF LAKE

What a more beautiful way to kick start the summer than by watching the sunrise and sunset at Bluff Lake to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Dr. Phil Schmidt, PhD (Aeronautics and Astronautics/ MIT and Engineering/ Stanford) lead a program where participants modeled the Earth’s movement through the solar system to better understand our seasons and nature’s relationship to planetary alignment.  And after a bit of learning, participants got to enjoy roasting marshmallows over the campfire.

Dr. Phil Schmidt leading the Nature of the Seasons program
Participants roasting marshmallows for some sunset s’mores

 

TRIO OF NEW GRANTS

BLNC is the fortunate beneficiary of grants from three different funders that have never given to BLNC in the past. Sometimes it’s difficult to persuade funders to give to new organizations. In the past month, we’ve gotten this great news three times.

First, HDR Foundation has announced an award of $16,000 to BLNC to build a teaching deck next to Sand Creek, where our summer campers go in and wade and explore the waters. Nominated by HDR employee Tina Gurdikian, wife of board member Bob Gurdikian, BLNC’s new deck will serve as a more comfortable changing and learning post for kids exploring our site.

Second, as we announced just about a month ago, Patagonia-Denver gave $2,500 to assist in the native habitat revegetation efforts that need to be conducted following the completion of our Year-Round Lake project.

Third, Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation is supporting BLNC with a grant of $1,500 toward our Nature Exploration Teams (NETs) program as well. Grants from Melinda Gray Ardia are very competitive and difficult to receive. We feel fortunate to have received a grant for our groundbreaking, multi-day program.

GREAT OUTDOORS COLORADO INSPIRE INITIATIVE: EMPOWERING BLUFF LAKE AND PARTNERS TO GET KIDS OUTDOORS

Great news for BLNC and families in northeast metro Denver: Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) has announced funding for projects across the state designed to get kids and families outdoors. A total of $13.5 million is being allocated across the state in Phase 1 of this effort, including $2.7 million to the GoWild Northeast Metro Coalition. Of that, approximately $240,000 will be allocated to five projects at Bluff Lake:

  • Approximately $72,000 to expand our landmark multi-day environmental science field trip, Nature Exploration Teams
  • Approximately $71,000 to convert our shed into a modest welcome and information center for our visitors
  • Approximately $48,000 to construct a nature playground
  • Approximately $25,000 to begin a Family Adventure Day program on Saturdays
  • Approximately $22,000 to hire site management interns to help take care of our site 15 hours a week, six months a year, shared with our neighbor The Urban Farm

Thank you to GOCO for your vision and funding, and to the GoWild Northeast Metro Coalition for including BLNC and believing in our work. In the end, we hope to make a profound difference for kids in the community for many years and generations to come.