The Great Plains

In the continent of North America, the Great Plains harbors a great variety of animals.  A giant ocean of grass spans as far as the eye can see, all the way from Texas North into Canada and all the way to the Arctic Circle.  Sometimes, you might encounter a herd of pronghorn or bison, grazing on the grass.  Other times, a lone badger or coyote looking for rodents.  And at night, you might hear the faint howl of a pack of grey wolves in the distance.

Bison graze on the plains like they did long agoThe Great Plains are sometimes called the American Serengeti, and indeed, it once was like that.  Go back about 15,000 years, and the wildlife of this area would be much different than today.  Along with the herds of bison and pronghorn, you would see mammoths, rhinos, antelope, camels, horses, lions, bears, saber-toothed cats, cheetahs, and many other animals that are not around today.  Around 10,000 years ago, all of these animals began to go extinct.  Some people think that early humans wiped out these animals.  Others assume that a rapid period of global warming caused the animals to disappear.   However, whatever happened, it caused all of these animals to go extinct forever.

p-horns-1Today, the fauna of the Great Plains is more limited.  Bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn make up the majority of the herbivorous animals.  Predators are also more limited.  Grey wolves eagles, and grizzly bears are at the top of the food chain, with coyotes, foxes, and badgers under them.  There are also ground birds such as turkey, pheasant, and grouse that are occasionally seen.

The Great Plains change drastically throughout the seasons.  In winter, the ground is covered by a few feet of snow and only the hardiest of animals survive.  With spring comes new life, animals give birth, and migratory birds return from the Gulf of Mexico.  With summer,  animals pack on the pounds to survive the cold and harsh winter.  Autumn lets the birds fly away back on their migration, and male ungulates like elk battle for breeding rights.  Then the land changes back to winter, and the cycle starts all over again.