Diverse Wildlife of the UIS Prairie: A Closer Look

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Normalcy breeds disinterest, a common theme for any person who has lived anywhere particular for a long period of time. It is in that normalcy that beauty becomes overlooked, details neglected, and reality lackluster. In a region as plain as the plains, where every inch of land grows genetically modified corn, stopping to find beauty in nature can appear nearly impossible. It is in that monotony, such a lack of a visually seductive landscape, that the beauty of native wildlife becomes vividly clear.

The Raccoon

(Genus -Procyon)

A familiar face to those who live in the United States, and creature that has evolved and thrived alongside modern humans. With focused agility and an impressive ability to problem solve, raccoons have successfully adapted to urban areas by seeking food from garbage cans. In fact, studies have found the average mammal IQ of a raccoon is higher than your domesticated house cat or dog. Raccoons also often use tools such as sticks or just about anything lying around to open garbage containers, break into homes and escape man-made traps. With an undeniable intelligence and agile hands that can coordinate with those formidable brains, the raccoon reigns supreme in urban environments throughout the Prairie.

Opossum

(Genus -Didelphis)

The opossum, commonly referred to as a possum in the United States, is a terribly misunderstood animal with a reputation of being witless roadkill. Interestingly enough, these creatures have a skillful memory of where to obtain food, with studies finding this particular subset of memory to be better than cats, dogs, and pigs. Alongside this, they are evolutionarily masterful at the art of disguise. The near universal human knowledge of the Opossum’s ability to play dead usually lacks the fundamental detail that they cannot decide when they play dead. The opossum’s ability to become paralyzed by extreme fear is the Hail Mary of evolutionary football, selected for overtime as the perfect defense mechanism, and the putrid odor released is what really sells the act. Without any control whatsoever regarding these fear-induced nap times, these nocturnal creatures hold the title of the animal kingdom’s finest actors.

White-Tailed Deer

(Genus -Odocoileus)

Quite possibly the most majestic of the wildlife discussed in this article, White- Tailed Deer graze the fields of the University all year round in herds. The deer usually split off into two sub-units.

Does and fawns herd together by the dozens, while bucks create smaller herds of around five deer. Their fur color changes throughout the seasons, with predominantly grey fur in the winter and reddish fur during the summer. This change of color helps camouflage the deer from predators throughout the year, where the grey matches the colors of dead vegetation left over from summer. They are also incredible swimmers, often escaping predators by swimming into large bodies of water. The male bucks shed their antlers yearly during the winter, and grow brand new pairs in the summer as a means to battle other bucks for mating rights. White-tailed deer may be nervous herbivores, but with powerful legs and sharp antlers they are a force to be reckoned with.

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