Readers’ wildlife photographs

July 19, 2014 • 9:04 am

Marsupials in Canada? Reader Michael sent some photos with a short note:

Some animal photos I took recently (wallabies, young emus, and prairie dogs) near Kelowna, B.C.

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Does anybody know what species of wallaby this is? Some day I will go to Australia (I’ve never been) and see these things.

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Why are young emus striped? (Indeed, I think most young ratites have bizarre patterns.) We can of course make up explanations based on camouflage, but I don’t think any of them have been tested.

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The one indigenous mammal in this lot: a prairie dog (genus Cynomys). Does anyone know the species?

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20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. I just want to kiss that prairie dog! When I went to the Badlands of Alberta, one scratched at my boots begging for food. You had to watch where you walked for fear of stepping on them!

    I saw a ground hog at work Thursday. When I was leaving, he was running away from me. He figured he had duped me by running behind a building. When I looked around the corner, he appeared startled “Oh! She has found me out!” so he proceeded to turn the corner. As I was backing out of the parking spot, I saw his snout sticking out from the corner so I drove back into the spot to see him. He was started again & took off.

    I notice that cassowaries also have stripes when they are young & it looks very cute.

  2. I was surprised to hear that Kelowna had a Kangaroo Farm, and even more surprised to find out that a lot of other people in B.C. have and breed them. This particular farm also had an albino kangaroo and joey, but unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of either. Their other animals included emus, capybaras, sugar gliders, and parrots.

    The prairie dogs were at Manning Park near Hope, B.C, and very friendly.

    1. I was surprised to hear that as well. Isn’t the climate of BC a bit cold for the species native to Australia? I know it’s not quite so cold on the coast, is that where Kelowna is located?

      1. They could also bring them indoors during the winter if they have a large enough barn. Actually, they probably need to keep the wallabees indoors most of the time anyway to keep them safe from predators.

        1. Many wallaby species do well in cold and snow – the SE of Oz and Tasmania get snow. Feral red-necked wallabies breed in the UK too.

  3. On the juvenile emu’s stripes, this sort of thing is such a widespread feature of baby animals that it must have a causal explanation. Light spots, stripes, or chains of spots forming stripes on a brown background (even when the adult animal is uniformly black or some other color) does provide obvious camouflage for a sitting, quiet animal in broken shade. While Larry Moran may disagree (he thinks neutral evolution should always be the null hypothesis), here the camouflage/selection explanation is so clear that I think it should be the default explanation even if it hasn’t been tested.

  4. I suspect that the prairie dog is actually a ground squirrel based on range and also appearance. I do not think that prairie dogs are native to BC–yes emus and wallabies are not native either but I could see why someone would import those for fun. Columbian ground squirrels occur in BC. Is there a Dr. of Mammology in the house who can add a definitive identification?

      1. Bruce is right – Prairie dogs are not native to BC. There are native populations in the very far south of Saskatchewan, and these are range-marginal – none are found elsewhere.
        I think that the animal shown here is a Columbian ground squirrel, going by where it was seen and the colour of its coat.
        Prairie dogs could be considered to be a type of ground squirrel, but they are larger and have a more complex social life – they are colonial, whereas ground squirrels aren’t (although they may live in close proximity, they don’t have the same sort of social interactions that Prairie dogs do – as far as I know, Prairie dogs are never solitary).

        1. Sorry, when I said that the Saskatchewan Prairie dog populations were the only ones, I was being a bit parochial – they’re the only native population in Canada. Elsewhere, of course, there are lots of them.

          1. Prairie dogs are quite a ways away from North American ground squirrels on the phylogeny, you’ll notice.
            They really are rather different in behaviour, too. I’m very familiar with ground squirrels, and when I’ve waked through Prairie dog towns, the difference was quite clear. Also they’re a lot bigger than the NA ground squirrel species.

            1. I don’t think you can accurately judge the relationship between two species based on something like differences in size (especially with how small both species are) or how social they are.

              1. No, perhaps not, but it does suggest that using two different colloquial names for them is a good idea. Anyway I was suggesting that the distance between Spermophilus and Cynomys, as shown in the Wikipedia phylogeny, is reflected in a difference in size and in social behaviour. They really are different animals.

    1. I was thinking Euro (Wallaroo) because of the very dog-like nose, but the angle and shadows in the pic show it’s too small for one of them. The smaller Macropus species including Red-necks usually have a much more distinct white stripe on the face whereas this one just looks a bit grizzled, but google images show a lot of variation. I’m more used to identifying mammals from bones, anyway.

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