Photo by Rick Katz
A visit to Kankakee Sands this time of the year may afford you the majestic view of a male bull bison weighing in at 1500 pounds, or maybe a very young bison calf weighing a mere 55 pounds. Although bison rightly dominate the landscape, they’re not the only mammals at Kankakee Sands. Not by a long shot. Believe it or not, you can find 33 different mammals of varying shapes and sizes on our Kankakee Sands prairies and savannas.
While the largest mammal at Kankakee Sands is indeed the bison, the smallest is the least shrew at four grams. (That’s the same weight as just 12 raisins!) The most common mammal is likely the deer mouse, which is about the same size as the meadow-jumping mouse, also found here. Our least common mammal is the river otter, which utilizes the wet areas of Kankakee Sands as a part of their large home range.
We have the cute and cuddly cottontail rabbit and the less cuddly opossum. We have the eastern mole and three different species of shrews: least shrew, masked shrew and northern short-tailed shrew, which has venomous saliva that paralyzes its prey! There are four different species of bats flying above the prairie: big brown bat, hoary bat, red bat and little brown bat. And below, American badgers, raccoons, minks, least weasel and long-tailed weasel are searching the ground for their next meal.
You may see a striped skunk (possibly even smell one!), a red fox, a grey fox, or even a coyote. We have squirrels aplenty: flying squirrel, fox squirrel, and the grey squirrel, as well as woodchucks, plains pocket gophers, beavers, voles and muskrats. And of course, white-tailed deer, who seem to have taken a liking to the bison pasture!
And last, but not least, one very important mammal of our prairies and savannas -- You! Your care, concern and understanding for nature is exactly the thing our world needs now.
So, come on out to Kankakee Sands this summer! See how many animals you can check of the list as having seen, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world around you as you gain a deeper understanding of the prairies and savannas that are so important, not just to mammals, but to the millions of plants and animals that depend on them for life.
The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands is an 8,400-acre prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana, open every day of the year for public enjoyment. For more information about Kankakee Sands, visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands.