A few weeks later, the field still looks pretty much the same from my house. Out the window, you wouldn't know that the prairie dogs are gone. The weeds in the former colony are still short and the prairie dog mounds still prominent. Based on other ghost colonies I've seen, the mounds can last for at least a few years. Closer up, there have been a few subtle vegetation changes since the prairie dogs were killed. There's a small patch of snow on the mountain blooming, and another of curly cup gumweed, both of which I think are native and I don't remember seeing them there before. I suppose it's small comfort that the new lack of herbivores might allow more native plants to thrive, but I know that the more likely scenario is that the weeds will thrive instead, as they already do elsewhere in the field. It's foolishness and an empty promise to say that the city is going to do more weed management here and restore it to native plants. It won't happen. There's just too many weeds, and too many vectors for new weeds, and really, this little neighborhood open space shouldn't be the city's biggest priority for weed management anyway. I'm still bitter that they did this, that they slipped it in under the radar, and that they gave such flimsy reasoning for it. It's disenfranchising to say the least. At first, there were bodies. Last weekend was rainy, and the mud preserved some of the aftermath -- lots of canine prints and some digging around the mounds; some domestic dogs probably, but probably also some transient coyotes or foxes attracted by the smell and come to scavenge the dead. But there's also a paltry number of excavated holes, with fresh noseprints packing down the mud. It appears there was a scattered handful of survivors. Whitney and I actually heard one shortly after the poisoning, but I haven't seen or heard any since. They're either lying low, or they've already been picked off by predators, or succumbed to the poison after all. Even if a few still live, there's winter ahead. The chances of the colony recovering are essentially nil.
It's amazing how fast the decomposition has happened. Just a few weeks ago, fresh bodies. Now, the mounds are already littered with bleached bones. I gathered a few that were near the trail and made a shallow grave for them atop one of the more prominent mounds. I think the best I can hope for the few survivors is that they'll be able to live out their days in a natural way, and that the city won't come back to finish the job. This colony's dead.