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Natural North Dakota
New episode every Saturday

Hosted by Chuck Lura, a biology professor at Dakota College in Bottineau. Chuck has a broad knowledge of “Natural North Dakota” and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, he has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror. His columns also appear under “The Naturalist” in several other weekly newspapers across North Dakota.

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

Hear Natural North Dakota on Prairie Public on Saturdays and Sundays at 8:35am CT.

  • Winter is here. And for many of us it is the time of year to just stay indoors, hit the couch, and forget about getting outdoors to enjoy nature until spring. But give some consideration to getting outdoors and enjoying some of what nature has to offer during the winter months.
  • What kinds of squirrels live around your home area? I am thinking of tree squirrels, not ground squirrels such as the flickertail. Three of the more common tree squirrels in North Dakota are the fox, eastern gray, and red.
  • If you are looking for some good reading on life in Dakota Territory from the 1860s, you might want to check out Military Life in Dakota by Philippe Regis De Trobriand. De Trobriand was in command of Fort Stevenson in Dakota Territory from 1867-1869. His journal covers a wide range of topics about his time at the fort, ranging from observations on the space and solitude, mosquitoes, bison, prairie fires, grasshoppers, northern lights, and food. Now with Thanksgiving coming up next week, his observations on food offer us some interesting food for thought.
  • Sometimes also called a specklebelly, the greater white-fronted goose nests in the far north of North America as well as Europe and Asia. They are gray-brown with a white rump. And as you might expect, they have a white forehead which also runs down along the sides of the beak, thus the common name white-fronted goose.
  • Have the boxelder bugs been bothering you this fall? They have been inspecting lots of homes in search of a nice warm place to spend the winter.
  • The animals are getting ready for winter. We often think of birds heading south and resident mammals putting on their winter coats. But what about the insects?
  • Have you noticed any beaver dams and ponds in your area recently? Beavers are often vilified for plugging up culverts and constructing dams that flood cropland, roads, and the like. And of course, they draw our ire when they drop or girdle our trees. So, it is no surprise that beavers are often shot or trapped, and dams and lodges destroyed. But in many cases, beaver activity can be quite beneficial.
  • Are you familiar with bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)? It is a woody vine that can be found twining up trees and shrubs in woodlands and groves throughout North Dakota. It seems to go largely unnoticed during the summer months because it is buried in with the other green foliage. And there is not much that would catch your eye. But this time of year, particularly once the leaves have fallen, the bright orange fruits are much easier to spot.
  • The Orionid Meteor Shower is putting on its annual show now. It started on October 2 and will go to November 7. The shower will peak on the evening of October 21 and early morning hours of the 22 with perhaps twenty or so meteors per hour. We are fortunate to have a crescent moon during the peak viewing period, so if the sky is clear, we could be in for a good show.
  • No doubt many of you are familiar with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Published in 1962 the book warned that continued widespread and indiscriminate use of pesticides could result in extensive ecological damage, including the death of songbirds, resulting in a “silent spring” when no songbirds would be heard. It is hard to imagine such a thing. But it looks as if we may be experiencing quieter springs.