Natural North Dakota | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Natural North Dakota

Saturday and Sunday at 8:35 am CT
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Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota" and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers. Lura was a biology professor at Dakota College at Bottineau, and published research on ecological aspects of grasslands in the northern Great Plains.

Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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Jul 27, 2019

It is about this time of year that schools of bullhead fry may be seen swimming around in near shore areas of North Dakota lakes and streams. It might surprise you, but there are three species of bullheads native to our state, the black, yellow, and brown bullhead. It is the black bullhead that is the most common.

Some of you may have heard the news that white-nose syndrome in bats was recently documented in North Dakota. That is not good news.

The first documentation of white-nose syndrome in North America was in New York state in 2007. Where it came from and how it got here is still unknown. But we do know that it is spreading rapidly and decimating populations of bats, with some populations experiencing a 90% or greater mortality. I haven’t seen recent estimates on mortality rates, but is was estimated to have killed over 6 million bats by 2012. At present there is no cure for the disease, however, a few populations appear to be resistant.

Lake Foam

Jul 13, 2019

I have been noticing a little foam on the shoreline of Lake Metigoshe recently. It is not rare during the summer, but it more generally is associated with the dying of algae and aquatic plants during the fall. When they die and decompose, some of the organic substances act as surfactants.

I have been reading Military Life in Dakota – the journal of Philippe Regis de Trobriand, published in 1951 by the Alvord Memorial Commission. De Trobriand, a colonel in the Army, was assigned to a post at Fort Stevenson, Dakota Territory in 1867. Fort Stevenson, of course, was located near the Missouri River not far from present day Garrison. He would spend two and one-half years there, and his journal provides an interesting look at life at the post, and insight into the natural history of the area, from bison and prairie fires, to wild onions and grasshoppers.


Jun 29, 2019

We all learned at an early age that plant roots serve to anchor the plant and absorb water and nutrients from the soil. It might surprise some of you, but the absorption part needs revising.  

I saw a red-headed woodpecker flittering around the crown of a large oak tree recently. They were a common sight of my childhood, but I seldom see them anymore. And seeing that woodpecker immediately whisked me back in time.


Jun 15, 2019

I happened to get a quick look at a weasel recently. It was a rather large one, so I am assuming it was a long-tailed weasel.

Three species of weasels are native to our state, the long-tailed weasel, short-tailed weasel or ermine, and the least weasel. They vary in size, but all are brown above with whiteish-yellow undersides during the summer months and turn white during the winter.

Fairy Candelabra

Jun 8, 2019
Chuck Lura

It will be a while until the irises and lilies in our flower bed bloom. It is often the big and showy flowers that catch our attention. But right now amongst those irises and lilies is one of the smallest flowering plants native to North Dakota.

This plant is not well known. To botanists it is (Androsace occidentalis). Perhaps the most recognized common name is western rock jasmine, but it also has another common name that is much more interesting and appropriate, fairy candelabra.

I was sitting on a downed tree in the Turtle Mountain aspen forest recently when a chickadee seemingly emerged from the trunk of a nearby aspen with something in its mouth. It flew to a nearby tree, dropped the object, then flew back into the tree. This was repeated several times.

Wild Strawberries

May 25, 2019

If the strawberries are not blooming near you, they will be soon. I am not talking about the garden strawberries. It might surprise some of you, but there are two strawberry species native to North Dakota.