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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The Geminids are here! Yes, the granddaddy of all meteor showers began on the seventh and will continue through the seventeenth. And the peak viewing period this year is on the evening of the 13th and early morning hours of the 14th. If the sky is clear there should be good viewing through the seventeenth.


Dec 7, 2019

Deer gun season is over, but the bow and black powder seasons are not over. And the deer hunting talk amongst hunters and others this time of year often veers into the topic of antlers.

Antlers, please don’t call them horns, are produced by members of the deer family. They are typically found only on males, but in caribou or reindeer, both males and females grow antlers.


Nov 30, 2019

Something was really hitting the suet feeder in our backyard. I hadn’t seen any crows around recently. The answer came when I happened to see a magpie (black-billed magpie to be more precise) hammering away on it. They can devour a lot of suet in a short time! They are common in Turtle Mountains, but I seldom see them around our home.


Nov 23, 2019

No doubt many casual observers among us have been dismissing a lot of large black birds as crows. A closer look, however, might reveal that a lot of those birds are ravens. I am not so sure I haven’t been seeing more ravens than crows here in Turtle Mountain recently. Not so many years ago the sighting of a raven would have been rather unusual, but things have changed.

"gwr137" by informedmindstravel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Americans seem to enjoy lists! I was reminded of that recently when I happened upon a website that contained a list of “The 10 Most Incredible Natural Attractions in North Dakota That Everyone Should Visit.” They note that North Dakota has way more beautiful spots of nature than most people realize. They also note that everyone should visit at least one of these sites. I would agree, but there might be some differences in opinion as to what makes the top ten.

Black Bears

Nov 9, 2019

Bears have been in the news recently. A black bear, or perhaps more than one, has been observed in the Turtle Mountains. A video recording of one episode even ran on one of the region’s television stations.

Black bears in the region are not particularly unusual. They are periodically observed in the Turtle Mountains and other areas of North Dakota, particularly along the northeastern part of the state and the Red River Valley. Most of these bears are thought to have wandered into the state from adjacent Minnesota or Manitoba.

I suspect that the vast majority of North Dakotans have heard coyotes vocalize. They are commonly heard across the state howling, yipping, yapping, and yodeling. But I don’t many have ever heard a fox vocalize. I hadn’t until recently. Or perhaps I just didn’t know what I had heard.

I recently worked with some colleagues on the boundaries between plant communities. It is interesting to note that the soils professionals look at the plants to help them identify changes in soils, and the plant ecologists look at the change in soils to help identify changes in plant communities. By the way, it might surprise you, but the resulting maps are the same. Soils reflects vegetation, and vegetation reflects soils.

We are coming up on the peak viewing period for a meteor shower. The Orionid meteor shower occurs every fall as the earth passes through the debris field of Halley’s Comet. The earth entered the debris field around October 2 and will continue through it until November 7. The peak of this meteor shower will be the night of October 21 and early morning hours of October 22. We will be in a second quarter moon at that time, so we may not be able to see some of the fainter meteors, but overall viewing should be good. Around twenty meteors per hour may be visible if the sky is clear.

Hunter’s Moon

Oct 12, 2019

We have a Hunter’s Moon coming up on Sunday, October 13. As most everyone knows, the full moons of the year all have names associated with them. This one, the Hunter’s Moon is the first full moon following the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon, of course, is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. So the Hunter’s Moon usually occurs in October, but because of differences in the timing of the Harvest Moon, it occasionally occurs in November.