Prairie Dogs Hack Baltimore Zoo
Fun story, with a lot of echoes of our own security problems:
It took just 10 minutes for a dozen prairie dogs to outwit the creators of the Maryland Zoo’s new $500,000 habitat.
Aircraft wire, poured concrete and slick plastic walls proved no match for the fast-footed rodents, the stars of a new exhibit that opens today.
As officials were promoting the return of the zoo’s 28 prairie dogs—their former digs had been out of sight in a closed section of the animal preserve for more than four years—some of the critters found ways to jump, climb and get over the walls of their prairie paradise, a centerpiece exhibit just inside the zoo’s main entrance.
But a few intrepid prairie dogs tried to find their way out, sending keepers scrambling to plug escape routes.
An hour later, just as zookeepers thought everything was under control, one rodent made it to the top of the wall. A dozen workers closed in. The prairie dog seemed to think better of it and jumped back into the enclosure.
“They find all the weak spots and exploit them,” said Karl Kranz, the zoo’s vice president for animal programs and chief operating officer.
Zoo staff members say the animals cannot burrow their way out because the former Kodiak bear environment is essentially a large concrete swimming bowl. The soil depth at Prairie Dog Town ranges from 6 feet to 8 feet.
“The dirt must be deeper than 36 inches in order for the prairie dogs to make their burrows under the frost line,” Kranz said. “We took soil samples from the old exhibit so the soils could be matched exactly to what they were used to having.”
After foiling the escape attempt, zoo workers adjusted wire fencing and installed more slippery plastic on the walls.