Panhandle Plains

By Christian Lauren cooper

Rattlesnakes


Rattlesnakes live in the Panhandle. Snakes help control the rodent population. Too many rodents would ruin crops, so the snakes helps farmers! Rattlesnakes are venomous and usually rattle their tails before they bite. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of rattles on its tail! The rattles start to fall off after 10 rattles or segments have been formed. Their forked tongue enables the rattlesnake to smell.




Canyon land in the Panhandle is the home to the petite Palo Duro Mouse, which lives no other place but here. It has adapted to live in “crevices” or cracks in the steep canyon walls. By adapting to live in these crevices, the Palo Duro Mouse is more protected from its predators. It’s body is at the most 4 inches long with a tail equally as long! It is reddish brown in color with white underneath. Primarily, it eats seeds.

Bison

Bison roamed this region grazing on grasses and were hunted by Native Americans. Because of too much hunting in the late 1800s by white market hunters, bison almost became extinct. Laws that regulated hunting and fees paid by hunters for management efforts helped restored the bison. Now bison number in the tens of thousands on protected lands such as national parks and private rangelands.


Bison are very large, powerful animals with big humps over their shoulders. They are adapted to live in the extreme temperatures of the Great Plains. Their thick fur keeps them warm. They use their horns to sweep away the snow to eat grasses. The shaggy hair on the top of their head protects their eyes from the snow.

An interesting fact about the bison is that it has four “stomachs” like a cow. Food is usually swallowed whole and stored in the first compartment. In the second compartment, stomach juices begin to break down the food. When the bison is resting, muscles in the second compartment push the partially digested food, known as “cud,” back into the bison’s mouth. There it is chewed and mixed with saliva. The “cud” is then swallowed and passed into the third compartment where it is digested even more. In the fourth and final compartment, it is mixed with stomach juices and passed into the intestines to be absorbed and used for energy. The type of food it eats is very tough and hard to break apart to digest, so it takes a long process using four stomachs to digest the food!

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