Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, Rats! The Vermin Are Vital

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 12:07 PM

There’s a latent fear that exists in many people of one teeny little mammal: the rodent. Termed “vermin” and

Cmon. Do I look dangerous?
  • C'mon. Do I look dangerous?
“pests," some believe our societal musophobia lingers centuries after the massive outbreak of bubonic plague in the 14th Century, even though the outbreak was most likely spread not by rodents but by the fleas they carried.

Most people still don’t know understand how important an ecological role rodents play, so the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge hosts a free presentation on the order Rodentia on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Ray Vizgirdas, a biologist and professor at Northwest Nazarene University will lay down the rat facts, specifically how rodents interact with Idaho environments. The talk is part of the Wild About Life monthly lecture series, and is sponsored by the Friends of Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge.

The Deer Flat Refuge is the perfect natural habitat for these little critters. With wetlands, riparian forests, sagebrush and tall grasses, the rodents have plenty of places to hide, burrow and hibernate. The Refuge spans 113 river miles and includes the 9,000-acre Lake Lowell and 101 islands. It’s home to mule deer, elk, white-tailed deer, a host of birds, dozens of reptiles and, of course, rodents.

Most of the mammals in Idaho are rodents—chipmunks, squirrels, marmots, mice, rats—with more than 1,700 species calling the Gem State home. These little guys turn soil, tend crops, maintain the insect population, provide a foodsource—and a lot more.

For more information on Vizgirdas' "Vital Vermin," click on Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

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