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Grasslands - Prairie

Life Science - Middle School

 
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Grasslands: The Prairie The North American prairie once covered more than 200,000 square miles of the western, central U.S. from the Rocky Mountains into northern Canada and Mexico. There were three types of prairies: the easternmost tallgrass prairie growing 6-foot-tall grass, the shortgrass prairie (1) found in the driest part of the plain on the western edge against the Rocky Mountains growing only a foot tall, and the mixed grass prairie found between them. Now only very small amounts of prairie are left. The rest has been plowed under for farms and development. Only about 4% of this once vast prairie has been saved. Less than 200 years ago, giant herds of bison (2) dominated the grasslands. Their numbers were so great that the ground shook as they passed. Sadly, as the railroads spread west, millions of bison were shot for meat, hides and sport. Their numbers fell so quickly that by the end of the 1800s, wild bison were almost extinct. Today pronghorn antelope (3) still graze in small herds among the prairie dog towns that spread out across the remaining grasslands. Food for burrowing owls (4), snakes, and coyotes, the prairie dogs (5) are an important part of the grassland food web. A much rarer grassland sight, a male prairie chicken (6) finds a raised area at sunrise. He does an odd courtship dance, while clucking and filling his bright orange air sacs to show off for females. Rattlesnakes (7) feast on insects and rodents and sleep away the winter in a prairie dog den. Coyotes (8) eat anything they can find including animals killed by winter cold and snow. The jackrabbits (9) are made for life on the grassy plain. Long ears allow them to hear danger from far away, and in a flash they can speed away covering 10 feet with each jump. But of all the animals on the prairie, the most hardy and abundant will always be the prairie grasshopper (10). In a year when there is a grasshopper outbreak, they are blamed for millions of dollars in crop losses. 4 1 2 3 5 8 9 6 7 10 Sheri Amsel
94-4016 4 1 2 3 5 8 9 6 7 10 Sheri Amsel Less than 200 years ago, giant herds of __________________________ (2) dominated the grasslands. Sadly, as the railroads spread west, millions were shot for meat, hides and sport. Their numbers fell so quickly that by the end of the 1800s, wild bison were almost extinct. Today pronghorn __________________________ (3) still graze in small herds among the prairie dog towns that spread out across the remaining grasslands. Food for burrowing ________________ (4), snakes, and coyotes, the __________________________ _______________ (5) are an important part of the grassland food web. A much rarer grassland sight, a male prairie __________________________ (6) finds a raised area at sunrise. Then he does an odd courtship dance, while clucking and filling his bright orange air sacs to show off for females. __________________________ (7) feast on insects and rodents and sleep away the winter in a prairie dog den. __________________________ (8) eat anything they can find including animals killed by winter cold and snow. The __________________________ (9) are made for life on the grassy plain. Long ears allow them to hear danger from far off, and in a flash they can speed away covering 10 feet with each jump. But of all the animals on the prairie, the most hardy and abundant will always be the prairie __________________________ (10). Grasslands: The Prairie
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