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Mammals of Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado   By: (1927-)

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First Page:

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS PUBLICATIONS MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Volume 14, No. 3, pp. 29 67, pls. 1 and 2, 3 figs. in text

July 24, 1961

Mammals of Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

BY

SYDNEY ANDERSON

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS LAWRENCE 1961

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS PUBLICATIONS, MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Editors: E. Raymond Hall, Chairman, Henry S. Fitch, Robert W. Wilson

Volume 14, No. 3, pp. 29 67, pls. 1 and 2, 3 figs. in text Published July 24, 1961

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS Lawrence, Kansas

PRINTED IN THE STATE PRINTING PLANT TOPEKA, KANSAS 1961

28 7577

Mammals of Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

BY

SYDNEY ANDERSON

INTRODUCTION

A person standing on the North Rim of the Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado sees a vast green plain sloping away to the south. The plain drops 2000 feet in ten miles. On a clear evening, before the sun reaches the horizon, the rays of the sun are reflected from great sandstone cliffs forming the walls of deep canyons that appear as crooked yellow lines in the distance. Canyon after canyon has cut into the sloping green plain. These canyons are roughly parallel and all open into the canyon of the Mancos River, which forms the southern boundary of the Mesa Verde. If the observer turns to the north he sees the arid Montezuma Valley 2000 feet below. A few green streaks and patches in the brown and barren low country denote streams and irrigated areas. To the northeast beyond the low country the towering peaks of the San Miguel and La Plata mountains rise more than 4000 feet above the vantage point on the North Rim at 8000 feet. To the northwest, in the hazy distance 90 miles away in Utah, lie the isolated heights of the La Sal Mountains, and 70 miles away, the Abajo Mountains (see Fig. 1).

In the thirteenth century, harassed by nomadic tribes and beset by years of drouth, village dwelling Indians left their great cliff dwellings in the myriad canyons of the Mesa Verde, and thus ended a period of 1300 years of occupancy. The story of those 1300 years, unfolded through excavation and study of the dwellings along the cliffs and earlier dwellings on the top of the Mesa, is one of the most fascinating in ancient America. To stop destructive commercial exploitation of the ruins, to preserve them for future generations to study and enjoy, and to make them accessible to the public, more than 51,000 acres, including approximately half of the Mesa, have been set aside as Mesa Verde National Park, established in 1906. The policies of the National Park Service provide protection, not only for the features of major interest in each park, but for other features as well. Thus the policy in Mesa Verde National Park is not only to preserve the many ruins, but also the wildlife and plants.

Five considerations prompted me to undertake a study of the mammals of Mesa Verde National Park: First, the relative lack of disturbance; second, the interesting position, zoogeographically, of the Mesa that extends as a spur of higher land from the mountains of southwestern Colorado and that is almost surrounded by arid country typical of much of the Southwest; third, the discovery in the Park of Microtus mexicanus , a species of the Southwest until then not known from Colorado; fourth, the co operative spirit of the personnel at the Park when I visited there in 1955; and finally, the possibility of making a contribution not only to our knowledge of mammals, but to the interpretive program of the Park Service.

[Illustration: FIG. 1. Map of the "four corners" region showing the position of Mesa Verde National Park (in black) relative to the mass of the Southern Rocky Mountains above 8000 feet elevation (indicated by stippled border) to the northeast in Colorado, and the positions of other isolated mountains in the region.]

A Faculty Research Grant from The University of Kansas provided some secretarial help and field expenses for August and early September, 1956, when my wife, Justine, and I spent our vacation enjoyably collecting and studying animals in the Park... Continue reading book >>




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