By Shelby Stecyk and Sara MacDonald
At first glance, the Great Sand Hills seem somewhat out of place. You don't expect to see giant dunes of sand rising up out of the prairies. Although they are home to a lot of interesting creatures, what I love most about the Great Sand Hills are the tiger beetles. If you go out to the sand dunes on a sunny day you can see hundreds of tiger beetles scurrying across the sand. Mostly you will find the common Sandy Tiger Beetle (Cicindela limbata nympha), but if you are lucky you will encounter a Gibson's Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa gibsoni). They are endemic to the sand dunes of the prairies, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. When I found out I was working in the Great Sand Hills for the summer, I decided my goal was to find a Gibson's Big Sand Tiger beetle.
Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sp.)
Although tiger beetles are my personal favourite, we have been catching other things as well. Our mouse traps have been moderately successful. Mostly we've been finding deer mice, but our traps have also caught a thirteen-lined ground squirrel, a northern grasshopper mouse, and a sagebrush vole. Our Malaise traps have been a little beaten up by the recent storms, but are still bringing in a ton of insects. And the drive to work every day is made entertaining by the state of the roads...it's always fun swerving to avoid lakes and four-foot deep craters in the road!