Questions for ‘America’s duck lands: These potholes are under threat’


White pelicans and other waterbirds lift off from a pond at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Ryan Moehring/USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

To accompany feature “America’s duck lands: These ‘potholes’ are under threat


Before Reading

1.   What happens when people occupy areas that previously were wild? What types of changes do they make to the land and water? How might this affect animals and plants that had been living there?

2.   Hundreds of years ago, long before Europeans first arrived in North America, the only people living in the Great Plains were Native Americans. Why did those people have a smaller effect on the animals and plants of the Great Plains than do human populations today?

During Reading

1.   What are blue-winged teal nests made from?

2.   Name three reasons why prairie lands are important, based on what you have read.

3.   Why are temperate grasslands in danger of disappearing?

4.   Why have regal fritillary butterflies been declining in number?

5.   How is Clint Otto figuring out what flowers bees get their pollen from?

6.   How have bees been affected by the farming of lands formerly covered by prairie?

7.   How are Kaylan Carrlson’s students learning about duck behavior on the prairie?

8.   Why did bison largely disappear from the prairie in the 1800s?

9.   How had bison been important to the prairie ecosystem?

10.  How might cattle help prairies?

After Reading:

1. Protecting land from human development can help preserve the animals and plants that live there. But some people argue that no land should be protected; it should all be available for human activities. What do you think? Back up your argument with information from this story.

2. Explain how research into prairies — and the plants and animals found in them — might help North Dakota? Why is this kind of knowledge important for the state?


1.    This story mentions that American bison nearly went extinct in the 1800s. Research what happened. Why did people think it was a good idea to kill these animals? How did they do it? What happened to the buffalo populations? And how did this affect Native American tribes that lived on the Great Plains?