Smokey and George

TSCPL staff adopted two animals from the Topeka Zoo this year: a coyote named Smokey and a pronghorn named George.  In September, Dennis Dinwiddie, Education Curator at the Zoo, came to the library and gave an evening presentation to the public about these two North American mammals.

Smokey has a dramatic life story.  She was a pup living in a den when a prairie fire swept through the area and killed her siblings.  She was found by a rancher who rescued her and made sure she received proper treatment for her burn injuries.  She was in rehab for some time and lived at the Stone Nature Center where she was an educational animal for several years, teaching people about coyotes and their adaptations.  Smokey is the color of prairie grasses in the fall, and is quite tame due to her exposure with humans during her rehabilitation. When she came to the library program in September everyone got to pet her.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) may be seen throughout Kansas and live alone, in pairs or travel in packs.  They will often use hollow logs or shrub thickets as den sites.  In the spring, a coyote may produce a litter of 4-7 pups.  They are omnivores whose diet includes rodents, birds that nest on the ground, fruits and berries, and scavenged meat.  They can be a nuisance to farmers and pet owners as they will also kill poultry, small livestock, cats and small dogs. (source: A Pocket Guide to Common Kansas Mammals by George Potts and Bob Gress)

George the pronghorn did not come to the library but Dennis made sure we learned more about these intriguing mammals.

Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) are herbivores found only in North America. Their preferred habitat includes open plains, grasslands, brush, and desert. In Kansas, they are in the western quarter of the state.  Look closely on your next drive to Colorado and you just might see them roaming the landscape.

Pronghorns have excellent vision to detect predators and are the fastest North American mammal, able to run up to 60 mph.  Males have black horns that are forked, or “pronged,” while the females may be without horns or have smaller unforked horns.  The branched, hollow, hairlike horns are unlike those of deer, elk or cattle and are shed every year.  Females typically have one or two fawns in the spring that are vulnerable to predators such as the coyote.  Surprisingly, pronghorns rarely jump fences, so increased land barriers and conversion of grasslands are threats to their habitat and survival. (source: A Pocket Guide to Common Kansas Mammals and

If you missed this program, Rachel Kilian, Education Specialist at the Topeka Zoo, comes to the library the first Thursday of every month at 3:45-4:30 to present Zoo Animals Live!, an all ages program focusing on a wide range of topics and various animals.  It’s always entertaining, informative and you may be surprised by how much you didn’t know about regional wildlife and the more exotic species that live elsewhere. 


Kimberly Sain

As a Public Services Specialist, in addition to Reference work I promote the Travel, Pets, and Lawn & Garden Neighborhoods, coordinate nature-themed programs for adults and families, and serve on the Big Read planning committee. My interests include exploring new travel destinations, National Parks, Alaska, hiking trails in Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas, birding, Sandhill crane migration, Monarch waystations, Kansas native plants, citizen science activities, volunteer work as a certified Kansas Master Naturalist, and reading essays about the natural environment. Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country is my all-time favorite novel.

One thought on “Smokey and George

  1. I think that it is great that you guys adopted these animals. When I was younger, in elementary school, we took a field trip to The Stone Nature Center and we got to meet Smokey. It was a great experience! Last year I went to the Topeka Zoo and we walked by her enclosure. I knew right away that it was her before looking at the name plate! I was so exited to find out that she was still in Topeka!

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