Prairie Animals

Through time-lapse photography, still photos, and video the Platte Basin Timelapse team reveals the secret, hidden life of the diverse animals and plants that inhabit the wetlands, grasslands, and woodlands of the secluded Platte River Prairies in central Nebraska. Watch the video and be inspired.

The Beaver

A beaver is building a lodge near the Platte River by Crane Trust, Wood River. (Michael Forsberg)

Beavers are the engineers of the wetland ecosystem. For more than 20-million years beavers gnawed trees and built dams in the Platte River prairie region. Beavers were historically important to the North American fur trade, and as a result, they were hunted to near extinction by 1900. Today the species is making a comeback across North America.

Beaver skull provided by Nebraska Game and Parks. (Mariah Lundgren)

Beavers build dams, canals, and lodges that slow streams and create ponds. They use their large front teeth and powerful jaws to gnaw trees until they fall. Their teeth self-sharpen and grow continuously. Their front incisors are coated with iron that makes them strong and orange! Beavers are built for survival. Their webbed rear feet act like fins for swimming, and their paddle-shaped tail works like a rudder. Beavers can swim up to five miles per hour, and they can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes. Their oily fur is waterproof.

Activity: Watch Prairie Animals

Meet more animals of the Platte River prairie ecosystem. You’ll get cool wildlife facts and view videos captured by custom trail cam systems hidden from view. Click the image below to enter the activity. For fun and informative Wildlife Flashcards, click below.

Biological Surveys

Andy Caven, lead biologist at the Crane Trust

Biologists wade through tall grass, setting traps so that they can collect, monitor, and research small mammals such as mice, meadow voles, and shrews who make grasslands their home. By monitoring these animals, it helps us understand the health of this particular ecosystem. Watch this video of researchers as they collect and study small mammals on the Crane Trust prairie.


A prairie slough with a backdrop of cottonwood trees at the Crane Trust. (Mariah Lundgren)

What is a woodland?  Platte River woodlands are sparse forests with trees and shrubs that are are either native species, such as cottonwood trees or willows and non-native or introduced species, such as western red cedar. Many native plant species are attracted to water or require moist soil to establish their roots. See the map/aerial showing an abundance of small woodland forests surrounded by open meadows.

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