Kelsey Smith

Squirrels can be found just about anywhere in the Kansas City area, from the densest parts of the urban core, to rural prairie or forest settings.

They typically are a grayish color, brown or an orangey red, but recent black squirrels sightings in one Northland neighborhood have residents curious about the origins of their new dark furry neighbors.

“It’s weird. Two or three years ago if you had asked me if there is such a thing as a black squirrel, I would have said no. I had no idea,” says Dave Wood who lives on Erie Street in North Kansas City.

But now, Wood says, on his street the creatures are pretty commonplace.

Wikimedia Commons

The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health is warning Kansas residents about an uptick in rabies infections this year.

As of July 1, there have been 69 positive cases of rabies in the state, 13 of which have been in domestic animals. In 2014, there were 69 cases for the entire year. 

Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown says that the increase is part of a natural cycle. He says rabies cases typically surge every few years, and this year's hot temperatures and wet weather could be spurring more animal activity — and more chances for infection.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Cara Smith didn't move to Parkville, Missouri, for the Missouri River.

But that's why she stayed.


Jun 22, 2015

That's how many years it's been since the last time this summer's brood of cicadas came out of the ground. Why do they spend so long underground? What do they do down there? And should you consider eating them? Bonus sounds: Will Smith's Gettin' Jiggy Wit It and live cicadas in-studio.


  • Mary McCoy, entomologist and professor emeritus in Washburn University's biology department
Martin Cathrae / Flickr-CC

During the summer months in Kansas City, it's common for the sweet scent of fresh-cut grass to waft through the muggy air.

And while that smell might be pleasing to some of us humans, two University of Missouri researchers say the newly shorn grass blades are none too pleased about it.

Cody Newill / KCUR

More than 700 volunteers showed up at Lakeside Nature Center Saturday morning to help clean up the Blue River. 

The volunteers divided up into more than 20 groups to clean up different sections of the river. One of the teams stationed at the Coal Mine Pond just off I-435 had their work cut out for them: on top of the usual trash, a 16-foot boat sat underneath the water.

Group leader Jim Armer has been involved in river cleanups for about 10 years. In that time, he's seen just about everything there is to see at the bottom of a riverbed.

It’s that time of year when we’ll start to see more and more mammals scurrying about around the city. Mammals like foxes, squirrels and, yes, maybe even some coyotes.

In the past 15 years, coyote populations in Midwestern urban and suburban areas have been increasing -- including in the Kansas City area.

“A  lot of folks don’t realize that we have them around the state, they don’t realize that they’re inside the cities. So when they see one they get all concerned,” says Andy Friesen, a wildlife damage biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife.

February 2 will see the 129th celebration of Groundhog Day. On this Up To Date, guest host Stephen Steigman takes a peek at the life of the marmot, the animal we all know as a groundhog, with an expert who has been studying the animal for more than 40 years.


Preserving Outdoor Assets

Dec 15, 2014
Urban Trail Co. /

The winter cold inspires folks to spend more time indoors, but there's still a lot going on outside. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with an urban forester about protecting trees during the winter. Then, we discuss one organization's partnership with Kansas City, Mo. to build and use trails in area parks which leads us to explore the city's process in joining with outside organizations.  Plus, a look at how business landscaping can protect birds of prey. 


Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, Mo., is a place where people can get an up-close look at wild animals and plants that surround the area. It’s also one of the largest animal rehabilitation centers in Missouri.

Wild animals are brought in when they lose their habitat, are injured or abandoned. Humans are animal’s biggest threat, but the center is a place where humans are trying to help them out.

KCUR's Gina Kaufmann

You know how sometimes you stumble across a word you've never heard before in your entire life, and then suddenly, the word is everywhere? That happened to me with the pawpaw.

I was born and raised in Missouri, so discovering in my thirties that a random fruit with a made-up-sounding name is considered my state's own banana? That came as a shock (though, to be fair, it's also known as the Indiana banana and the West Virginia banana). 

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Even though Kansas City is a landlocked city, there are a lot of great fishing spots, including the Missouri River and a large amount of area lakes, ponds and small rivers. The Missouri Department of Conservation and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, even stock Kansas City area park lakes with fish throughout the year to promote close-to-home fishing. 

Here’s some information to help aspiring urban anglers get started.

Missouri Department of Conservation

Crappies, blue gills, blue bass and catfish. If that menu sounds tasty to you, then you are in luck, because that's what you stand to catch if you go fishing in and around Kansas City.

Brooke Novak / Flickr-CC

There's one topic that keeps on giving year after year: allergies. From seasonal, to year-round, gluten to peanuts, allergies affect over 65 million people in the United States alone.

In the first segment of Thursday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske discusses all things mold, pollen, and food protein with Dr. Jay Portnoy​, who heads the allergy and asthma department at Children's Mercy Hospital.


Catherine L. Sherman and Monarch Watch

Insect ecologist Chip Taylor is a friend to both the monarch butterfly and the honeybee. He's been tracking monarchs and restoring their habitats since 1992. And he's worked with bees in French Guiana, Venezuela and Mexico.

changr / Flickr - CC

It's starting to actually feel like fall. Daylight is slipping away sooner, mornings are brisk and nights are chilly. As the temperature starts to cool, leaves start to slowly change to those beautiful warm colors of yellow, orange and red and will soon fall to the ground. Critters scamper about preparing for who knows what kind of winter. From bird migrations, strange insects, frog populations and more, autumn is certainly making her place in Kansas City. 

Building bridges, swinging an axe and living in a yurt are all part of normal life for a trail worker at Glacier National Park.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

The American Crow is a smart and wary social bird with all black feathers, black talons and a black beak. Every once in a while during the winter, you can see thousands of these crows gathering in certain spots around parts of Kansas City.  Over the past 50 years, crows have been congregating more and more in urban environments – and if you’ve been in the middle of a dive-bombing murder, you know they create quite the disturbance.

Nature In The City: Drought Edition

Jul 31, 2012
Mickl Pickl / Flickr

This summer's drought is affecting everyone: from farmers to daily commuters to animals. Especially animals.

Often described in the media as “a female Indiana Jones,” Mireya Mayor is not your typical scientist.

Both as an anthropologist working in the jungles of Madagascar, and as a wildlife correspondent for National Geographic, the city girl and former Miami Dolphins cheerleader has found herself sleeping in a rain forest hammock amid poisonous snakes, being charged by gorillas, scaling rocky cliffs, and diving with great white sharks.

Mattias Klum

Mattias Klum makes a living by shooting photographs of some of the world's most endangered species and places.

A photographer for National Geographic, Klum might be considered an endangered species himself, given his recent work shooting closes ups of the venomous Chinese cobra, which can shoot its venom up to nearly 7 feet. Even a drop of that venom can blind you.

But there he sat....shooting away....nonetheless.

There may be no controlling Mother Nature, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your garden to cooperate. But keeping your gardening blossoming instead of browning is easier said than done.