The Story of Larry Haverfield, a True Wildlife Hero

This is the story of how one man took on "the system" to conserve native prairie wildlifeA delightfully illustrated children's book (ages 4-8), features Larry, Annabelle and Angus.

"Hi! I'm Annabelle. And I'm Angus. We are black-tailed prairie dogs who live in Kansas. We want to tell you a story about a real wildlife hero, our friend Larry Haverfield." 

Through the voices of Annabelle and Angus, discover what almost happened to wildlife on the Kansas prairie. When Larry receives a letter that says he must destroy the prairie dogs on his land, he and some of his neighbors join together to make certain that all wildlife remain unharmed. Not only were black-tailed prairie dogs at risk of destruction but the already-endangered black-footed ferrets were at risk of becoming extinct. 

In Larry Saves the Prairie, with the help of Annabelle and Angus, you'll discover what it means to be a true hero, and most especially, what it took to save prairie wildlife in Kansas.

The Project

Every time children are asked what community service project or charitable cause they’d like to be involved with, in my experience, most of the K-3 students pick something related to domestic animals or wildlife. This natural love and curiosity for animals and nature is what led me to write Larry Saves the Prairie for young children.

My love of the prairie remains strong today. I’ve never forgotten the days of wandering the prairie around my childhood home. I have studied the problem of diminishing wildlife habitat due to sprawl, farming, ranching, and other human activities and participated in many activities to counter the effects, including donations to organizations who promise to do something about it.

After hearing about Larry Haverfield and his environmental efforts for many years, and ultimately meeting him in 2012, I realized that telling his story might have the greatest conservation impact of all. Larry, like me I suppose, had an innate sense that poisoning wildlife—especially prairie dogs—because of the myths that they ruin pastures, spread plague to humans, and cause livestock to break their legs, just wasn’t part of the natural order of things. So, he educated himself in the history of the prairie and better ranching techniques that allowed him to remain a successful businessman while doing right by nature. This won him few friends among his neighbors and Kansas county and state government. But he never cowered and he never gave up.  

This book has led me to a new initiative in my efforts to change the cultural thinking about wildlife and its place in our modern world. I call it the Francis Initiative, after Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. It is a simple concept that imagines a world in which wildlife habitat conservation, healthy economies, and cultures are mutual and complementary priorities. I think, or at least hope, that Larry Haverfield and St. Francis approve.

Matt Bergles, Ph.D.

Francis Initiave

The Francis Wildlife Initiative

in·i·tia·tive /iˈniSH(ē)ədiv/
1. The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.

Vision: The Francis Wildlife Initiative is a concept that envisions a future in which wildlife habitat conservation is a priority, not an afterthought. The initiative seeks a world in which abundant wildlife habitat, healthy economies and healthy cultures are mutual and complementary priorities.


please visit my blog to tell us your ideas about how the Francis Wildlife Initiative can become a reality...


The Book

Matt Bergles' book is available now!

The Book ›


Larry Haverfield was a common man, as American as apple pie. He grew up loving Kansas and the prairie ranchland he worked his cattle on. 

Larry ›

Matt's Blog

Weighing in on the issue...can the initiative become a reality. 

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