Here in Albuquerque, we are fortunate to live in a city that cares for some of its earliest residents and takes care to move them out of harm’s way! However…
Prairie dogs in the city are trapped in small pockets of land such as undeveloped city lots, “right of ways” along roads and freeways, public park areas that buffer roads and under-developed private and public areas. Their food sources are sparse or non-existent and they cannot escape to wilderness areas. During periods of stress, such as drought, it may become necessary provide supplemental care as the natural vegetation (if any) will not support the resident population.
Within the city boundaries the prairie dogs have few natural predators to control their population growth and trapping and relocation is needed. Relocation is also needed when road widening and site development threatens to eliminate a prairie dog community.
Prairie dogs do not carry plague. Fleas that infect mammals cause plague. Plague is usually transmitted by free roaming animals such as squirrels, coyotes and other wild animals or off leash cats and dogs that visit wild areas where they may come in contact with infected fleas. If plague fleas are introduced into a healthy colony, the colony will die within a few days. Under no circumstances should anyone handle dead or dying animals without proper precautions. Albuquerque has been fortunate and there has not been a reported instance of plague within the city in over 40 years.
Prairie dogs do not carry the Hanta Virus. Deer mice transmit Hanta Virus. Humans can contract the virus when cleaning out areas that the mice frequent and inhaling infected dust or consuming food that has been contaminated by the mice.
There have been no recorded cases of prairie dogs transmitting rabies to humans. While all mammals are believed to be susceptible to rabies, it is likely the prairie dog is killed in the initial attack by a rabid animal, or dies shortly thereafter, before it can develop rabies. Never the less any rabid animal is potentially capable of rabies virus transmission. Prairie dogs, like other wild animals, should not be handled.
The question of Tularemia is sometimes raised. One contracts this disease through open cuts or sores while handling the skins of infected animals, typically rabbits. Thus it is unlikely that anyone living in the city would ever contract the disease from a prairie dog.
Please refer to the articles on Disease.
If the colony is active and its resident prairie dogs are frisky and hide when you approach, they are most likely healthy.