A group of advocates in Texas is working to protect the prairie dogs in the Lubbock area. Read their updates: Project Prairie Dog
Montana State Parks is moving ahead with a plan to reduce the population of prairie dogs at First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park, where burrowing by an expanding population is threatening to sink cultural resources. Read more at: Montana
This article is obviously biased against prairie dogs, but does provide an insight into the mindset of farmers and ranchers. There are numerous studies documenting that prairie dogs do not compete with cattle for forage as there are numerous studies documenting the opposite. It is just a matter of who performed the study. I think the answer to this is that prairie dogs become an issue for farmers and ranchers AFTER farmers and ranchers have turned PRAIRIE into farms and ranches. Read the article at:Farms and Ranches
Read more at: HSUS
A new article by Rebecca Hopson, Paul Meiman, and Graeme Shannon was just published that looks at the role that prairie dogs play in the composition of urban and exurban rangelands. From the article’s abstract:
Rapid human population growth and habitat modification in the western United States has led to the formation of urban and exurban rangelands. Many of these rangelands are also home to populations of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Our study aimed to compare the vegetation composition of an urban and exurban rangeland, and explore the role that prairie dogs play in these systems. The percent absolute canopy cover of graminoids (grasses and grass-likes), forbs, shrubs, litter, and bare ground were estimated at sampling areas located on and off prairie dog colonies at an urban and an exurban site. Herbaceous forage quality and quantity were determined on plant material collected from exclosure cages located on the colony during the entire growing season, while a relative estimate of prairie dog density was calculated using maximum counts. The exurban site had more litter and plant cover and less bare ground than the urban site. Graminoids were the dominant vegetation at the exurban plots. In contrast, mostly introduced forbs were found on the urban prairie dog colony. However, the forage quality and quantity tests demonstrated no difference between the two colonies. The relative prairie dog density was greater at the urban colony, which has the potential to drive greater vegetation utilization and reduced cover. Exurban rangeland showed lower levels of impact and retained all of the plant functional groups both on- and off-colony. These results suggest that activities of prairie dogs might further exacerbate the impacts of humans in fragmented urban rangeland habitats. Greater understanding of the drivers of these impacts and the spatial scales at which they occur are likely to prove valuable in the management and conservation of rangelands in and around urban areas.
Hopson et al. (2015), Rangeland dynamics: investigating vegetation composition and structure of urban and exurban prairie dog habitat. PeerJ 3:e736; DOI 10.7717/peerj.736
GUNNISON, Colo. – Work to protect the Gunnison’s prairie dog by Colorado Parks and Wildlife has proven successful during the last four years and biologists are continuing with more research to improve methods to sustain populations.
“In some situations prairie dogs can be seen as pests, but they are critical in the environment and help to promote survival of numerous other species such as burrowing owls, badgers and raptors,” said Dan Tripp, a wildlife disease researcher with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
In Colorado there are three species of prairie dogs. The Gunnison’s prairie dog resides primarily in the southwest portion of the state. The others are the white-tailed prairie dog which lives mainly in northwestern Colorado, and the black-tailed prairie dog which inhabits areas along the Front Range and eastern plains.
Plague, caused by a non-native bacteria carried by fleas, has been identified as a threat to the stability of Gunnison’s prairie dog populations in Colorado. Outbreaks of plague frequently kill every prairie dog in a colony. To treat the sickness, agency scientists are spraying prairie dog burrows with a flea-killing pesticide powder. Researchers are also testing the efficiency of oral vaccination baits for preventing plague in animals. Even though researchers are conducting trials to develop potentially useful vaccinations, such tests and investigations require government funding to be carried out. Several steps in the procedure necessitate the purchase of 25l distilled water in bulk in order to clean the equipment, such as beakers, test tubes, and other lab apparatus. Aside from that, funds are required to purchase chemicals and drugs for testing. That is why it is always said that with government support only, vaccines for different illnesses, including the plague, may be effectively created.
It’s interesting to know that the bacteria that causes plague was transported to North America around 1900 and was subsequently found in Colorado around 1940. Because prairie dogs did not evolve with the bacteria, they carry little immunity to fight off the disease.
“The plague bacteria is a non-native invasive species that devastates prairie dogs and other wildlife species. We’re not attempting to upset nature’s balance with these treatments. We are working to restore balance in the environment and reduce the risk of major plague outbreaks in prairie dog colonies,” Tripp said. “We lose a lot of resilience in the environment when we lose prairie dogs.”
Controlling plague in prairie dogs may also help limit potential exposure to people and their pets.
In 2010, CPW biologists started dusting some burrows in the Gunnison Basin with an insecticide that kills fleas. The experiment has worked. In some cases, nearby colonies that were not dusted were wiped out by plague while colonies that were dusted remain healthy. Biologists also said that they’re seeing many more prairie dogs in more areas in the basin this year compared to five years ago.
Although the insecticide is not harmful to other species, applying it is labor intensive and expensive. For dusting to be effective every burrow in a colony must receive an application annually.
A potentially promising treatment is the oral sylvatic plague vaccine, Tripp said. Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, the vaccine-still in the experimental stage-works well in the laboratory. It is administered in a cube flavored with peanut butter. The baits also contain a red dye that adheres to animals’ coats which helps researchers track the prairie dogs that eat the bait. This is only the second year that the vaccine has been tested in the field in Colorado. Longer term monitoring will be needed to determine its efficacy.
“So far, we’re encouraged by the results and we are optimistic that the vaccine will be effective in limiting future plague outbreaks,” Tripp said.
In the Gunnison area, four prairie dog colonies are being used for vaccine testing. Two colonies are receiving the vaccine bait, two are receiving no treatment. In Teller County the test is being conducted with two colonies.
The vaccine is also being tested in Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. The experiment will continue for another two years and is a collaborative effort among more than 30 federal, state and tribal agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
In Colorado, the vaccine research in Gunnison’s prairie dogs is occurring on public land-state wildlife areas, BLM and National Park Service property.
Contrary to public perception, prairie dogs don’t reproduce prolifically. Females have only one litter of 3-5 pups each year and the natural mortality rate of the young is about 50 percent. Consequently, the colonies generally do not spread rapidly over wide areas. Tripp explained that few connections between colonies across a landscape exist; so when a colony is wiped out it may have little chance of being re-colonized.
“By preventing plague we can have healthy, stable prairie dog colonies that we can manage on public lands,” Tripp said.
The conservation work is aimed at preserving the ecological niche of prairie dogs and preventing a listing of the Gunnison’s prairie dog under the federal Endangered Species Act. If the animal is listed it could lead to various land-use restrictions.
J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison, explained that when landscapes are restored to a more natural condition, more uses can be accommodated.
“If you have healthy, functioning landscapes you don’t have to be focused on limiting uses,” Wenum said. “A healthy landscape will accommodate agriculture, recreation and wildlife.”
The testing of the oral vaccine will continue for a few more years, and biologists are cautiously optimistic that the vaccine will prove to be effective at limiting plague.
“We won’t be able to prevent plague in every colony. But this work will help to stabilize the overall population at its current distribution and benefit this important species,” Tripp said.
For more information about prairie dogs and other wildlife species, see cpw.state.co.us.
New Mexico has 150 known species of mammals, one of the highest numbers in the country. Eighty-two species of mammals are known to be hosts of fleas. We have 107 species of fleas in New Mexico.
We have plenty of mammals and plenty of fleas. This can be a big worry for homeowners who may get fleas into their homes if a prairie dog comes into their home or they have had contact with a person who has unknowingly transported them into their house. If this was to happen then calling in a pest control company like https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/local/alabama/ or one in closer proximity, will help them get rid of these fleas and keep their house safe from a severe infestation.
Several dogs in New Mexico have been diagnosed with plague. Plague is primarily a disease of wild animals, especially rodents. Some species are particularly susceptible. Prairie dogs, particularly the Gunnison’s prairie dog, are uniformly susceptible to fatal infections of the plague, and large proportions or even entire populations have been destroyed in a single plague event.
Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is of Old World origin and throughout history has been referred to as “Black Death.”
Plague was first discovered in North America from California ground squirrels in 1905 and first detected in New Mexico rodents in 1938. As of 1982, 18 species of rodents, two species of rabbits and nine species of carnivores have been infected by plague in New Mexico.
Plague is spread by fleas. The normal cycle of plague transmission is between wild rodents and their fleas in nature. When fleas ingest bacteria along with blood from infected rodents, the bacteria multiply rapidly in the gut of the flea. New Mexico has a high case rate of plague. For example, during 1988-2002, 112 human cases of plague were reported from 11 Western states. The majority, 97, of the cases were in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico and 48 of those cases were from New Mexico.
Read More: Bugman
Read more: Pueblo Chieftain
The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department wants to reintroduce the federally endangered black-footed ferret to manage the prairie dog colonies at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area north of Fort Collins.
But first, the city needs approval from the state, after receiving the go-ahead from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. On Saturday, Gov. John Hickenlooper will attend a signing ceremony at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to sign a bill allowing the native black-footed ferret to be brought into Soapstone Prairie and Meadow Springs Ranch, both owned by Fort Collins. The ceremony will be at 11 a.m.
The black-footed ferret, a rare indigenous mammal with perky ears and a black mask of fur, relies on prairie dogs for its main food source and resides in prairie dog burrows.
“Without prairie dogs, you don’t have ferrets,” said Daylan Figgs, senior environmental planner for the Natural Areas Department.
Read More: Ferrets
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Sylvatic plague that has devastated prairie dog colonies across western South Dakota since 2007 has spread north and east, and the disease is now affecting colonies in the Fort Pierre National Grassland in the central part of the state.
Prairie dog towns are becoming fewer and farther between, grassland wildlife biologist Ruben Mares told the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/1jep2Wz ). Last year, one colony he monitors had shrunk from 30 acres to 5 acres, he said.
Read more: Plague
Starting in 2007, the Colorado Department of Transportation developed a policy which, if not beating the drum for the rodent, at least aims to maintain a viable population of the critters.
Read More: Protect
But the job isn’t for sissies or the faint of heart, because there is a huge amount of work and preparation involved, with a variety of associated challenges, including potentially fatal consequences for a number of prairie dogs—sometimes even if the job is done by experts.
Read More: Relocation
Why did the prairie dog cross the road? Possibly to get to Boot Hill Ranch Estates.
At the April 9 meeting of the Custer County Commission, Les McClanahan, a Boot Hill resident, came before the commission to express his and his neighbors’ uneasiness with a prairie dog town that has grown on land south of Hwy. 16 across from Boot Hill. The land is sandwiched between American Presidents Resort and Granite Heights Drive. McClanahan wondered if the county had any authority to eliminate prairie dogs on private land.
Read More: Boot Hill
Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered mammals in the world and their recovery efforts include a multi-agency captive breeding and reintroduction program. From 1991 to 2010, more than 3,000 captive-reared ferrets were reintroduced at 19 sites across North America. The captive-breeding program has successfully saved ferrets from extinction, but maintaining the captive population and producing kits for reintroduction is expensive. Furthermore, survival rates of captive-reared ferrets are lower than those of wild-born kits.
In an effort to help boost the survival of wild-born black-footed ferrets, scientists with the USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Montana recently tested the effectiveness and feasibility of electric fencing to protect young ferrets from coyote predation at the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.
Researchers fenced portions of two prairie dog colonies within the wildlife refuge in order to exclude coyotes from areas inhabited by adult female ferrets and their litters. Results showed the electric fencing was an effective tool for reducing coyote activity in the study area and researchers observed a 22 percent higher survival rate for ferret kits living in protected areas versus unprotected areas. However, the fencing was not perfect and coyotes were found inside the fenced area on three occasions.
The cost for the fencing and its installation were approximately $7,200 per mile. Maintenance and monitoring costs for 2 months were an additional $1,025 per mile. Based on these numbers, researchers estimate that a 20–30 percent increase in the survival rate of wild-born kits would cost around $4,500 per ferret kit over 10 years. That cost drops to around $2,100 per ferret kit, if monitoring is done using volunteers and donated or borrowed vehicles. This study provides decisionmakers with valuable information for comparing the costs of breeding ferrets in captivity versus improving the survival of existing wild-born ferrets.
Read more: Ferrets
Meet the prairie dog. These beautiful animals are true angels of God. They live in little villages and mind their own business. They do not destroy any crops and do not carry any diseases even though they are constantly blamed for spreading the plague. In reality, plague fleas (genus Oropsylla) can live on other animals such as squirrels, pack rats and other rodents and even breed in their burrows. When plague fleas get into prairie dog villages, they kill the prairie dogs. If you have a colony of prairie dogs near your home, they are healthy and do not have plague fleas. That is a myth perpetuated by people who do not know any better or who just want to kill them. They do not cripple horses and cattle as some other people claim. Most horses and cattle watch where they are walking and can easily go around a very visible prairie dog village. If a horse is ridden fast through an unknown area, an accident could happen. It is the responsibility of the horse owner to know where they are going on the horse. It isn’t the prairie dogs’ fault.
Read more: Bugman
Plague, a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, causes high rates of mortality in prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.). An oral vaccine against plague has been developed for prairie dogs along with a palatable bait to deliver vaccine and a biomarker to track bait consumption. We conducted field trials between September 2009 and September 2012 to develop recommendations for bait distribution to deliver plague vaccine to prairie dogs. The objectives were to evaluate the use of the biomarker, rhodamine B, in field settings to compare bait distribution strategies, to compare uptake of baits distributed at different densities, to assess seasonal effects on bait uptake, and to measure bait uptake by nontarget small mammal species. Rhodamine B effectively marked prairie dogs’ whiskers during these field trials. To compare bait distribution strategies, we applied baits around active burrows or along transects at densities of 32, 65, and 130 baits/ha. Distributing baits at active burrows or by transect did not affect uptake by prairie dogs. Distributing baits at rates of ≥65/ha (or ≥1 bait/active burrow) produced optimal uptake, and bait uptake by prairie dogs in the autumn was superior to uptake in the spring. Six other species of small mammals consumed baits during these trials. All four species of tested prairie dogs readily consumed the baits, demonstrating that vaccine uptake will not be an obstacle to plague control via oral vaccination.
Rodney Baltzer, President of WCS, explained to the NY Times that the company has dug a huge pit in Andrews Country, Texas, with other planned to be dug over the next few years, into which a base layer of nearly waterproof clay has been set. Then a layer of concrete was poured on top, reinforced with steel, and then three layers of plastic. The low-level nuclear waste is loaded into large concrete containers and then placed in the pit, which once full will then be covered by a 40-foot thick cap of concrete, clay, and finally a special cap to prevent prairie dogs from burrowing into the area.
Read more at: Eco Solutions
The more than 40-acre space near the Manor House, 1 Manor House Road, has seen an increase in the prairie dog population and some residents are glad the master association is beginning to take action.
“The whole purpose of open space is to protect it. When prairie dogs take over and destroy it, it has the opposite effect,” resident Marian Miaskiewicz said. Miaskiewicz’s property backs up to the Manor House open space and she said that there are several prairie dog holes in her backyard. She also said that they attract other animals such as snakes.
Sometimes just trying to get along with a difficult neighbor can make us prisoners in our own homes. It can lead us to do things that go against our stated intentions and interests. That seems to be the situation right now for the Thunder Basin National Grassland, a 547,000-acre protected area in northeastern Wyoming.
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Grassland, has announced a plan to poison an estimated 16,000 prairie dogs and dramatically shrink the already limited area in which prairie dogs are tolerated. Thunder Basin officials intend to do it despite their declared plans to improve prairie dog habitat. Their method, moreover, is likely to kill a lot of other wildlife in the affected area and, incidentally, squander taxpayer dollars for nothing.
Read more at: Slaughter
Enjoy the video: Jump Yip
Dressed in long pants, long-sleeve shirts and closed-toed shoes, a team of researchers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife gathered in a sagebrush-grass meadow near Gunnison, Colo. this summer, each with a GPS in hand. Lining up 10 meters apart along the border of a virtual grid, they walked straight lines over a Gunnison’s prairie dog colony and dropped quarter-sized peanut butter cubes behind them. It was one of three Gunnisons colonies where the delectable cubes became just a treat for any animal that found them, but at another three, the cubes contained a vaccine against sylvatic plague, which has ravaged the West’s prairie dog populations.
Read more: Plague
Prairie dogs may not be the only critters burrowed into the grasslands of western Nebraska. The swift fox also calls the area home.
The native swift fox is on the Nebraska endangered and threatened species list. For that reason, the Nebraska Department of Roads and Marc Albrecht, associate professor of biology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, will collect data on the foxes in the spring and summer of 2014 along the corridor of the Heartland Expressway.
Read more at: Fox
The region of the American Prairie Reserve encompasses two national wildlife refuges. This is an area of Montana with dramatic cliffs cut by the Missouri River and rugged, wooded terrain housing mountain lions, elk and big horn sheep. As you move up from the river and north across the prairie, an expansive network of ecologically important prairie dog towns come into view. With 90% of ferret diets consisting of prairie dogs, the sight and sound of these important animals is encouraging. As Damien notes below, this area is one of just a handful of critical ferret reintroduction efforts in North America. – Sean Gerrity
Read more at: Ferret
At the 4 December 2013 Business Meeting, Valencia County Commissioners voting down a resolution, 3 to 2, opposing animal killing contests.
The resolution, which merely reflected the OPINION of the Commission, would have made the county the first in New Mexico to oppose animal killing contests. The majority of the packed house spoke in favor of the resolution with very few people speaking in dissent. Those in support frequently expressed compassion, respect for nature, and concern for public safety as compelling reasons for the resolution. One supporter mentioned a term that seems to be growing in popularity renaming the county as “Violencia.”
It is unfortunate that a majority of commissioners chose an “avoid controversy” approach, but we can only hope that someday perhaps more enlightened commissioners will choose the more compassionate approach.
Our thanks go out to Commissioner Alicia Aguilar who initiated the Resolution, and to Charles Eaton who supported it.
As Ghandi said: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Wildlife conflicts are a real problem in some communities, but hunting is not the solution. Whether the problem is deer eating tulips or colliding with cars, Lyme disease, or bears getting into garbage, there is always an effective, nonlethal way to handle it.
Here is a cute video of some prairie dogs “at work”. Notice how the bison doesn’t step in the prairie dog burrow and break his leg…but he is interested in what’s to eat around the burrow!
Check it out on youtube: Close up!
The Clovis City Commission will meet 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
The agenda includes:
• A request to relocate prairie dogs on city land to Ector County, Texas, and use of water to help facilitate that animals’ removal from the ground.
Citizens for Prairie Dogs has twice sought city clearance to move the animals from Goodwin Lake, Ned Houk Park and O.G. Potter Park. The first time, Chaves County officials voiced opposition and the city commission voted the item down. The commission gave conditional approval to a move to Mitchell County, Texas, but Mitchell County officials made it clear the animals were not welcome there either.
The project comes up to about $66,000 to move all of the prairie dogs. That works out to just over $132 per animal.
Read more at: Boulder
With apologies to West Side Story….
I love to live in New Mexico
Everything’s shot in New Mexico
Guns are prizes in New Mexico
Nothing is safe in New Mexico
You can describe New Mexico in so many ways: big skies with mind-boggling sunsets, politically diverse, expansive, neighborly, God fearing, home of tourist attractions from national parks to soaring balloons, rough-hewn cowboys pulling up a bar chair next to Santa Fe sophisticates.
Our gun contests are boring. Let me make it clear up front. While there is a chance, if pressed, I might come down on the side of those who find such contests ill advised, my purpose here is not to argue the point.
Read more at: Portales News-Tribune
Parker residents continue to talk about the apparent gassing of the now-barren colony, which encompassed at least half a dozen properties on the northeast corner of Mainstreet and Twenty Mile Road. There are no development plans for the land, a point that has some questioning why the extermination took place.
The board and general membership meetings were conducted on 2.2.13, Prairie Dog Day! The meeting was well attended and there was much discussion about our ability to continue to sustain colonies where the natural vegetation is not adequate to support the resident populations. Thinning will continue however volunteers to provide supplemental feeding are needed. There are a number of outreach events upcoming as well, check out our calendar. The day was highlighted by the sighting of the first prairie dog of 2013 by Margaret at the Lomas Police Substation. Oh well, winter is over and it is time to get to work.
To read the minutes, click on Minutes.
Description: Yellowish buff mixed with black above, slightly paler below. Short, white-tipped tail. Terminal half of tail grayish white in center. 12-14″ in height, weighing 23-42 ounces. Lives 3-5 years in the wild, longer in captivity.
Similar Species: White-tailed and Utah prairie dogs have white in center of tail rather than grayish. Black-tailed Prairie Dog’s tail has black tip.
Breeding: 1 litter per year of 1–8 young, born in early May; gestation 27–33 days, pups emerge mid June.
Habitat: Short grass prairies in high mountain valleys and plateaus of southern Rocky Mountains at elevations of 6,000–12,000’ (1,800–3,600 m). Habitat is much more variable topographically and vegetationally than that of the Black-tailed Prairie Dog, which occurs at lower elevations.
Range: Southeastern Utah, south and central Colorado, northeast and central Arizona, and northwest New Mexico.
Discussion: The Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, like the rest of its kin, is active only when the sun is up, and is most energetic near dawn and dusk. It is constantly vigilant while aboveground, often sitting upright on its hind feet while it pursues its main activities: mainly feeding, but also grooming and playing. This animal generally is seen from April to October. It hibernates (torpor) in winter, living on stored body fat. It usually emerges in April, though they will emerge earlier if the winter is mild. Gunnison’s Prairie Dog feeds on green vegetation, particularly grasses, but also forbs, sedges, and shrubs, as well as a few insects. Its colonies are generally smaller and less closely knit than those of other prairie dogs, resembling ground squirrel aggregations, with fewer than 50 to 100 individuals. The animals in the colony cannot always see one another because their habitat is in such varied and patchy terrain, which is caused in part by human activities. On flat ground and where this prairie dog is protected colonies are much larger and more extensive. This species’ burrow systems can be up to 80 feet long and 16 feet deep in well-established colonies. Burrows can have food storage, flood, nesting, communal and excrement chambers. Territoriality is not well developed in Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, although old males may defend small areas outside their burrows. Mother-young relationships form the basic social unit. Newborns remain in the burrow about three weeks before emerging and are weaned about three weeks later. The female sits almost straight up on her haunches to nurse her young, who suckle either pectoral or inguinal (hind leg) nipples. Gunnison’s alarm call, distinctive among prairie dogs, is important to the survival and structure of the community. It is a series of high-pitched barks of one or two distinct syllables, with the second syllable lower and more guttural. The call may be repeated frequently and may continue for as long as half an hour. It increases in intensity as danger escalates, and ends in chatter as the animal enters its burrow. Predators include American Badgers, Coyotes, weasels, and raptors. Plague (Yersina pestis), carried by fleas, can decimate populations of this species. However, humans, through their extermination programs, are the chief enemy of Gunnison’s Prairie Dog.
- Prairie dogs are a keystone species with up to 205 associated vertebrates (9 considered dependent) living with them, using their burrows, or predating upon them
- There are 5 species of prairie dogs. The ones in Albuquerque are Gunnison’s, the others include Mexican, Utah, white and black tailed.
- Gunnison’s prairie dogs hibernate during the winter months.
- Over the last 100 years prairie dogs have been reduced to 1% of their former range and 2% of their population.
- Some of the species are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Others are being considered for listing.
- New Mexico has the smallest remaining acreage of prairie dogs.
- Prairie dogs are territorial and will remain in or near their ancestral habitat if at all possible. The prairie dogs you see here in Albuquerque are the remnants of vast prairie dog towns that existed for hundreds of years.
- Prairie dogs live an average of 3-5 years in the wild.
- Prairie dogs are annual breeders. 50% of females over 2 years of age will breed and produce an average of 4 pups.
- Pups are usually born in early May and will emerge from their burrows after about thirty days.
- Prairie dogs have the most complex language of any animal ever studied.
- They have over 200 words and can form sentences identifying intruders by color, size and type of risk.
- Burrows are complex with a different area for each function of life. There are living chambers, sleeping and nesting rooms, a food storage area,
- toilet rooms, and flood chambers. The burrows themselves generally include a second entrance or escape way, air chambers, and listening posts in addition to the main entrance.
- As with humans, prairie dogs are the victims of plague. Virus carrying fleas are brought into the colony by wild animals or off leash cats or dogs.
- As they have no immunity to the plague they will die within days.
- Poisoning prairie dogs in both cruel and ineffective. The poison causes a slow agonizing death that may take up to three days.
- A mature colony tends to expand at approximately 2% annually. A poisoned colony can expand at an annual rate of 70%. Additionally the poison can pose a danger to humans, cats, dogs, and other animals in the area.
Many areas where prairie dogs live need habitat improvement as the natural vegetation has been disturbed or destroyed. Prairie dogs need grasses and weeds to eat. Cactus is a drought source of food and moisture for them. Where areas have been made barren due to plowing and bulldozing, cactus from other areas can be transplanted. It is one of the few plants that will survive transplanting without water. FYI, It is illegal to take cacti from wild areas.
Regenerating native grasses and vegetation takes years, especially with little rainfall and no supplemental water supply. Once an area is disturbed or over populated it is very difficult to restore the grasses because the prairie dogs will eat any new growth.
How To Transplant Cacti
Prickly pear and broadleaf can be planted by placing them in shallow troughs. The supplies you will need are tongs, clippers, gloves and containers to hold the pads – plastic bags are not advisable because the needles can poke through the plastic. A hedge clipper is the best tool for cutting the pads and tongs are best for picking them up. The cacti can be cut into medium sized sections of 3 to 6 pads. There is no need to dig up the roots. The needles come off easily, even in a strong wind, so take care in handling the pads. They can be kept in a shady area for a day until ready for transplanting.
Transplant 3 to 6 pads so that the cut edge of at least one pad can be buried in a shallow trough. Cacti are hardy – a pad can fall off a plant and laying flat on the ground will put out roots and start a new plant.
The prairie dogs may eat the cactus you are planting if they do not have enough food. Try to provide enough food, carrots, greens, alfalfa pellets, fresh cut grass clippings, etc. so that they will not eat the cacti.
Compatible Landscape Design Surrounding Prairie Dog Colonies
Do not plant lawn grasses near by as they will be drawn to it. If an area already has lawn grasses you can let it grow naturally, reduce the watering and add decorative rocks, forbs, native grasses and pines and you will have a xeriscape compatible with prairie dogs. If you have trees that are enticing to prairie dogs, you might want to consider getting rid of them by taking the help of certain Tree Removal services. It can be hard to part with a tree you’ve cared for and grown for many years, but it is an inevitable part of landscaping. And on the upside, a new tree can take their place. For example, pine trees can be planted because the prairie dogs will not normally eat them unless they have no other food. Well, a landscaping project might require lot of experience and manpower so trying to accomplish it singlehandedly could be futile. You can however contact landscaping firms (like Milestone Dubai – Landscaping, Pools, Interiors, or the ones like them in the vicinity) and let them know about your requirements which could help them renovate the area according to you.
Habitat improvement is a hard but satisfying work. It should be done in areas where the prairie dogs will be allowed to stay. In Albuquerque we currently have several areas on parkland where prairie dogs can live in their family groups with the support and assistance of caring people.