J Wildl Dis. 2023 Oct 1;59(4):734-742. doi: 10.7589/JWD-D-23-00036.
Rabies is an acute progressive encephalitis caused by infection with rabies viruses, with reservoirs among bats and mesocarnivores, but all mammals are susceptible. Despite its distribution and abundance, cases of rabies are much less common in rodents and lagomorphs. Familiarity with current rabies prevalence data is important for informed decisions on human postexposure prophylaxis after rodent and lagomorph bites. This study is an update of rabies cases reported in rodents and lagomorphs in the US from 2011 to 2020. Rabies reports were collected passively from laboratory testing agencies in the US and Puerto Rico from 2011 to 2020. Descriptive analysis was conducted to determine the percent positivity of rabies cases by species. A total of 401 cases of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs were reported from 2011 to 2020. Most reported cases were in groundhogs (Marmota monax), representing >90% of cases, and the trend closely aligned with rabies in raccoons (Procyon lotor). In any given year, the percent positivity of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs was <2.5%, and the trend of percent positivity from 2011 to 2020 was stable. Groundhog and North American beaver (Castor canadensis) percent positivity was significantly higher than the rest of the rodents and lagomorphs. Most rabies cases occurred during the months of May-September. Documented cases of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs are generally rare, but with variation between species. Groundhogs and North American beavers had rabies percent positivity similar to high-risk species, such as bats and raccoons, and constituted 97% of all rodent and lagomorph positive cases. Since 1993, the trend in rabies cases in groundhogs has significantly declined. These results can be used to help inform public health officials on rodent and lagomorph prevention and control efforts, as well as rabies postexposure prophylaxis.
Keywords: Animal bites; lagomorphs; rabies; rodents.
© Wildlife Disease Association 2023.
Among all the regulatory homeostatic networks in vertebrates, the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal axis during the stress response, has gained considerable attention, and the measurement of fecal glucocorticoids (FGC) has become an invaluable tool to assess adrenocortical activity related to stressful events in wild and captive animals. However, the use of FGC requires the validation of measurement techniques and the proper selection of the specific hormone according to the study species. The main objective of this study was to identify the dominant glucocorticoid (GC) hormone in the stress response of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in an arid grassland of Chihuahua, Mexico. A capture stress challenge in the field was developed to determine if the levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol and corticosterone) both in serum and fecal samples could be attributed to stress in Cynomys ludovicianus. The samples were analysed with the technique of liquid phase radioimmunoassay , and this study showed that both cortisol and corticosterone are present at measurable levels in serum and fecal samples of black-tailed prairie dogs. We found that both GCs were present in similar concentrations in serum, however, corticosterone concentration in fecal samples was higher than cortisol. Likewise, biochemical validations performed in this study to test the assay reached acceptable levels of reliability. Therefore, we confirm that fecal analysis can be implemented as a method to measure stress responses in wild prairie dogs.
As part of research and wildlife disease surveillance efforts, we performed necropsy examinations of 125 free-ranging (n = 114) and captive (n = 11) prairie dogs in Colorado from 2009 to 2017. From these cases, we identified three cases of thymic lymphoma in free-ranging Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni), and we identified a novel retroviral sequence associated with these tumors. The viral sequence is 7700 nucleotides in length and exhibits a genetic organization that is consistent with the characteristics of a type D betaretrovirus. The proposed name of this virus is Gunnison’s prairie dog retrovirus (GPDRV). We screened all 125 prairie dogs for the presence of GPDRV using PCR with envelope-specific primers and DNA extracted from spleen samples. Samples were from Gunnison’s prairie dogs (n = 59), black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) (n = 40), and white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys leucurus) (n = 26). We identified GPDRV in a total of 7/125 (5.6%) samples including all three of the prairie dogs with thymic lymphoma, as well as spleen from an additional four Gunnison’s prairie dogs with no tumors recognized at necropsy. None of the GPDRV-negative Gunnison’s prairie dogs had thymic lymphomas. We also identified a related, apparently endogenous retroviral sequence in all prairie dog samples. These results suggest that GPDRV infection may lead to development of thymic lymphoma in Gunnison’s prairie dogs.
- PMID: 32498297
- DOI: 10.3390/v12060606
To compare the effects of a dexmedetomidine-ketamine-midaz
Nine 6-month-old sexually intact male captive BTPDs.
Each BTPD was randomly assigned to be anesthetized by IM administration of dexmedetomidine (0.25 mg/kg), ketamine (40 mg/kg), and midazolam (1.5 mg/kg) or via inhalation of isoflurane and oxygen. Three days later, each BTPD underwent the alternative anesthetic protocol. Echocardiographic data and a blood sample were collected within 5 minutes after initiation and just prior to cessation of each 45-minute-long anesthetic episode.
Time or anesthetic protocol had no significant effect on echocardiographic variables. For either protocol, plasma cTnI concentration did not differ with time. When administered as the first treatment, neither anesthetic protocol significantly affected plasma cTnI concentration. However, with regard to findings for the second treatments, plasma cTnI concentrations in isoflurane-treated BTPDs (n = 4; data for 1 animal were not analyzed because of procedural problems) were higher than values in DKM-treated BTPDs (4), which was suspected to be a carryover effect from prior DKM treatment.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE:
The DKM and isoflurane anesthetic protocols did not have any significant effect on echocardiographic measurements in the BTPDs. Increases in plasma cTnI concentration during the second anesthetic episode were evident when BTPDs underwent the DKM anesthetic protocol as the first of the 2 treatments, suggestive of potential myocardial injury associated with that anesthetic protocol. Clinicians should consider these findings, especially when evaluating BTPDs with known or suspected cardiac disease.
A 6-year-old female black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) was presented with a space-occupying lesion in the left submandibular region. On computed tomography, a low attenuating, poorly circumscribed mass infiltrated the left mandibular bone, with osteolytic change. Microscopically, the lesion was composed of odontogenic epithelium proliferating in nests and embedded in abundant dental papilla-like ectomesenchyme, including dentine and enamel. Multifocal amyloid deposition was observed. Immunohistochemically, the neoplastic epithelial cells were positive for cytokeratin (CK) AE1/AE3, CK14 and p63. Some epithelial cells were positive for amelogenin and some adjacent to the amyloid deposits co-expressed S100. The ectomesenchymal cells expressed vimentin and strong S100 immunoreactivity was observed in odontoblast-like cells. The amyloid was immunolabelled with amelogenin. The tumour was diagnosed as amyloid-producing odontoameloblastoma.
Read more: Odontoama
The Black Death was little short of a bacterial apocalypse. The outbreak of bubonic plague, imported along the Silk Road, is thought to have killed between 25m and 50m people as it rampaged through 14th-century Europe. The disease thence resurfaced sporadically: the Great Plague of London, for example, felled a fifth of city dwellers in the 1660s.
While the plague seems to us a medieval affliction, it has never fully disappeared. On average, about 500 cases are documented globally each year, mostly in Africa, South America and India. The infection is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.
Read More: Plague
Prairie dogs have scored a victory in Fort Collins, or at least their advocates have.
The City Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to a set of changes to the city’s Land Use Code aimed at giving prairie dogs more protection from development than they have enjoyed during the last 20 years.
Read More: Fort Collins
As Larimer County officials work to start construction on the new county building at First Street and Denver Avenue in Loveland, some residents are advocating that the prairie dogs on site be relocated first.
For months, the Larimer County commissioners and the Loveland City Council members have been receiving emails from prairie dog advocates asking that the animals on site be located to another area, rather than poisoned and killed.
While prairie dogs are not considered a protected species, advocates argued that relocation provides many benefits.
Read More: Relocation
The article was sent to us by a prairie dog PAL. It is “We Were Made For These Times” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It is a good read in these troubling times. Kind Words
Passing stronger laws for animals takes ongoing dedication, planning, persistence, and plenty of voices from constituents like YOU! Join us for Animal Protection Lobby Day, and help make humane the new normal in 2017.
Our 2017 legislative priorities include banning traps and poisons on public lands and ending wildlife killing contests. We will continue to be vigilant in fighting against bills that are bad for animals, and supporting other pro-animal legislation.
9:00 AM- Registration & Refreshments (PERA Building)
10:00 AM- Citizen Lobbyist Training (PERA Building, Apodaca Hall)
11:30 AM- Lunch and Breakouts / Letter Writing Campaign (PERA Building)
1:00 PM- Group Photo on steps of PERA Building
1:30 PM- Deliver Letters to Your Legislators (Roundhouse)
2:30 PM- Press Conference / Guest Speakers (Roundhouse / Rotunda)
4:00 PM- Reception at APNM Santa Fe Office, 1111 Paseo de Peralta
Help us cover the cost of lunch for you or a community member. Suggested donation $15.00
Read more at: Lobby Day
Event LocationPERA Building
1120 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501
We will begin our day at the P.E.R.A building, then make our way to the Roundhouse, finishing with a reception at the APV Santa Fe office.
Santa Fe, N.M. – In advance of the 2017 New Mexico legislative session, a coalition of non-profit wildlife advocacy organizations are hosting the United States premiere of a new documentary film to raise awareness, debunk myths and inspire action to end the cruel and senseless slaughter of wildlife in killing contests. By showing the film in several locations across the state, opponents of wildlife killing contests hope to grow active support among New Mexico citizens for impending legislation to end the barbaric death games targeting coyotes.
Read more at: Coyote
Another story of ranchers versus nature. Read more at: Explode!
A group of advocates in Texas is working to protect the prairie dogs in the Lubbock area. Read their updates: Project Prairie Dog
Ranchers have known prairie dogs can reduce rangeland forage by as much as half, but prairie dogs may significantly increase the quality of forage that regrows, according to research by a University of Wyoming master’s degree student.
Read More at: Forage
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
The U.S. National Park Service has been celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016.
Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president, established the National Park Service in 1916 to “protect the wild and wonderful landscapes” in the United States.
But it is an earlier leader who is considered the father of the America’s national parks. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th president, signed the American Antiquities Act. The law permitted him – and future presidents – to take immediate action to protect important cultural or natural resources.
This is an extremely timely article as B. Obama just designated two areas in Utah as parks and there are those in the government that would seek to reverse this decision. In fact some would like to PRIVATIZE our public lands! In the words of Mark Twain: Buy land, they’re not making it anymore. And perhaps he wouldn’t mind if I changed that to PROTECT our lands, they’re not making anymore.
Anyway it is a very nice article with great pictures including, of course, prairie dogs. So check out the article at: PARKS
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
By Vanessa Kahin
Loathed, protested and even poisoned — Clovis’ prairie dogs appear to be dwindling, but it may have more to do with Mother Nature than anything humankind has perpetrated.
Local environmentalist Susan Hubby — who protested the Clovis City Commission’s decision to poison the prairie dogs at Ned Houk Park last year — said that drought may be the reason behind what she perceives to be fewer prairie dogs in the area.
“Many did not make it this season from the drought,” she said, adding that recent rains may help prairie dogs’ plant food source to grow.
Read More: Drought
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
Wild mustangs are an invasive species in the American West. But, then, so are all the humans living here who are not of American Indian descent.
The wild lands in Utah and other Western states where wild horses now roam are fragile and arid — places easily endangered by encroaching, rapidly multiplying horses numbering in the thousands and tens of millions of people who are multiplying even faster and doing more to threaten the land.
Humans have all but obliterated many of the native plant and animal species, including wolves, buffalo, beaver, otters, sage grouse, tortoises, prairie dogs and myriad varieties of plants and even fish.
Running cattle on fragile public land causes more harm than wild horses do, but the humans who have taken over this part of the globe do not want to share scarce feed with animals they cannot work, sell or butcher.
Read More: Public Land
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
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
A new Prairie Dog Management Plan for Devils Tower National Monument is now being put into place after a “Finding of No Significant Impact” report was recently finalized.
The plan will implement an adaptive strategy for the management of the black tailed prairie dog, according to a news release from the Devils Tower staff.
The plan aims to maintain a healthy prairie dog population, protect Monument resources and infrastructure, and ensure human health and safety.
Read more: Devil’s Tower
Should animal cognition be considered by lawmakers for conservation policies? Many scientists believe it should.
The Humane Society Institute for Science & Policy is sponsoring a symposium next week in Washington, D.C., entitled “The Science of Animal Thinking and Emotion: Sentience as a Factor in Policy and Practice.”
Excerpt from the website:
Science is making stunning discoveries about animal cognition, awareness and emotion. How can we leverage this information for positive change in government and industry? This two-day conference brings together thought-leaders in the science and implications of animal sentience, and influential voices in the policy and corporate domains. As the bedrock of ethics, sentience deserves a more prominent place in the legislative and corporate landscape.
Read more at: Cognition
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
Rep. Doc Hastings recently released a report and a set of proposals that would effectively gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA), severely curtailing the act’s ability to protect the nation’s most imperiled species. He calls it ESA “reform,” but the real goal of Rep. Hastings’ proposals is to drastically weaken or eliminate key protections in the ESA, long a goal of corporate special interests and polluters.
Read More: Defenders
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A law that gives Nebraska counties the power to manage black-tailed prairie dog populations was targeted for repeal Tuesday by the state’s longest-serving senator, a staunch animal rights activist.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers presented a repeal measure to a legislative committee, saying he would have fought to block the law had he been in the Legislature when it passed in 2012. Chambers was forced out of the Legislature due to term limits but returned to office last year.
Read more: Nebraska
CARLSBAD — Punxsutawney Phil has become an icon in the eastern half of the United States and has brought fame to the groundhog species with his annual shadow presentation. Traditionally, if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, it means six more weeks of winter weather.
In the west, an organization has attempted to do the same for the prairie dogs but the animal has not been able to gain the same affection in New Mexico.
read more: Prairie Dog Day
(ISNS) — The term “keystone species” was made for prairie dogs. These charismatic critters build vast underground towns across the plains, creating housing for themselves and many other animals. One of the squatters is the Western burrowing owl, a tiny insectivore that makes its home on the outskirts of prairie dog colonies.
New research suggests that the owls don’t just gain a free home from the prairie dogs, but they also eavesdrop on the prairie dogs’ sophisticated alarm calls, which scientists have described as a rudimentary form of grammar. The owls, less than a foot high, sneak tips about lurking predators from their highly vocal housemates, according to a study in next month’s Ethology.
Enjoy the video: Jump Yip
Washington, DC – WildEarth Guardians will challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) refusal to protect the Gunnison’s prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service recently denied the species protection despite a documented 95 percent decline since the early 1900s and numerous ongoing threats.
“Failure to list the Gunnison’s prairie dog is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Act,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The Service is tying itself in knots to avoid listing this keystone species, cherry picking science while ignoring the species’ precipitous decline.”
Read more: WildEarth Guardians
On farms and ranches across America, prairie dogs are target practice.
In the city of Santa Fe, the furry little critters get bubble baths, leftover Big Macs and protection under an ordinance requiring their “humane relocation” if they live on property slated for commercial construction.
Even the city government, which has a statue of its patron saint in front of City Hall making eye contact with a prairie dog, is loath to hurt the burrowing rodents.
If we abandon the old paradigm that we are intrinsically different and superior to all other life forms, it’s possible to look at animals with greater respect and, like Denise Herzing, start working towards decoding their language. — Con Slobodchikoff
Check it out: Slobodchikoff
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
After several months of back and forth between a citizens group and city commissioners, a request to relocate prairie dogs to a county in Texas was tabled indefinitely Thursday by the Clovis City Commission.
Clovis is at it again. Look at this comment:
According to Lansford: “I would like to stop the policy of even considering the relocation of prairie dogs,” he said. “We need to quit the discussion. We need a city policy that basically just says we don’t relocate prairie dogs period.”
Read more at: Lansford
Dec. 4, 2013 — Mating with more than one male increases reproductive success for female prairie dogs, despite an increase in risks. This is according to a new study published in The Journal of Mammalogy by behavioral ecologist John Hoogland, Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory.
Read More at: Mating
Or even more at: Science
I am sending this urgently to you all because this 18th century “solution” does not belong in the 21st century! I am asking EVERYONE who reads this to write to Time and challenge this guy’s assumptions, information, credentials, WHATEVER! I am APPALLED to read such a treatise for killing in this day and age!
You can read the time article at: TIME
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.
As grievances with prairie dogs continue to grow throughout the West and colonies are being demolished, someone needs to be a strong voice for these tiny creatures. The Prairie Dog Coalition is dedicated to the protection of imperiled prairie dogs and restoration of their ecosystems.
A fortunate few have seen prairie dogs as they nibble on grass, run between burrows, touch noses and kiss. And it’s heartbreaking to know one day their presence may be gone. Survival of the prairie dog is critical to the continued existence of the prairie ecosystem–one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.
Nine different wildlife species depend on prairie dog populations and their habitat for their survival. Endangered black-footed ferrets, owls, hawks, foxes and about 200 other species are associated with prairie dogs and their habitat. By planning ahead and working prairie dogs into open space plans, we can help direct their path of migration to the best habitats for them. By setting aside conservation areas for this native, keystone animal we can enjoy the prairie dogs and their associated species in our natural environment.
Prairie dogs now occupy just 2 percent to 8 percent of their historic range, and without serious conservation efforts, they may soon disappear. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to help the prairie dog ecosystem recover so that future generations can enjoy healthy wildlife populations, too.
Training volunteers and professional wildlife biologists on the latest nonlethal techniques to manage prairie dog populations humanely is a good first step to help protect these animals and restore their ecosystems. To ensure the protection of prairie dogs and their ecosystem, we must work together. The Prairie Dog Coalition, managed by The Humane Society of the United States, is working to fulfill this mission by providing information and advocacy training, facilitating communication and planning, and promoting conservation projects.
Ultimately, a conscious concern for these animals is necessary for retaining the beauty and majestic nature that is the prairie dog and the North American grasslands. Help us put an end to their demise and invigorate the prairie ecosystem once again.
Lindsey Sterling-Krank, director of The Prairie Dog Coalition/Boulder
- Two of the five species of prairie dogs are protected under The Endangered Species Act. Black-tailed prairie dogs have been granted a “Warranted but Precluded” Threatened Species listing, which means that biologically they deserve protection but the government does not have the resources required for enforcement at this time.
- Overall, prairie dogs inhabit less than 1% of their former range. New Mexico has the smallest remaining acreage of prairie dogs across their historical range. Best estimates on Gunnison’s populations are that they inhabit about 2% of their former region. This means overall numbers are dangerously low since their range is much smaller than that of the Black-tailed Prairie Dog. A surprisingly large percentage of remaining prairie dog colonies live in urban environments.
- Prairie dogs are known as a “keystone species.” Over 160 vertebrates alone are associated with large prairie dog colonies and over 80 on “urban” colonies. Possibly the world’s most endangered animal, the Black-footed Ferret, cannot live without prairie dogs. Some other federally protected species are nearly as dependent including the Ferruginous Hawk, the Burrowing Owl, the Swift Fox and the Mountain Plover. Biologists have termed them “perhaps the most important mammal on earth.”
Prairie dogs are important to their environment in three ways:
- They are the primary prey on rangelands and their colonies also provide a greater density of other prey species.
- They provide homes or shelters for dozens of species.
- Their positive effect on soil and vegetation conditions.
- Prairie dogs are annual breeders. About half of the females over two years of age will give birth to 3-5 pups in the spring. The overwhelming majority will not live six months.
- Prairie dogs are highly social and possess the most complex language of any animal ever studied. They display different calls for raptors, coyotes, humans and even humans carrying guns. They have numerous other calls totaling over fifty distinct “words.” Kissing, hugging and grooming are regular pastimes. Burrows are much like homes possessing front and back doors, toilets, listening posts, sleeping quarters and storage rooms.
- Poisoning prairie dogs is unacceptable. The primary poison used induces a slow, painful death that may take up to 72 hours. Other residents of their burrows suffer the same fate. Poisoning for population control is counter-productive. A mature colony left alone tends to expand about 2% per year. A poisoned colony expands at the rate of about 70% per year. Left to their own devices, prairie dogs experience their own natural population declines. They never undergo these decreases if we are constantly inducing our own, unnatural removal on their colonies.
- Shooting definitely has a significant impact on prairie dog populations. One heavily shot area was reduced by 10,000 acres in just a couple of years. Shooting promotes disease, discourages other species from hunting or living in the colony, and is not “hunting.”
My goal in writing this article is to help educate people about prairie dogs, and to provide people with objective information backed by valid scientific research. As many of us in New Mexico live among prairie dogs, I feel it is especially critical that people are well educated about these native animals.
What are prairie dogs?
Prairie dogs are large, colonial, ground-nesting squirrels. They live in large communities (colonies) in grassland habitats. They are highly social animals, and have evolved a complex language system. Prairie dogs eat grasses and weeds, and they will clip grasses to enable them to detect predators. They live in family units called coteries that consist of usually one male and several females. Females often remain in the same burrow system during their lifetime and juvenile males leave the burrow during their first year. Prairie dogs usually live for about 5 years in the wild.
What species do we have in New Mexico?
Both black-tailed prairie dogs and Gunnison’s prairie dogs occur within New Mexico.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are the most social of all the prairie dog species, and occur in the Great Plains region. They used to be common in the eastern and southwestern part of New Mexico, but have been eliminated from most of their native habitat within the state.
Gunnison’s prairie dogs occur throughout the four corners region and are found in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Socorro, Gallup, and Grants. Gunnison’s prairie dogs also have declined significantly, and have been petitioned to be listed under the endangered species list.
Prairie dog reproduction
Prairie dogs are not prolific breeders. They only have one litter per year, consisting of about four young, of which only two usually survive.
The ecological role of prairie dogs
Prairie dogs were once among the most numerous and widespread herbivores in North American grasslands. Human activities such as habitat destruction and poisoning efforts have significantly reduced prairie dog populations. Three of the five species are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The most widespread species, the black-tailed prairie dog, now occupies less than 2% of its historical range. Scientists studying prairie dogs have estimated that at least 163 animal species are associated with prairie dog colonies, indicating that the prairie dog is a “keystone” (i.e., critically important) species in these ecosystems. Prairie dogs create ecological disturbances resulting in a diverse landscape that provides a variety of habitats for many plant and animal species, including black-footed ferrets, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, snakes, burrowing owls, and invertebrates. Prairie dogs also affect grassland plant species composition and vegetation structure and enhance soil and plant nutritional quality, which benefits antelope, bison, and cattle.
Prairie dog eradication has caused significant biological degradation and decline in biological diversity on grasslands in North America. Research has found that prairie dogs inhibit woody plants from invading grasslands, and has indicated that the elimination of these rodents has played a significant role in desertification of grasslands. In addition, removal of prairie dogs causes secondary extinctions of other species, altering the entire food web associated with prairie dogs. For example, the black-footed ferret, burrowing owl, mountain plover, and ferruginous hawk are among the most endangered prairie dog-dependent species. Despite their importance, people often want to exterminate prairie dogs because of misconceptions about proliferation, children being bitten, destruction of landscaped areas, plague, competition for forage with livestock, and animals breaking their legs in the burrows.
Are they dangerous to humans?
Prairie dogs are not a threat to children. They are timid animals, and when approached by humans, prairie dogs quickly scurry into the safety of their burrows. People should never hand feed prairie dogs or try to grab them. Hand feeding may cause the animals to be accustomed to humans, and result in bites when humans get too close.
Prairie dogs and hantavirus
Prairie dogs are not known to contract or transmit hantaviruses. Worldwide, hantaviruses are associated with deer mice and other rodents in the family Muridae, which are distant relatives of prairie dogs (Squirrels, in the family Sciuridae).
Prairie dogs and plague
Prairie dogs do not carry plague. Plague is a non-native disease, introduced to North America from Europe by humans. Prairie dogs have not evolved immunity to plague, and therefore, it kills 99% of the individuals in an infected colony. Plague has been a major contributor to causing the decline in prairie dog populations.
Fleas carry the plague. These fleas can be found on many wild animals, and are not limited to prairie dogs. Killing prairie dogs just causes fleas to search for another host, and is not recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as an effective method of plague control. The key to preventing plague is to control fleas, not prairie dogs. Avoiding contact with dead wild animals and dusting pets and rodent burrows with flea powder can successfully prevent plague. Plague is also easily overcome with antibiotics when detected early, so people should educate themselves about the symptoms of plague. A colony of active prairie dogs is indicative of healthy, plague-free prairie dogs, and should not cause concern.
What if they are damaging the landscape in your yard?
If prairie dogs are causing damage to landscaped areas, you can use visual barriers such as vegetation or low walls and additional below ground barriers to contain the animals. Prairie dogs are highly discouraged by tall vegetation, so plant native shrubs and do not mow native grasses. Xeriscaping the area will also help discourage prairie dogs, and conserve water.
How to get rid of prairie dogs
Rat poison should not be used to kill prairie dogs because it causes secondary poisoning of dogs, cats, and other animals, and is dangerous to children. The only legal method for killing prairie dogs involves the use of poisonous gas by licensed professionals (in most states), which is costly. The poisonous gases used are inhumane, causing slow and painful deaths, and can take up to 72 hours to induce death in an animal. During which time the animals suffer from burning of the mucus membranes to paralysis.
The best recommendation is to learn to live with these native animals, and, if for some reason, prairie dogs must be removed, you can contact professional relocators in the state that can be referred by People for Native Ecosystems (PNE) (505) 982-0496 or the City of Santa Fe Permit Development and Review (505) 955-6480. Prairie Dog Pals of Albuquerque also conducts some relocations, though mostly on public lands.
Shooting prairie dogs
Shooting is often used as a means of reducing the size of a prairie dog colony. Varmint hunters gather together in many states where prairie dogs occur to shoot them. They do not eat the prairie dogs; rather, they shoot them with rifles for target practice fun. In our national grasslands, bullet shells and literally exploded prairie dogs can be found littering the colonies. It is important to keep in mind that that these are highly social animals that are greatly affected by the shooting of their family members. Prairie dogs have become threatened species and are not prolific breeders, so sport shooting should be banned.
Do prairie dogs compete with cattle for forage?
Recent research has found that prairie dogs compete little for forage with cattle (~5%). In fact, by clipping grasses, prairie dogs eliminate old plant tissue and stimulate new plant growth. New plant growth contains more protein, so the nutritional quality of the vegetation on prairie dog colonies is greater than off colonies, despite the lower quantity of vegetation. Cattle have been found to gain similar to more weight when foraging on prairie dog colonies than off. Keep in mind that prairie dogs and bison have coexisted for millions of years, and bison and other ungulates consistently prefer to graze on prairie dog colonies.
What about falling into prairie dog holes?
The myth that cattle fall into prairie dog holes apparently began in the late 1800’s. During this time, cattle were over-stocked on rangeland here in the Southwest. Cattle were overgrazing the lands, and combined with a 25 year drought period at the end of the century, many of the grasslands became desertified. There was little forage for cattle to eat and many became sick and lethargic, causing some of the cattle to apparently fall into the burrows. A healthy cow slowly grazes with its head down and does not fall into burrows. Remember, bison evolved along with prairie dogs.
Some people like to ride their horses in the mountains but feel they can’t because prairie dog burrows are present. My advice is not to run your horse on a prairie dog colony, and find an alternative place to ride. These animals no longer occur in large colonies due to their population declines, and therefore, it should not be difficult to find an alternative place to ride. If we live in the mountains or are recreationally enjoying them it is important to remember that wildlife are present in these areas and we need to learn how to live with them, not eliminate them because they are in our way.
Prairie dogs as pets
Prairie dogs express social behavior that humans can relate to, but they do not make good pets. Because they are highly social animals, they should never be kept in isolation. Prairie dogs require considerable attention, and also are highly active with lots of energy and desire to chew and dig. They often will chew furniture when let out of their cage and will dig at rugs, tearing them up. In addition, prairie dogs have a breeding season each year, during which their hormones change and they can become aggressive. During this time even friendly prairie dogs can bite. Moreover, most prairie dogs sold as pets are taken directly from the wild. They have not been bred in captivity for generations, unlike most animals that we have for pets. Keep in mind that dogs have been domesticated for 10,000 years. Because prairie dogs have not been domesticated, they exhibit wild tendencies and may not always be friendly to the people they live with.
Wild prairie dogs sold for pets are often collected from areas where landowners want to reduce or eliminate the prairie dog population on their land. These prairie dogs have been acquired through unregulated harvest to provide profit for the pet trade. Some of the methods used to obtain prairie dogs for pets, such as removing prairie dogs with a “sucker truck,” a truck with a vacuum hose, are inhumane. The pet trade contributes to the decline of the species. If prairie dogs must be removed or controlled in an area, the animals should be humanely relocated to appropriate areas where their populations are desired.
Current efforts to protect prairie dogs within the state
Currently there are no efforts established to protect the Gunnison’s prairie dogs. However, both the city of Albuquerque and of Santa Fe do not allow the poisoning of this species within the city limits. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has determined that black-tailed prairie dogs have declined significantly throughout their range and that their status as a threatened species is “warranted but precluded.” Meaning that there are significant threats affecting the long-term viability of the black-tailed prairie dog, but there are insufficient resources to protect this species. The limited funds available to the USFWS for threatened and endangered species is currently being used for species that are of greater concern.
Game and fish departments from most states in which prairie dogs occur have established black-tailed prairie dog working groups. These working groups are designed to develop a management plan to reduce the decline of prairie dogs so that listing will not be necessary.
Why are they endangered? I see so many of them!
Often people think that because they see “lots” of prairie dogs that they couldn’t be declining. Keep in mind that they once occurred in huge numbers (~5 billion) throughout most of the grasslands in the central United States. They have declined greatly relative to their former abundance. There are many large threats affecting their populations: continued poisoning and shooting, habitat loss through development and desertification, and plague. In addition, many animal species that are dependent on the prairie dog require large colonies in order to support them. Most of the prairie dog colonies have become fragmented and isolated from one another, which lowers the long-term viability of maintaining the population and the other species dependent on them. The plight of the prairie dog is analogous to the passenger pigeon, once one of the most abundant and common species that has now become extinct due to human persecution.
How you can help
People are greatly needed to help in education, legislation, and relocation efforts. Contact a local wildlife organization such as Prairie Dog Pals or People for Native Ecosystems (contact info above) if you have an interest in helping the prairie dogs. You can also find more information about prairie dogs on the web at http://www.prairiedogs.org and http://www.gprc.org .
Ana D. Davidson, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
The University of New Mexico
In a recent article on prairie dogs, it is mentioned that their main purpose in the world is to feed other plains animals, provide homes for owls and plague the herds, fields and wallets of ranchers and farmers. While all of these functions are legitimate, it did not mention the main importance of prairie dogs.
Prairie dogs dig their burrows, sometimes 50 holes an acre, all across the plains. These burrows go down several feet, letting rain water flow directly to roots of the grass. It also allows water to replenish the water table and underground aquifers. Now that water levels are dropping and Western cities are growing nervous, prairie dogs will need to have large numbers to balance human water use by replenishing our ground water systems and underground aquifers.