3/21/2006

Prairie Dog Sightings

April and May are the months to start seeing young prairie dogs at burrows in Front Range open spaces. The black-tailed prairie dog is the most common. Although they are called prairie dogs, or sometimes "sod poodles" and "range rodents", they are members of the squirrel family. Young are called "kits" and a family group is a coterie. They live in highly social communities called "towns" with as few as 10 or as many as several hundred individuals. Communication is by a variety of calls or "alarms" to alert the community of danger.

Wildlife experts have found they are an intregal part of the prairie ecosystem and a "keystone species". Their burrows serve as homes for burrowing owls, rabbits, rattlesnakes, and others. They are a major food source for predators such as hawks, eagles, coyotes, black-footed ferrets, etc. Managing them has been an issue since 1915, and earlier. Relocation, especially in urban and suburban areas, is a more recent issue and has several requirements.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are known for creating elaborate underground towns. Using their head and shoulders, they displace roughly 480 pounds of dirt when they form a colony.

CoSPL Selected Resources:
Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Study of Eastern Colorado, Colorado Division of Wildlife,2000, (NR1.2/B56/2000) also online
Conservation Plan for Grassland Species in Colorado, Colorado Division of Wildlife, 2003,(NR6/115.2/G77/2003/2) also online
The Prairie Dog Situation in Colorado, W. L. Burnett, Office of State Entomologist, 1915 (UCSU20/2.4/17)
Managing Prairie Dogs, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, 2001, (UCSU20/6.22/6.506)

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