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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Animal Use of Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Burrows: Preliminary Findings

  • Author(s): Witmer, Gary W.
  • Pipas, Michael
  • Linder, Timothy
  • et al.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are considered an important “keystone” species of the prairies, on one hand, and a nuisance rodent causing considerable damage on the other. To effectively manage prairie dog colonies, a better understanding is needed of the effects of management practices on prairie dogs, their burrow systems, and other species that may use those burrow systems. For example, when fumigants are used to control prairie dog populations, to what extent may other species be affected? We used a burrow-probe camera system to observe animal use of 777 burrow openings. These included colonies both in urban/suburban and natural prairie settings as well as active versus inactive colonies. Burrows were usually probed to a depth of about 2 m, requiring only a few minutes each. Relatively few animals were seen and most were invertebrates. More animals were observed in urban/suburban burrow systems versus prairie burrow systems. Somewhat more animals were observed in active versus abandoned burrow systems. The vertebrates observed were prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, snakes, a mouse, and a salamander. The implications and possible short-comings of this study are discussed.

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