Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for

 

Title

Prairie Dogs

Date of this Version

July 1994

Abstract

Prairie dogs are stocky burrowing rodents that live in colonies called “towns.” French explorers called them “little dogs” because of the barking noise they make. Their legs are short and muscular, adapted for digging. The tail and other extremities are short. Their hair is rather coarse with little underfur, and is sandy brown to cinnamon in color with grizzled black and buff-colored tips. The belly is light cream to white. Five species of prairie dogs are found in North America: the black-tailed (Cynomys ludovicianus), Mexican (C. mexicanus), white-tailed (C. leucurus), Gunnison’s (C. gunnisoni), and Utah prairie dog (C. parvidens). The most abundant and widely distributed of these is the black-tailed prairie dog, which is named for its black-tipped tail. Adult black-tailed prairie dogs weigh 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.4 kg) and are 14 to 17 inches (36 to 43 cm) long. The Mexican prairie dog also has a black-tipped tail, but is smaller than its northern relative. White-tailed, Gunnison’s, and Utah prairie dogs all have white-tipped tails. White-tailed prairie dogs are usually smaller than blacktailed prairie dogs, weighing between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pounds (0.7 to 1.1 kg). The Gunnison’s prairie dog is the smallest of the five species. Exclusion: Wire mesh fences can be installed but they are usually not practical or cost-effective. Visual barriers of suspended burlap, windrowed pine trees, or snow fence may be effective. Cultural Methods: Modify grazing practices on mixed and mid-grass rangelands to exclude or inhibit prairie dogs. Cultivate, irrigate, and establish tall crops to discourage prairie dog use. Frightening: No methods are effective. Repellents: None are registered. Toxicants: Zinc phosphide. Fumigants: Aluminum phosphide. Gas cartridges. Trapping: Box traps. Snares. Conibear® No. 110 (body-gripping) traps or equivalent. Shooting: Shooting with .22 rimfire or larger rifles. Other Methods: Several home remedies have been used but most are unsafe and are not cost-effective.