Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

October 1981


After almost 70 years of decline, prairie dog numbers are increasing in many western states. As populations expand, it becomes increasingly important to clarify the degree of competition between prairie dogs and livestock. A review of studies on prairie dog food habits shows variable results. Prairie dogs frequently eat the same plant species as cattle and their activities may cause a decrease in grasses normally considered good livestock forage and an increase in forb cover. However, in some instances, prairie dogs may be beneficial to rangeland; plant species diversity and protein content of forage are often greater on prairie dog colonies than off. It is important to assess each area of prairie dog-cattle interaction separately because prairie dog diet (and competition with cattle) can be extremely variable among geographical areas, colonies, and even animals within colonies.