U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Witmer, G.W. 2019. Reducing prairie dog populations and damage by castration of dominant males. Proceedings of the Wildlife Damage Management Conference 18:28-31.


Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) occur widely across the prairie states of North America. They compete with livestock for forage, transmit plague, and damage lawns, landscaping, and property. Interest in non-lethal methods, such as immunocontraception, is growing; however, reductions in the population due to contraception may be offset by increases in survival because adults and yearlings are not subject to the energetic demands of reproduction, and lower densities may increase the amount of resources available to growing offspring. Surgical sterilization provides a means for modeling these effects. Thus, we castrated males prior to the 1998 breeding season to simulate the potential effects of some contraceptives on body mass and survival. During the summer following treatment, the proportion of male and female adults/yearlings and juveniles captured did not differ between treatment and control coteries; however, the proportion of adults and yearlings captured decreased with later trapping periods. Hence we cannot recommend castration of dominant males to reduce colony expansion and damage by prairie dogs. Other methods of fertility control (GonaCon and diazacon) have shown more promise in prairie dogs.