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


Date of this Version

January 2003


Transactions of the 68th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference.


Among the many human-wildlife conflicts that occur across North America, some of the most contentious occur at the interface of urban and suburban lands and adjoining rural landscapes. Along the Colorado Front Range, one of the more difficult situations faced by local governments and municipalities involves black-tailed prairie dog colonies. These colonies are relicts of the expansive colonies that once occurred across much of the prairies of North America. Although these colonies are relatively small and, usually, highly fragmented, they represent an important link to our natural history, provide a valuable wildlife-viewing experience and allow the promotion of public education about intact prairie ecosystems and their components. Some of the colonies, especially if eventually linked to other nearby ones, may help to prevent the federal listing of the black-tailed prairie dog as a threatened species and may play in a role in the recovery of the black-footed ferret, perhaps the most endangered mammal in North America. Additionally, many of the urban-suburban colonies are being used by many of the wildlife species associated with prairie dog colonies. Most of these colonies are continuously under the threat of development or other disruptive human activities. On the other hand, as the colonies expand, there are conflicts with adjoining landowners who suffer damage to vegetation, damage to property by burrowing and gnawing, and the potential threat of plague exposure during outbreaks.