Date of this Version
The Prairie Naturalist 40(1/2): March/June 2008, pp 37-42
The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) remains a critical element of the prairie ecosystem even though its numbers and occupied range have declined dramatically since the arrival of Europeans in North America (Antol in et al. 2002). Prairie dog colonies are used by many species of wildlife and help maintain high levels of biodiversity (Kotliar et al. 1999). In the urban-suburban setting, the occurrence of prairie dog colonies also provides opportunities for wildlife viewing and environmental education. Unfortunately, prairie dogs also can come into conflict with humans, especially in the urban-suburban setting, where they cause vegetation and property damage, and pose a health threat attributable to periodic plague (Yersinia pestis) outbreaks (Witmer et al. 2003). Efforts to reduce conflicts can involve colony relocation or management so that the prairie dog population and occupied area does not increase (e.g., lethal or non-lethal removal, construction of physical barriers around the colony; Witmer et al. 2003). frtificial perches, placed at prairie dog colonies, can attract raptors, while providing for public viewing of raptors. The artificial perches, if strategically placed, also might increase predation on prairie dogs, slowing the increase in the size of the colony (Witmer et al. 2003). This approach has been used in other settings in an attempt to reduce rodent populations or damage, but most researchers reported little success in rodent control (e.g., Howard et al. 1985, Askham 1990, Moore and Van Vuren 1998, Wolff et al. 1999). A few researchers, however, reported that increased use of artificial perches might help reduce rodent numbers and damage (e.g., Kay et al. 1994, Mulner 2000, Hafidzi and Mohd 2003). In our region, this management practice might be especially effective given the paucity of trees (i.e., natural perches) in the shortgrass prairie outside riparian systems (Weaver et al. 1996). The objective of this study was to document the use of artificial perches by raptors and the food habits of these raptors within the city limits of Fort Collins, Colorado.