US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Wildlife Society Bulletin 2002, 30(2):405-411.


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) warrants listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Central to any conservation planning for the black-tailed prairie dog is an appropriate detection and monitoring technique. Because coarse-resolution satellite imagery is not adequate to detect black-tailed prairie dog colonies, we examined the usefulness of recently available high-resolution (1-m) satellite imagery. In 6 purchased scenes of national grasslands, we were easily able to visually detect small and large colonies without using image-processing algorithms. The Ikonos (Space Imaging™) satellite imagery was as adequate as large-scale aerial photography to delineate colonies. Based on the high quality of imagery, we discuss a possible monitoring program for black- tailed prairie dog colonies throughout the Great Plains, using the species' distribution in North Dakota as an example. Monitoring plots could be established and imagery acquired periodically to track the expansion and contraction of colonies.