US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published by U.S. Geological Survey Midcontinent Ecological Science Center.


What do citizens know about black-tailed prairie dogs, and where do they get their information? When management decisions need to be made regarding an animal such as the black-tailed prairie dog, an understanding of the species and its relationship to humans is necessary. This includes knowing the biology of the animal, where it lives, and how it interacts with other animals. But it is equally important for those making decisions about the species to understand citizens’ knowledge and perceptions so managers can effectively communicate with the public and help the public participate in planning and decision making activities. Unfortunately, what is known about public knowledge, perception, and preferences concerning prairie dog management is limited to data from only a few areas. This study attempts to answer the question: What do people in the short-grass prairie region of the United States know and think about black-tailed prairie dogs?
In the summer of 2000, we sent a survey by mail to citizens of rural, urban, and suburban counties in the short-grass prairie region of the United States. This area includes all or part of 11 states: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming (see Figure 1, p. 4). A total of 1933 citizens completed the survey for a 56% response rate (Table 1). This report provides a summary of the answers for all the questions in the survey. (Extra copies of this report can be downloaded from our website:
The results show that although people do not believe prairie dogs are a big environmental issue, they favor a balanced approach when dealing with such problems. When asked about their views on environmental policy, respondents reported being more conservative than liberal: 40% reported slightly conservative or conservative environmental views, 24% reported moderate environmental views, and 19% reported slightly liberal or liberal environmental views. Ninteen percent (19%) said they did not know or had not thought about their environmental values. When asked how important black-tailed prairie dogs are compared to other environmental problems, 69% said they are less important than other issues or not an issue at all. Thirty one percent (31%) said prairie dogs are about the same or more important than other issues.
However, when given options for preserving or developing prairie dog habitat and natural resources in general, respondents thought that a balance was best (38% thought "Protection of the environment and the growth of the economy should be given equal consideration in deciding what to do with natural resources"). Thirty three percent (33%) of respondents thought "Protection of the environment should be the most important, but not the only, consideration in deciding what to do with natural resources," and 18% thought "Growth of the economy should be the most important, but not the only, consideration in deciding what to do with natural resources." According to respondents, the most important issues concerning black-tailed prairie dog management are disease prevention (42%), ranch and farm practices (25%), and habitat protection (11%).