CPW completes survey of black-tailed prairie dog

DENVER – Along with other western states in cooperation with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has conducted an east slope survey of black-tailed prairie dogs.

Images collected on airplane flights in the summer of 2020 were used to map occupied habitat throughout eastern Colorado and the findings are proving positive for these prairie dwellers.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are an important conservation species throughout their range, providing vital habitat features and prey base for many other species.

CPW began monitoring black-tailed prairie dogs in 2002, with subsequent work in 2006-2007, 2016, and now 2020.

The current goal of CPW’s monitoring program is to determine the number of acres the species inhabits.

This most recent survey found that black-tailed prairie dogs occupy about 500,375 acres in Colorado on the eastern plains. Active occupied acreage zones for black-tailed prairie dogs are defined in the Conservation Plan for Grassland Species as:

Abundant: More than 450,000 acres of prairie dogs
Secure: 350-450,000 acres of prairie dogs
Vulnerable: 250-350,000 acres of prairie dogs
At Risk: 150-250,000 acres of prairie dogs
Danger: Less than 150,000 acres of prairie dogs

Survey results can be found on CPW’s website.

“Thanks in large part to rural ranchers and farmers, prairie dog populations appear to be healthy throughout eastern Colorado,” said Tina Jackson, species conservation coordinator. Prairie dog populations are categorized as “abundant” in Colorado based on the information collected.

CPW managers have other good news for prairie dogs, as the agency continues to provide research and development into cost effective management uses for an oral vaccine against plague for black-tailed prairie dogs in order to support black-footed ferret recovery at select locations in Colorado.

In fact, black-tailed prairie dog numbers are abundant enough that 500 black-footed ferrets have been released at seven different sites in Colorado in Adams, Baca, Larimer, Pueblo and Prowers counties since 2013.