Prairie dogs populations growing in TBNG
Casper – “Prairie dogs are a pest, but they are designated as a wildlife species in Wyoming,” said U.S. Forest Service Deputy District Ranger Misty Hays at the 68th Annual Wyoming Weed and Pest Council Fall Conference and Business Meeting on Nov. 6-8. “For management on federal lands, it puts us in the odd place that we have to prevent encroachments, but we also have the need to management from the habitat they provide for other management species.”
Currently, in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands, Hays showed data indicated that management objectives had been reached in some locations, but there were other categories that are below objective numbers.
“We had plague events in 2001 and 2002, and another heavy plague in 2006 and 2007,” she explained. “We have grown to a point where we have roughly 16,000 acres of prairie dogs on the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.”
“Of course, as we see growth, we see the potential for conflict,” Hays added. “We have implemented several management activities since 2009, when we began actively implementing the current management strategy.”
Prescribed burning, mowing, translocation, temporary fencing, permanent vegetative buffers and use of rodenticide have all been utilized for management, with translocation and rodenticide as the primary tools.
“The intent of translocation is really two-fold,” Hays noted. “It is to provide for conservation of prairie dogs and associated species and to address private landowner concerns and unwanted encroachment.”
In 2010, Hays noted that they moved 550 prairie dogs, and in 2011, 349 animals were moved from three sites. No translocations were done in 2012.
The other primary tool, use of rodenticide, is used to deal with encroachment and human health and safety issues.
Currently, zinc phosphide is utilized as the primary rodenticide on federal lands. While Rozol was approved for use in the state of Wyoming, use is not allowed on federal lands, clarified Hays, who also added the zinc phosphide is effective.
“In 2010, the 100 acres we poisoned coincides with the same areas that we did translocation from in 2010 and 2011,” Hays said “The acres we translocated from are the same areas we poisoned from. We see these two tools working together.”
Because translocation is not 100 percent effective and neither is rodenticide, Hays mentioned that the two together results in very effective removal of animals.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.