DENVER — Along with other western states in cooperation with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Colorado Parks & Wildlife has conducted an east slope survey of black-tailed prairie dogs. Images collected on airplane flights in the summer of 2015 were used to map occupied habitat throughout eastern Colorado and the findings are proving positive for these prairie dwellers.
“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 numbers are categorized as “abundant” in Colorado based on the information collected.
This most recent survey found that black-tailed prairie dogs occupy about 500,000 acres 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 at: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/SOC-Black-tailedPrairieDog.aspx
“This is a testament to the contributions that rural landowners in eastern Colorado make to wildlife conservation”, said Ken Morgan, private lands program manager. “No one wants to see black-tailed prairie dogs listed as threatened or endangered, and it is the stewardship of the land by ranchers and farmers that we can point to as a critical component in voluntarily managing prairie dogs.”
Colorado Parks & Wildlife 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 300 black-footed ferrets have been released at six different sites in Colorado in Adams, Baca, Larimer, Pueblo and Prowers counties since 2013.
Finally, a shooting closure on public lands during the spring when dependent young are present was implemented in 2007, bringing Colorado in-line with other western states.
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.