06-01-17 USFWS Seeks Public Comment on Expanded Use of Plague Vaccine to Protect Prairie Dogs, in Support of Black-footed Ferret Recovery Efforts

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Expanded Use of Plague Vaccine to Protect Prairie Dogs, in Support of Black-footed Ferret Recovery Efforts

DENVER – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans today to expand the use of an oral vaccine against plague for prairie dogs on the Charles M. Russell and UL Bend National Wildlife Refuges in Montana. The new plan would allow for vaccine distribution on wilderness areas within the refuges, and on nearby private lands when requested by cooperating landowners. The Service has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) for this action and is seeking public comment on the proposal.

Prairie dogs are highly susceptible to sylvatic plague, which can kill virtually all the prairie dogs on entire colonies of the ground-dwelling animals.  Endangered black-footed ferrets rely almost exclusively on prairie dogs as a source of food and shelter, so efforts to maintain and grow prairie dog colonies by inoculating them with this oral sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) would benefit ferret populations, as well as a host of other prairie species.

After several years of experimental research, the Service announced its plans to begin administering SPV at the two Montana national wildlife refuges in April, 2016. Proposed and designated wilderness areas on the refuges were not included in that plan. Some prairie dog colonies occur contiguously on both wilderness and non-wilderness lands of the two refuges in question. Since it is desirable to vaccinate as many prairie dogs as possible across a colony, the Service has completed this EA to extend the areas where SPV can be applied.

Today’s announcement opens a 30 day comment period for the EA, which ends on July 1, 2017. Copies of the EA are available on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge website at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/charles_m_russell/ or by contacting the refuge at (406) 538-8706.

Comments may be emailed to: randy_matchett@fws.gov or sent by mail to: Attn: Randy Matchett, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 333 Airport Road, Lewistown, Montana 59457.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/.

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