White-tailed prairie dog
Vermin, scum, disease-ridden fleabags. Those are some of the nicer terms used to describe prairie dogs.
Even though they can be seen all over town, populations of Gunnison prairie dogs and white-tailed prairie dogs are declining.
The two species are the subject of an ongoing Colorado Division of Wildlife project to develop a conservation plan.
The population declines are attributed to a number of factors, most prominently plague, change in habitat conditions, campaigns to get rid of prairie dogs, urban encroachment, and recreational shooting.
Because of these factors, the state is working to formulate a conservation plan to prevent the need to list either species under the Endangered Species Act.
All five issues are being discussed through public meetings and comments. Recreational shooting is the issue that most hunters will look at. Possible changes include changing regulations, limiting take and closures. That means no more year-round prairie dog shooting.
The DOW is hosting a workshop Thursday at Western State College focused on a plan for Gunnison’s prairie dogs.
“This workshop is not a forum at which people will simply give their opinions about prairie dogs,” said senior wildlife conservation biologist Gary Skiba in a DOW press release. “The workshop is designed to develop specific plans for the Gunnison area. By working with local stakeholders we can identify conservation solutions unique to each area and develop on-the-ground management and action plans.”
Another meeting is scheduled for June 10 at Craig and others will be held across western Colorado in the next six months.
A third species of prairie dog is found in Colorado. The black-tailed prairie dog was listed as a candidate under the ESA in 1999 and was removed in 2004.
Photo courtesy of Colorado Division of Wildlife.
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