icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

iWild: For more see iWild.org

Rodent Week: Gunnison's Prairie Dog

It Ought to be Prairie Dog Day! Rodent Week continues on iWild, moving the spotlight to the Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, one of five species of prairie dog in North America that is edging ever-closer to extinction. Like the Passenger Pigeon, prairie dogs once numbered in the millions across the U.S. Now, due to poisoning programs, widespread extirpation across much of their range, uncontrolled hunting, and plague, the Gunnison’s is limited to small pockets. The Bush Administration refused to consider listing this or any other prairie dog species on the Endangered Species List, and President Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, a fifth-generation Colorado rancher, has expressed his disdain for listing in the past. The prairie dog is considered a “keystone” species by conservation biologists: It plays an important role in arid grassland ecosystems by constructing elaborate tunnels underground that funnel water to the water table. Its burrows and tunnels create a home for many other species, including burrowing owls, snakes, and other rodents; its digging aerates the soil and some ungulate species have been shown to graze preferentially around prairie dog holes, attracted to the mix of native grass species growing there. While the IUCN Red List identifies only the Mexican species of prairie dog as endangered, that may change: Many environmental groups in the U.S. are pressing for several species to be protected under the ESA, particularly the Gunnison’s and the Utah, or white-tailed prairie dog. For more information, see WildEarth Guardians’ third annual Report from the Burrow, which gives most of the states in the west a failing grade, or a “D” in prairie dog management. The Guardians are also lobbying to declare February 2nd Prairie Dog Day in the West, something which iWild warmly recommends.
Be the first to comment