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Species Assessment For White-Tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys Leucurus) In Wyoming

Publication Information

Author(s):
Douglas A Keinath
Publication Date: 2004-12
Tags: BLM, WLCI Agency Report, WLCI

 

White tailed prairie dog range presently occurs 4 western states; Wyoming (71%), Colorado 
(16%), Utah (12%) and Montana (1%). This species is typically found in shrub-steppe and 
grassland environments in cool intermountain basins. White tails are one of five species of 
Cynomys, they have many characteristics that make them unique. Historically, white tails have 
been much maligned by white settlers in the west. Aggressive, government sponsored poisoning 
campaigns coupled with unregulated shooting and, most recently, the introduction of an exotic 
disesase (Plague, Yersinia pestis) have worked in unison to reduce population sizes from what 
they once presumably were. Currently, white-tailed prairie dogs still occur across most of their 
historic range, but in smaller, isolated patches and at much-reduced abundance.  Combined with 
this restriction in distribution, they are experiencing numerous external threats to their persistence, 
disease, habitat alteration, and direct killing for sport and pest control being of most immediate 
importance. 
Existing regulatory mechanisms at both the federal and state levels are inadequate to protect 
the white-tailed prairie dog.  It is incumbent on the BLM to act on this animal's behalf using 
existing sensitive species policies within the Bureau.  Minimally necessary conservation elements 
include: 1. reducing conversion of land to uses not compatible with local persistence of prairie 
dogs and minimizing impacts of semi-compatible uses (e.g., resource extraction and livestock 
grazing), 2. investigating the spread of disease among prairie dogs and minimizing its impacts on 
prairie dog complexes, 3. controlling recreational shooting and pest control efforts aimed at killing 
prairie dogs, and 4. monitoring populations using a thorough and consistent methodology across 
white-tailed range.  

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