- PRAIRIE DOG BIOLOGY
- PRAIRIE DOG DENS
- PRAIRIE DOG TOWNS
- PRAIRIE DOG NATURAL PREDATORS
- PRAIRIE DOG PROBLEMS
- PRAIRIE DOG DISEASE
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL REPELLENT
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LIQUID REPELLENT
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LIVE TRAPS
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LEGHOLD TRAPS
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL SNARES
- PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL KILL TRAPS
Prairie dogs are small animals which inhabit the flat lands of central and western North America. There are several species on the continent; the most popular being the black-tailed and the white-tailed. The other species in the same region include the Gunnisons and the threatened species, the Utah and the Mexican. These animals live in colonies generally known as “towns” and these towns can extend for several thousand miles! Needless to say, populations can and do reach numbers which put a strain on local vegetation. Because of this and other problems associated with large populations of prairie dogs, one must be careful when they start to colonize on your property. It is suggested that you keep their numbers in check otherwise you can quickly be confronted with a population that becomes quite large.
PRAIRIE DOG BIOLOGY
Prairie dogs are small animals, generally around 1-2 lbs, which have short strong legs designed for digging. Black tailed dogs can grow up over 4 lbs but are generally in the 2-3 lb size. White tailed dogs can grow almost as large but are most commonly around 1-3 lbs. Prairie dogs will create towns which can cover thousands of miles and include several million animals.
Large colonies like these are not common anymore due to the use of toxicants which were introduced in the mid 1900′s. During those times the programs implemented had a dramatic impact. As much as 98% of the population in treated areas were killed off and in some areas none were left. As concerns rose about the impact complete elimination might have, restrictions were put in place. The Mexican and the Utah species were then labeled as a threatened species. This labeling protected them from being hunted, shot, trapped and poisoned.
Natural predators like badgers, weasels and black footed ferrets were forced to find other food supplies; most adopted well but others like the ferrets had a hard time adjusting. Black footed ferrets soon became endangered as well due to lack of food. However, all species began a strong comeback in the 70′s which has continued through the millineum. At this time prairie dogs are ever increasing and with this population increase they are coming in conflict with man more and more.
PRAIRIE DOG DENS
Prairie dogs prefer open land with low vegetation. This allows them to survive predatory feeding. They will avoid tall grass and woodlands preferring low grasslands with little water. Prairie dogs will eat a lot during any one day. Most will consume their body weight in grass. They will also eat seeds, many species of grass, flowers, roots and insects.
PRAIRIE DOG TOWNS
Prairie dogs live in towns which are broken down into coteries. A coterie usually has a male, several females and their offspring. Their towns will have 30-50 borrow entrances which usually have mounds that are on average 2 feet tall by 10 feet wide. These mounds serve as a lookout station and help to keep water out of their burrows during floods.
Prairie dogs are most active during the day. During summer they will feed in the morning and afternoon, leaving the surface during the hottest time to seek the cool of their dens. Though some hibernate during the winter, most are active year round and will surface even when snow has accumulated.
Most prairie dogs will live 5-8 years on average. They are able to reproduce in their second year. Most litters will arrive as early as January but generally in February and March. Litters will have 4-8 pups which will emerge from their dens in early summer usually 3-4 months after they are born.
PRAIRIE DOG NATURAL PREDATORS
Prairie dogs, like gophers, attract many predatory animals. This list includes badgers, weasels, ferrets, coyotes, bobcats, hawks and fox. Snakes like young dogs as well. Vacant burrows will attract a host of animals all looking for a good place to live. Rabbits, rodents, reptiles, insects and several species of birds all like to be around prairie dog towns.
PRAIRIE DOG PROBLEMS
Prairie dogs become a problem when their populations and towns get large. Their continual feeding will deplete local vegetation much needed by livestock and other plains feeding animals. As prairie dogs clear local food they will spread to new areas settling where food is readily available. This has long been one of the main problems associated with prairie dog activity; ranchers and farmers have a long history of combating the prairie dog over land use. Prairie dog burrows lend to rapid soil erosion as well. When coupled with big reductions in vegetation the landscape can rapidly change once they start living in any one area. Furthermore, burrows present a danger to livestock. Their holes can readily trip and injure unsuspecting animals or damage farm equipment.
PRAIRIE DOG DISEASE
Prairie dogs have been found to carry many types of bacteria including plague. This alone is reason to keep their numbers minimized around people. Furthermore, abandoned burrows become homes to rattlesnakes and many poisonous insects – including black widow spiders – which only increases the likelihood of injury around mounds and burrows. It is advised that any activity around your home be addressed as soon as possible. Don’t let them multiply or get established close to where you intend on farming or using any land for recreation. This tends to happen since prairie dogs are perceived as cute and harmless. Don’t let their looks deceive you; two or three will quickly become 10 and 20. Soon your turf will be destroyed and erosion will begin to take its toll. In the end you will have to remove the prairie dogs in order to stop the destruction and since it is so much easier to deal with the first few don’t wait. If you have children in the area you really must act sooner than later since they are more susceptible to disease and insect bites than adults.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL REPELLENT
Once you have some activity which needs to be addressed, you have several control options which can be employed. The level of control will depend a lot on the level of activity. If you have some mounds and burrows coming close to your property you may consider the use of some repellents. These may do good at keeping prairie dogs off your land. The first repellent to try is COYOTE URINE.
Prairie dogs know this smell and tend to stay away from areas if they smell it. The best way to apply it is to use 2-4 ounces right on the turf close to mounds or burrows when you first find them. Prairie dogs are constantly looking for food and know the risks associated with foraging. If they smell fresh coyote urine they will try to move in an opposite direction attempting to minimize the risk of having to come face to face with a coyote. The use of coyote urine is particularly helpful if you have fields or lots of land adjacent to yours which are not being treated. By placing urine along the property line you can create a “fence” which will keep the dogs out and away.
Try to make applications close to the mounds and then again close to your property. This insures they will move away in the right direction and not onto your land. If you want to get the urine to last longer, protect them with REPELLENT GUARDS. These plastic stations are staked in the ground and shelter the urine from the rain and sun. This will allow the scent to last longer – as much as 2-3 times as long! They will pay for themselves in a few months with the savings you will get from using less urine.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LIQUID REPELLENT
If you have prairie dogs coming onto your property and want to stop them from chewing on or eating certain plants, use ROPEL LIQUID. It is a bad tasting liquid which can be sprayed onto any plant or non-living object. It is odorless, dries quickly and will stop any animal from chewing on treated surfaces. It comes in handy if you have a prairie dog which has found something in your yard which it finds tasty. Treat it once or twice a month to make sure they will stay away.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LIVE TRAPS
Though coyote urine and Ropel may work to stop new dogs from moving in or chewing, they may choose to stay if food supplies are limited or if they have been living in the area a long time. This territorial behavior is a strong trait which might be stronger than the repellents. If you try Urine and/or Ropel but the dogs persist, you will have to do some trapping. The two best traps to use are the LT5518RD or the LT7824. Both of these can be set close to where they have mounds or where you have seen activity. Prairie dogs are easy to trap. Use a large supply of whatever they have been eating. This is usually one of the types of grass which is growing around their mounds. Place some PRAIRIE DOG LURE on the trip pan of the trap if they are having a hard time finding it. The lure is a mix of grasses which has a strong smell sure to get their attention. You still need to fill the back of the trap with grass since this is what they really want.
If you have a lot of dogs to catch, use several traps. The latest design of these live traps can be used without any bait. The LT111236BD has a unique design which works by placing it directly over the prairie dog entrance/exit holes on their mounds. It has a sealed front with a cage all the way around so that the door can open inside the cage. The second unique feature of the trap is that the bottom of the front section is open. This will allow the trap to be placed directly over any hole. As the dogs exit they will be inside the trap. They can’t exit the front of the trap since it will be closed. They have no choice but to head toward the back of the trap and along the way they will have to hit the trip pan causing the trap door to close tight. You don’t have to bait this trap to get it to work; placing it over their dens is all that is needed. When using this trap be ready to do some dog removal. It is not unusual to catch several a day and they generally don’t grow afraid of it since it is not killing any which are caught. Once caught you can either relocate or destroy the animal as needed.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL LEGHOLD TRAPS
If cage trapping is not desirable you can opt to use a leghold trap. There have been several used over the years and the most common are the Coil and Long Spring leghold trap. Either of these will work when placed around their dens. If you prefer the coil, either the COIL # 1 or the COIL # 1.75 will usually be big enough. When using a Long Spring, go with a LS # 1 or a LS # 11. The concept is that the target animal will come out of it’s den and step on the trap which needs to be concealed with either a light cover of dust, dirt, plants, etc. Every trapper will use their own preference of disguising the device and the natural curiosity of prarie dogs is sometimes all that is needed to get them caught.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL SNARES
Another type that works well on prairie dogs is Snares. Either the Light or Medium SNARE will be plenty strong. This is the use of cabling which has a locking mechanism designed to move in one direction. One end of the snare – which is usually about 4-5 feet long – has an anchor loop designed to affix the snare to something like a stake, log or heavy object. The other end of the snare is looped with the locking mechanism at the end. The loop is set over the entrance/exit hole and as the animal moves out or in they will slide their head through the snare. When set right, the snare will tighten over the animals neck and shoulders thus keeping it from escaping back down it’s den.
This type of trap is the least expensive to use but the most difficult to work with and is only recommended to use if you have experience with them in the field. Don’t waste your time with them if you are trying this for your first time. Once trapped you will have to remove the animal and reset as needed. Most animals trapped this way need to be destroyed so there is an added step you need to consider.
PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL KILL TRAPS
Kill traps are probably the most effective trap that can be used when relocation is out of the question. Known as Bodygrip traps, this design is both easy to use and very effective. For prairie dogs, the most common sizes used are the BG 110, BG 120, BG 160 and in some cases, the larger BG 220. Placed over their dens prairie dogs will fall victim to it’s lethal grip over and over again. Simply set the trap over the den and stake it so you won’t loose it to predators or a dog that tries to die down it’s den. Be sure to check them daily; most good sets will get their target within a short period of time. If you are having a problem getting the target you will have to add more sets. In general, it is very hard to have too many sets. The more you have the quicker you will reduce their numbers.