Prairie Dog, Tom Foster
© Tom Foster

Prairie Dog

What Defenders is Doing to Help Prairie Dogs

Our nation’s 17 Great Plains national grasslands are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. These 3.5 million acres of public land are prime habitat for prairie dogs and other wildlife. As the main public lands in a region dominated by private land, the national grasslands are critical for maintaining healthy wildlife populations.

The Problem

The Forest Service manages the national grasslands more for livestock and energy development than for wildlife. As a result, the agency continues to poison native prairie dogs using taxpayers’ money because they are seen as competition with livestock for grass and because neighboring private landowners do not want the colonies spreading onto their properties.

How We’re Helping

Poisoning prairie dogs can be bad for the environment, expensive, and rarely offers a long-term solution. Defenders is working with a handful of national grasslands on nonlethal alternatives to poisoning. For instance , because prairie dogs hesitate to make homes in or go through tall grass, creating tall-grass buffers between prairie dog colonies and adjacent private properties is one way to keep prairie dogs out of where they are not wanted without resorting to killing them. Growing tall grass is difficult in areas frequented by grazing livestock, so Defenders has purchased and installed several miles of solar-powered portable electric fencing along buffer areas to keep livestock out, allowing the grass to grow tall.

Defenders also promotes relocation rather than poisoning of prairie dogs from conflict areas to core areas that are fully protected. We have helped move hundreds of prairie dogs out of harm’s way.

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