Prarie Dog Town

Ivan Seeking
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I happened to catch this factoid from a TV nature show:

...In 1900, a huge Prairie Dog settlement, 100 miles by 250 miles, was reported on the high plains of Texas containing an estimated 400 million Prairie Dogs! [continued]
http://www.desertusa.com/dec96/du_pdogs.html

That is really quite amazing when you think about it. That is a larger population than the number of people in the US, about 65% of the population density of New York City, and about the size of Ireland! It was really an entire prairie dog country.

Something else that we had a thread about a year or two ago:
Prairie Dogs issue different sounds identifying various predators, which include hawks, owls, eagles, ravens, coyotes, badgers, ferrets and snakes.
 

Answers and Replies

1,120
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You forgot to mention the biggest threat to the "Dogs"....the Cattle ranchers. Ive been to a few dog prison camps, where the lucky dogs go. They still have round-ups where hundreds are killed, tho all the research shows they are a vital part of the Prarie eco-system. I think the Utah breed have made the indangered list now, joining the Mexican..
Did I mention they are as cute as can be?
Ted Turner has stopped the killing of them on his bison ranches..WTG Ted!
 
224
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I just know that I hate them and that they are too prolific! There's one group digging up a storm down the road from us, my neighbor and I are prolly gonna go kill 'em soon before it gets too much worse.
 
352
1
Gophers are always digging up the yard at home. Not uncommon for a horse to break a leg from stepping in a hole. No matter how often you try to kill them even more come back. Part of my job last summer was gopher control, I was not a fan of that. What the heck is a dog prison camp? I'm assuming that was a joke?
 
1,120
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Yes, it was sort of a pun, a Dog prison camp, is where they are protected, and studied. Its places like this where they discovered how vital these dogs are to maintaining the native grasses of the Prairies, not to mention several other species of animals who rely on them for use of the abandoned shelters{ground owls raise their chicks in them}, and as a food source.
 
352
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Yes, it was sort of a pun, a Dog prison camp, is where they are protected, and studied. Its places like this where they discovered how vital these dogs are to maintaining the native grasses of the Prairies, not to mention several other species of animals who rely on them for use of the abandoned shelters{ground owls raise their chicks in them}, and as a food source.
Ah I see, thought I better ask though because you never know what might be true nowadays. Thought maybe some silly person had opened a gopher refuge. Is a gopher and a praire dog the same thing by the way?

Offtopic - This story reminded me of a cat I have at home. I swear if it was up to her there would be no gophers left. She isn't much bigger than they are but she bags a few of them every summer. She always liked to bring them as a treat for her kittens, I'm not sure what she thought those poor little week old kittens were going to do with it though! I always ended up scooping it up and giving it to the dog because she insisted her kittens eat them and wouldnt eat it herself. Goofy cat.
 
lisab
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Offtopic - This story reminded me of a cat I have at home. I swear if it was up to her there would be no gophers left. She isn't much bigger than they are but she bags a few of them every summer. She always liked to bring them as a treat for her kittens, I'm not sure what she thought those poor little week old kittens were going to do with it though! I always ended up scooping it up and giving it to the dog because she insisted her kittens eat them and wouldnt eat it herself. Goofy cat.
What you saw was the mom cat teaching the young 'uns how to hunt, and how to kill. Every good mom cat does this. At first, she pummels the rodents until they're near death, and she lets the kits finish them off. By the end of their training they should be able to kill and eat their own prey.

I witnessed by cat trying to teach my dog this. It was amazing to watch...the dog just liked to chase the rodent into the bushes. The cat would go and re-catch the thing and bring it back...and the dog would chase it again. My dog never quite learned the lesson but he enjoyed himself!
 
Moonbear
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Ah I see, thought I better ask though because you never know what might be true nowadays. Thought maybe some silly person had opened a gopher refuge. Is a gopher and a praire dog the same thing by the way?
Nope, different critters.
Prairie dogs:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Kissing_Prairie_dog_edit_3.jpg
Genus Cynomys

Gopher:
http://snohomish.wsu.edu/photos/gopher2.jpg [Broken]
Genus Thomomys
 
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352
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Hmmm my gophers look more like the praire dogs than the gopher picture
 
1,120
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Praire dogs are the size of small squirrels, gophers are much smaller. Also with the dogs you dont get furrows of soil, because they dig so deep.
 
Ivan Seeking
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Prairie Dogs weigh 1 1/2 to 3 lbs. The head and body are 11 to 13 inches long, with a tail length of 3 to 4 inches.
op

Gophers are notably much smaller than ground hogs, weighing about 1/2 poound, with the head and body about 6 inches long with a , tail of3 inches
wiki
 
Moonbear
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Yeah definitely gophers, I found some pictures that describe them better. Just a different kind of gopher than Moonbear posted I suppose.

http://media.canada.com/1c80e43f-6eb3-4724-8464-0291601cdf8f/gopher070307.jpg
There are different species of gophers, so yeah, the photo I posted may not be representative of the ones in your area. I just grabbed the first cute gopher photo I could find where you could actually see the gopher.
 
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Vanadium 50
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They still have round-ups where hundreds are killed, tho all the research shows they are a vital part of the Prarie eco-system.
If there are 400 million out there, it's hard to see how a few hundred more or less would make a big difference to the ecosystem.
 
1,120
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If there are 400 million out there, it's hard to see how a few hundred more or less would make a big difference to the ecosystem.
That was at least 108 years ago, perhaps you should read the links.
 
Vanadium 50
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That was at least 108 years ago, perhaps you should read the links.
From the http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/NorthAmerica/Facts/fact-pdog.cfm" [Broken].

"Lewis and Clark, while on their famous 1804 journey across North America, noted that this "wild dog of the prairie...appears here in infinite numbers." At that time, an estimated five billion prairie dogs lived throughout the continent's vast prairie!

The loss of open prairie has dramatically reduced the prairie dog population. Since the arrival of European settlers, North America's prairie dog population has plummeted by 98 percent."

5 billion - 98% = 100 million. I still fail to see how hundreds more or less can make a substantial difference to an ecosystem with 100 million individuals.
 
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1,120
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Its all about balance,prairie dogs now only exist on less than 1% of the Great Plains.
For example, last year a group of several hundred, {almost all of the 100,000 acres on Pine Ridge Reservation} vanished, a colony larger than all Front Range colonies combined. I can understand if this downward trend continues, burrowing owls and 9 other species {who depend of the dogs to survive}will disappear too.
So why would we want to save our ever shrinking pockets of native grasslands{prairies} and the animals that live there? Maybe its as simples as just saying, we should.
 
Argentum Vulpes
I always thought it would be fun to go get some black footed ferrets and let them loose here a http://fwp.mt.gov/lands/site_283312.aspx" [Broken] Prairie Dog town. It was really sad the last time I went there, those dogs looked like 55 gallon drums with legs. Only ducks should waddle.
 
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