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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Sharon Rose 303-236-7917 x 415
Pete Gober 605-224-8693 x 24

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE REOPENS COMMENT PERIOD
FOR BLACK-TAILED PRAIRIE DOG INFORMATION DURING
MONTH OF OCTOBER

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reopen the comment period for 30 days for the public to offer comments on a conservation strategy developed by several states in the area of the great plains and how it influences the status of the black-tailed prairie dog. Some of the states, which include Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona that have prairie dog habitat have worked together to develop a conservation strategy for managing the black-tailed prairie dog. Some of the individual states will be hosting open houses to present this document to the public for their review and comment.

A copy of the states’ conservation strategy can be obtained by visiting the Service’s web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/btprairiedog or contacting the fish and game agency in states that are involved in this effort. Comments on the status of the black-tailed prairie dog and the conservation strategy should be sent to:

                    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (State-BTPD)
                    420 South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400
                    Pierre, SD 57501-5408
                    or email to: prairiedog@fws.gov

Comments should be postmarked by November 3, 1999.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a comprehensive review of the black-tailed prairie dog to determine whether the black-tailed prairie dog should be proposed for listing as an endangered or threatened species.

The Service’s review of the status of the black-tailed prairie dog was in response to petitions requesting that this species be listed as a threatened species by the National Wildlife Federation in July and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation and others in August. Under the Act, the Service is required by law to conduct a review of the status of the species to determine if it needs to be included on the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants .

The Service will complete the comprehensive review before making any decision whether to propose to list the black-tailed prairie dog. To ensure that the review of the species is as complete and comprehensive as possible, the Service is asking the public to submit any additional scientific information on the species and the state conservation strategy.

"Our review will include all available information, not just what was provided to us in the petitions, but all additional information submitted by other government agencies, scientists and the public," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s Regional Director the Mountain-Prairie Region.

The black-tailed prairie dog is a small, stout ground squirrel that measures 14 to 17 inches long and weighs 1 to 3 pounds. It is found in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, southern Saskatchewan, Canada and northern Mexico. Historically, the species also inhabited Arizona but no longer occurs there. The occupied range of the prairie dog has declined up to 99 percent in the United States during the last century, with less than 1 million acres remaining of what may have been more than 100 million acres of original black-tailed prairie dog habitat.

Five species of prairie dogs exist in North America: the black-tailed prairie dog, white-tailed prairie dog, Gunnison’s prairie dog, Utah prairie dog, and the Mexican prairie dog. Black-tailed prairie dog complexes can contain thousands of individuals and extend for miles. Today, seven black-tailed prairie dog complexes larger than 10,000 acres still exist. These seven colonies represent about 36 percent of all remaining occupied black-tailed prairie dog habitat in North America. Four of these large colonies are located in South Dakota where plague is absent at this time. The remaining three large complexes are located in Montana, Wyoming and Mexico. Six of the seven large colonies are located on federal and tribal lands and are believed to be the most viable and important populations of the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.


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