Dear Interested Party:
The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces a decision in response to a petition it received from the National Wildlife Federation to place the black-tailed prairie dog on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
The Service finds that the status of the species merits listing as threatened, but that further action to place it on the list is precluded by actions to address higher priority species. The species is not considered to be endangered.
Threatened means that the species is likely to become endangered in a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. More management options are usually available to stabilize or recover threatened species than are available for endangered species.
The black-tailed prairie dog will be added to the candidate list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. This action provides no restrictions relative to the species at this time.
The status of the black-tailed prairie dog will be reviewed annually to determine if its listing priority relative to other species on the candidate list allows further action. Ongoing conservation activities by States and other parties may improve the status of the species in the future where it will not require listing, and it may then be removed from the candidate list.
The Service has carefully adhered to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act in this decision. The decision that the species is threatened considered the dramatic historic decline of black-tailed prairie dog populations and factors affecting its current decline.
Importantly, the population viability of the black-tailed prairie dog has been impacted in recent years by plague which is a disease that is not native to North America. The species has no resistance to plague and accordingly all exposed animals die. Some animals may escape an occurrence of plague by chance, but repeated events limit populations. Declining population trends are evident in 66 percent of the species range in the United States where plague is present. Additionally, inadequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to manage the species inasmuch as many states encourage its eradication.
A summary of this decision will be published as a Federal Register Notice on February 4, 2000. The text of this document will be available via the internet at www.r6.fws.gov/btprairiedog shortly thereafter. The supporting 12-Month Administrative Finding for the Federal Register Notice is available at the same internet address. Copies may be requested via mail from the Service at 420 S. Garfield, Suite 400, Pierre South Dakota 57501, 605-224-8693..