The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long tradition of scientific excellence and always uses the best-available science to inform its work to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitat for the benefit of the American public.
Created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, today's National Wildlife Refuge System protects habitats and wildlife across the country, from the Alaskan tundra to subtropical wetlands. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge System's 560-plus refuges cover more than 150 million acres and protect nearly 1,400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
While national wildlife refuges were created to protect wildlife, they are for people too. Refuges are ideal places for people of all ages to explore and connect with the natural world. We invite you to learn more about and visit the national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
The Mountain-Prairie Region's Office of Ecological Services (ES) works to restore and protect healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants and the environments upon which they depend. Using the best available science, ES personnel work with Federal, State, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners, to avoid, minimize, and mitigate threats to our Nation's natural resources.
Providing leadership in the conservation of migratory bird habitat through partnerships, grants, and outreach for present and future generations. The Migratory Bird Program is responsible for maintaining healthy migratory bird populations for the benefit of the American people.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region helps conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources and provides economically valuable recreational fishing to anglers across the country. The program comprises 12 National Fish Hatcheries.
Law enforcement is essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. The Office of Law Enforcement contributes to Service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species, and promote international wildlife conservation.
External Affairs staff in the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides support to the regional office and field stations to communicate and facilitate information about the Service's programs to the public, media, Congress, Tribes, partners, and other stakeholders in the 8-state region.
Black-tailed Prairie Dog on CMR NWR. Credit: USFWS.
Black-tailed Prairie Dogs at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Army / Rich Keen, DPRA inc.
Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
Species Description: Prairie dogs occur only in North America. They are rodents within the squirrel family and include five species-- the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus), the Gunnison prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni), the Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), and the Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus)(Pizzimenti 1975). The Utah and Mexican prairie dogs are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened (49 FR 22339) and endangered (35 FR 8495) respectively. Generally, the black-tailed prairie dog occurs east of the other four species in more mesic habitat.
Prairie dogs are small, stout ground squirrels. The total length of an adult black-tailed prairie dog is approximately 14-17 inches. The weight of an individual ranges from 1 to 3 pounds. Individual appearances within the species vary in mixed colors of brown, black, gray, and white. The black-tipped tail is characteristic (Hoogland 1995). Black-tailed prairie dogs are diurnal, burrowing animals. They do not hibernate as do white-tailed, Gunnison, and Utah prairie dogs (Hoogland 1995, Tileston and Lechleitner 1966). The black-footed ferret, swift fox , mountain plover, ferruginous hawk, burrowing owl , and number other species are dependent upon prairie dogs to varying degrees.
The historic range of the black-tailed prairie dog included portions of 11 States, Canada, and Mexico. Today it occurs from extreme south-central Canada to northeastern Mexico and from approximate the 98th meridian west to the Rocky Mountains. The species is currently present in 11 States including Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
Most estimates of black-tailed prairie dog populations are not based on numbers of individual animals, but on estimates of the amount of occupied habitat. Density of animals varies depending on the season, region, and climatic conditions, but typically ranges from 2 to 18 individuals per acre. Density also can vary temporally due to poisoning, plague, and recreational shooting. A rangewide estimate of historically occupied habitat for the black-tailed prairie dog is 80 to 100 million acres. Current occupied habitat is estimated to be 2.1 million acres.
The black-footed ferret is a federally listed endangered species that depends upon prairie dogs as a source of food and uses its burrows for shelter. Any actions that kill prairie dogs or alter their habitat could prove detrimental to black-footed ferrets occupying the affected prairie dog towns. Black-footed ferrets are considered extirpated except where they have been purposely reintroduced using special authorities under Section 10 of Endangered Species Act. For project planning purposes, please consult IPaC (https://ecos.fws.gov/ipac/) to determine if pre-construction black-footed ferret surveys are required, or contact your local Ecological Services Field Office.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a status review of the black-tailed prairie dog and has determined it does not warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Service assessed potential impacts to the black-tailed prairie dog including conversion of prairie grasslands to croplands, large-scale poisoning, and sylvatic plague and has determined that these impacts do not threatened the long-term persistence of the species.
Black-tailed prairie dogs occupy approximately 2.4 million acres across its range. The estimated population of black-tailed prairie dogs in the U.S. is approximately 24 million.
After review of a petition seeking to protect the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Service will undertake a more thorough review of the species to determine whether to propose adding the black-tailed prairie dog to the list of threatened or endangered species.
This petition finding does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to give the black-tailed prairie dog protection under the ESA. Rather this finding is the first step in a long process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available.
The public is invited to provide comments and information about the species and its habitat. Comments will be accepted until January 30, 2009. Please see the Federal Register notice for more information.
An updated evaluation of the best available scientific information has led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine that the black-tailed prairie dog is not likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future and no longer meets the Endangered Species Act definition of threatened. Therefore, the prairie dog will be removed as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. A finding that the black-tailed prairie dog does not warrant listing was delivered today to the Federal Register.