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.
A white-tailed prairie dog standing up on hind legs. Credit: Rhonda Foley/USFWS.
White-tailed prairie dog. Credit: USFWS.
White-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus)
Species Description: Prairie dogs occur only in North America. They are rodents within the squirrel family and include five species--the white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus), the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), the Gunnison prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni), the Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), and the Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus).
The white-tailed prairie dog is approximately 13 to 15 inches long and weighs around one to three pounds. It is a small, stout rodent with a short, white-tipped tail, large eyes, a blackish brown cheek patch above and below each eye, and a tan-brown pelt. The so-called prairie dog was named for its barking call. All five species of prairie dogs live in colonies. White-tailed prairie dogs have a looser social structure and occur at a lower density then black-tailed prairie dogs.
Location: White-tailed prairie dogs are found across the western half of Wyoming, western Colorado, the eastern portion of Utah, and a small portion of southern Montana. The largest remaining complexes or groups, occupying more than 5,000 acres each, are primarily found in Wyoming. An estimated 55 percent of white-tailed prairie dog habitat is found on lands belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
White-tailed prairie dogs are generally found at altitudes ranging between 5,000 and 10,000 feet in desert grasslands and shrub grasslands. Conversely, the black-tailed prairie dogs are found at altitudes below 6,000 feet in grasslands associated with the Great Plains and are not tolerant of shrubs within their colony.
Recent Actions:On May 26, 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a status review of the white-tailed prairie dog and has determined it does not warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
As part of the review, the Service reviewed all the available scientific and commercial information regarding the status white-tailed prairie dog and assessed potential impacts to the white-tailed prairie dog including oil and gas exploration and development; development of oil, tar sands, and other minerals; renewable energy development (wind and solar); urbanization; agricultural land conversion; grazing; fire occurrence and suppression; invasive plant species; climate change; recreational and pest control shooting; plague; poisoning; and lack of regulatory mechanisms.
Although these impacts have affected some populations of white-tailed prairie dog, none have reduced populations throughout all or a significant portion of the species’ range indicating that protection under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.
Previous Actions: In May 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a status review of the white-tailed prairie dog to determine if the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. In 2004, the Service determined that a petition submitted by the Center for Native Ecosystems and others did not present substantial biological information indicating that listing may be warranted.
In 2007, after questions were raised regarding whether the petition decision was based on the best science, the Service announced the decision would be reconsidered. Subsequently, the Center for Native Ecosystems filed a lawsuit regarding the petition finding. In a stipulated settlement, the Service agreed to submit to the Federal Register by May 1, 2008 a notice initiating a status review for the white-tailed prairie dog and submit the results of that status review to the Federal Register by June 1, 2010.
The Service and the plaintiffs agreed to a status review completion date of June 2010 to allow sufficient time to obtain solid data.