When infestations of prairie dogs appear, they wreak havoc on not only the existing ecosystem but can easily spread to neighboring areas. Left unchecked, infested populaces can continue to increase by 50% each year.
While there are many variables that can lead to high infestation levels of prairie dogs, within our district, observed causes range across the following topics:
- Relocation efforts by sources external to our district
- Overgrazing of grassland
- Decrease in Natural Predator populations
While research and history will reveal better, all the factors that contributed to the current infestation levels increasingly found in our conservation district areas, it falls to many of our local cooperators to protect, preserve and manage the land upon which we all depend.
Challenges of Infestation
- Stripping of vegetation that supports ecosystem and protects land from wind/water erosion.
- Burrow entrances (holes) which pose threat for injury and/or maiming of both livestock and grazing wildlife
- Infectious Disease – Prairie Dogs are hosts to identified carriers (fleas) of infectious disease, most notably, the Plague (aka, the Black Death of the 14th century). While this infectious disease can ‘smolder’ and not erupt in noticeable form (i.e. 95-100% wipeout of a colony of prairie dogs) a study published in January of 2016 indicates, there are more variables in need of study to understand how the virus survives and what variables, including Prairie Dog colonies, play in the transmission/epidemic model and to further understand what part the Prairie Dog plays in the sequence of events, from a quiet, ‘smoldering’ of the virus, to outright eruption that can affect other species in our ecosystem, including humans.
Traditional options for restoring grass/grazing land
- Baits/Traps (Catch and release)
Each option carries both risks and time/cost resources to restore destroyed land to a viable member of our local resources, notably:
- The trapping and releasing to be ‘someone else’s problem’ is a known contributor to our current local situation and not recommended for infested areas.
- While shooting applies a lethal solution, time/cost wise and disposal of carcasses that may contribute to disease spread is not a viable solution.
- Poison leaves behind toxic carcasses that can affect other species within a treatment area – not a viable approach to restore our ecosystem to a more equitable balance.
- PERC (Pressurized Exhaust Rodent Control) machine
Given the operation of the PERC machine to provide more humane and ecosystem friendly solutions for infested areas, Double El & Agate Conservation District chose to invest in the the equipment required to make available for lease, treatment option, to the landowners within our districts.
If you are dealing with the fallout from both natural cycles, and human-decisions for their own ‘backyard’ control, please Contact Us to learn more about how to treat and restore your land to a more balanced ecosystem.