Size and Seasonal Fluctuations of an Extra-limital Population of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus, in Central Alberta

Posted on May 31, 2019

Author

by Gilbert PROULX
CWBM 8 (1): 1–8


Abstract

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a Threatened Species with a Canadian distribution limited to southwestern Saskatchewan, in and around Grasslands National Park. If populations were to be decimated or depleted, e.g., by drought or sylvatic plague, an extra-limital black-tailed prairie dog colony in central Alberta could be a source of animals for translocations. This study investigated the size and the fluctuations of this black-tailed prairie dog population from 2013 to 2017, with surveys conducted in early and late June, in late July and in late August. The black-tailed prairie dog colony was quite stable during these years. In spite of good reproduction from 2014 to 2017, the colony did not increase in size and averaged 37.6 (SD = 5.5) individuals in spring. The annual rate of decrease from peak population numbers in late June to the following spring ranged from 55% to 70%, similar to patterns observed in southwestern Saskatchewan and western United States. A portion of the juvenile population could likely be removed in July without an apparent impact on the size of the colony and be translocated in southwestern Saskatchewan. The option of translocating black-tailed prairie dogs from central Alberta to southern Saskatchewan colonies should be further investigated to provide managers with an alternative in the event of a catastrophic loss of colonies. These black-tailed prairie dogs could also be used to establish a new colony in a plague-free area of Alberta.

Key Words: Alberta, Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys ludovicianus, Extra-limital Occurrence, Translocation

Proulx-Vol-8-1

 

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