Dietary preferences of black-tailed prairie dogs (<i>Cynomys ludovicianus</i>) reintroduced into a Chihuahuan Desert grassland

TitleDietary preferences of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) reintroduced into a Chihuahuan Desert grassland
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsHartsough M.J., Fredrickson E.L., Truett J., Beck RF
Conference Name55th Annual Meeting, Society for Range Management
Date PublishedFebruary 13, 200
Conference LocationKansas City, MO
ARIS Log Number134346
AbstractDuring the first half of the last century, black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) were exterminated from most of their range in the Chihuahuan Desert. Their removal coincides with the transition of desert grasslands to desert scrub conditions. The role of prairie dog extermination in facilitating this transition is currently unknown. In addition, prairie dogs were recently considered for listing as a threatened species. Subsequent rulings from this action have resulted in greater need for methods to manage prairie dog populations. To better understand how prairie dogs affect Chihuahuan Desert vegetation dynamics and to improve the success of reintroduction efforts, a study was undertaken to assess the dietary preferences of black-tailed prairie dogs reintroduced into a Chihuahuan Desesrt grassland. Three colonies were established in an alkali sacaton (Sporobulus airoides)/tobosa (Pleuraphis mutica)/burrograss (Scleropogon brevifolius) grassland with deep, well drained, silt-loam soils. Ten active burrows were randomly selected within each colony and vegetative cover composition and species biomass were estimated using 20-m transects. Feces were obtained from the entrance of each burrow for microhistological analysis. Preliminary results for four seasons suggest grasses are preferred to forbs with vine mesquite (Panicum obtusum) being highly preferred.