Fire as a management tool to facilitate expansion of reintroduced black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Chihuahuan Desert grasslands

TitleFire as a management tool to facilitate expansion of reintroduced black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Chihuahuan Desert grasslands
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsFord P., Fredrickson E.L., Anderson M.C., Truett J.C.
Conference Name16th Annual Meeting, Society for Conservation Biology
Date PublishedJuly 14, 2002
Conference LocationCanterbury, UK
ARIS Log Number133958
AbstractWithin the last hundred years, public and private control programs and plague have reduced black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) population numbers by 98%, causing localized extinctions. Black-tailed prairie dogs significantly alter grassland ecosystems and are considered a "keystone" species requiring active conservation efforts. We report on an experimental study evaluating fire vs. mowing for facilitating expansion of reintroduced colonies. We used three northern Chihuahuan Desert (Sporobolus/Scleropogon grassland association) colonies reestablished in 1998-99 ranging from 1.27 to 8 ha. Contiguous taller grasses limited expansion of these colonies. We established six 50x50m experimental plots adjacent to each colony randomly assigned to burn or mow treatments. All burrows in each colony were mapped immediately preceding treatment and 4-months after treatment. Numbers of newly established burrows in each plot were used as a measure of habitat preference. Results indicate no significant differences in the number of new burrows on burn (mean = 13, SD = 8) vs. mow (mean = 13, SD = 5) plots. In conclusion, fire can be used in lieu of mowing as a tool. Persistence of these treatments will depend on prairie dog population dynamics and impact of treatments on the foraging dynamics of associated large ungulates.