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Pinedale Online > News > May 2008 > Federal protection for prairie dogs?

Prairie dog. Photo by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online.
Prairie dog
FWS is considering whether prairie dogs warrant federal protections.
Federal protection for prairie dogs?
by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service press release
May 6, 2008

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the white-tailed prairie dog will receive additional review to determine if the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS is also requesting information from the public regarding the status of the species.

Comments and information will be accepted until July 7, 2008, and can be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at:, or can be mailed to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2008-0053; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

FWS will evaluate all information regarding the status and
distribution of the white-tailed prairie dog, including the impacts or potential impacts of threats to the species resulting from either human activities or natural causes.

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.

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.

Notice of this initiation is published in today’s (May 6, 2008) Federal Register.

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.

White-tailed and black-tailed prairie dogs are genetically two distinctive species. The white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) has a dark eye patch and a short, white-tipped tail. The black-tailed prairie dog has a black-tipped tail.

White-tailed prairie dogs have a looser social structure and occur at a lower density than black-tailed prairie dogs. White-tailed prairie dogs are generally found at altitudes ranging between 5,000 and 10,000 feet in desert grasslands and shrub grasslands. Conversely, 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.

For more information, click on the link below.

Related Links
  • FWS website - Learn about the white-tailed prairie dog.
  • Pinedale Online > News > May 2008 > Federal protection for prairie dogs?

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