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JOHN P. FARRAR, KARIN L. COLEMAN, MARC BEKOFF, AND ERIC STONE 13 Translocation Effects on the Behavior of Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) INTRODUCTION Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are native to The Great Plains region of North America. Since the spread of agriculture and ranching on their former range, prairie dogs have been subjected to intense government extermination programs (Clark 1979). They now occupy only a small percentage of their former range: 600,000 hectares in 1960, compared to 100 million hectares in 1900 (Koford 1958, Miller et al. 1994). But even their current range is decreasing in size due to continued human development. Prairie dogs are now becoming recognized as an essential part of healthy prairie ecosystems (Whickler and Deitling 1988, Miller et al. 1994, Robinette et al. 1995). Wildlife advocacy groups such as Wild Places, Prairie Dog Rescue , Citizens Concerned for Wildlife, Loveland Prairie Dog Action, and several Humane Societies advocate methods of management less invasive than lethal control. Black-tailed prairie dogs typically respond to an intruder such as a human by interrupting foraging or social interactions, barking alarm calls, returning to burrow entrances, and concealing themselves underground. As such, disturbance to prairie dog colonies may affect colony persistence and survival if foraging and social behaviors are significantly interrupted. In a previous study, Adams et al. (1987) tested the differences between prairie dogs occurring in rural and residential areas in response to human approach and showed that rural prairie dogs responded to human approach at greater distances than did residential prairie dogs. In the present study we examined whether prairie dogs exhibit increased sensitivity to human intrusion subsequent to trapping, handling, and adjusting to translocation to a new habitat. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that sensitivity to a human intruder would be greater in colonies containing translocated prairie dogs than in native colonies (colonies inhabited only by prairie dogs that naturally dispersed into the colony or for whom this was their natal colony). Translocation is a popular alternative where residential and industrial development Originally published in 1998 in Farrar, J. P., Coleman, K. L., Bekoff, M., and Stone, E. 1998. Translocation Effects on the Behavior of Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Anthrozoös 11, 164–167. Reprinted with permission, International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ). is likely to disrupt or destroy prairie dog colonies. However, the effects of the translocation process on the behavior of these animals are unknown. METHODS Study Sites Due to pending construction of a laboratory for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the United States Department of Commerce station in Boulder, Colorado, USA, the Wild Places group worked with Phyllis Gunn of the Department of Commerce to translocate part of a prairie dog colony to a protected site on City of Boulder Open Space. We studied three colonies, designated Native, Mixed, and Translocated. The Native colony consisted of prairie dogs remaining in the colony that were not moved because of construction. These prairie dogs constituted our control group. The colony was bounded by service roads restricted to motor vehicles. Pedestrians regularly used these areas and roads and their dogs often accompanied them, both on and off leash. Therefore Native prairie dogs were accustomed to close proximity of vehicles, humans, and potential predators. The second site was on Boulder Reservoir Open Space (adjacent to north 51st Street.) Eighty-three prairie dogs were released onto the periphery of an existing colony from 12 July to 8 October 1996. These prairie dogs came from an area approximately 10 kilometers away, near the 63rd St. Water Treatment Plant grounds east of Boulder. This site experienced traffic similar to that of the Native site. Thus, the colony contained native and translocated prairie dogs, and it served as an intermediate group due to their longer adjustment time and mixed population. This population is referred to as the Mixed site. To the north of the colony is a model airplane airport and planes often “buzzed” the prairie dogs for sport. People have reportedly plugged some burrows with newspaper to prevent interference with the model planes. This and the occasional (between one and five per day) jogger or cyclist along 51st street were the only human interactions experienced by these prairie dogs. Prairie dogs from the Native site were translocated onto a third site, designated Translocated. The city of Boulder wishes to keep knowledge of this location secret due to past incidents of people leaving privately captured prairie dogs on open space without authorization (Clint Miller...


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