Project Spotlight: Prairie Dog Translocation

Borderlands Research Institute

This translocated prairie dog is eating celery, a supplemental food provided to help as it transitions to its new surroundings.

Prairie dogs are often underappreciated animals; usually considered pests, this species helps uphold a healthy ecosystem. In the Trans-Pecos, the Borderlands Research Institute and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are interested in restoring black-tailed prairie dogs on the landscape because prairie dog populations in the region have declined dramatically. Translocating prairie dogs from a large, healthy colony and creating a new colony helps combat the decline of prairie dogs within the ecosystem.

In October of 2018, graduate student Barbara Sugarman conducted a translocation to a private ranch in West Texas. The prairie dogs were moved into nesting boxes meant to mimic their natural burrowing system. After the release, the prairie dogs either dug themselves out of their nesting boxes, or baskets on top of the burrows were removed. Currently, we estimate that there are 30-35 prairie dogs living at the restoration site. They have dug an extensive network of natural burrows and will hopefully produce offspring this year. This study will provide wildlife managers and landowners the opportunity to see how prairie dogs can benefit the ecosystem and to outline steps for future prairie dog restoration efforts.