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WildEarth Guardians Releases Prairie Dog Report Card on Groundhog Day

State and Federal Agencies Get Poor Marks in Annual Evaluation

DENVER - Happy Prairie Dog Day-Groundhog Day for the West! Each year on Prairie Dog Day, WildEarth Guardians releases Report From the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog. The report assesses the state of the prairie dog community by evaluating the last year’s performance of government agencies responsible for prairie dog protection.

“Our report card is a tool for the public to hold our state and federal government institutions accountable,” stated Dr. Lauren McCain. Prairie Protection Director at WildEarth Guardians. “These agencies are legally bound to protect our wildlife and habitat and most are failing miserably when it comes to prairie dogs.”

Of the federal and state agencies responsible for prairie dog management, not one of them received an A. Arizona received the highest grade: a B, an improvement from last year’s C+. In 2008, Arizona reintroduced black-tailed prairie dogs, which were extinct in southeastern Arizona for decades. Several received Ds and Fs for their failures to take any steps to help prairie dogs. Instead some continue promoting, or passively allowing, prairie dog killing. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have all taken steps backwards by relaxing shooting restrictions or approving the use of Rozol (chlorophacinone) and Kaput (Diphacinone) to kill prairie dogs. Formerly banned, these poisons kill prairie dogs and other wildlife by causing internal hemorrhaging. Suffering can last for days before death.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improved from a D- to a C. In 2008, the agency issued three positive decisions for prairie dogs. It designated part of the Gunnison’s prairie dog population as warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act but precluded from listing due to other agency priority species. The Service also issued preliminary findings that the black-tailed prairie dog and white-tailed prairie dog may deserve federal protection under the Act.

“Now,” McCain emphasized, “the Fish and Wildlife Service must follow through with granting these species full protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

On February 2nd, while groundhogs are occupied with seeing their own shadows, prairie dogs face the shadow of destruction-in the form of bulldozing, shooting, poisoning, and many other threats. Prairie dogs are vigilant about protecting themselves from natural predators - scanning their surroundings and warning their colony mates of danger - but they need help to survive more overwhelming hazards posed by humans.

Prairie dogs are what scientists call “keystone” species. Close to 200 wildlife species benefit from prairie dogs and their colonies. Prairie Dogs are a significant prey sources for a multitude of grassland carnivores. Other animals live in their burrows. At least nine species depend on prairie dogs and their colonies. They include: black-footed ferrets, burrowing owls, deer mice, ferruginous hawks, grasshopper mice, golden eagles, horned larks, mountain plovers, and swift foxes.

View Report from the Burrow.

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