DENVER — Prairie dogs are looking much more abundant than previously estimated.
A recent federal survey conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists shows the animals have two times more habitat than expected at 500,000 acres, reported the Denver Post.
These rodents help sustain endangered black-footed ferrets and more than 100 other species on the Great Plains.
However, environmentalists, developers and the state tend to clash when it comes to prairie dogs.
The animals have faced declining numbers due to plague, urban development, and other issues.
Tina Jackson of Colorado Parks and Wildlife says a listing of a species like this would have a huge impact on landowners and restrict activities on their property.
"We're very excited by the survey numbers," she said. "The survey shows we have enough prairie dogs."
There is no current push toward an endangered species listing, and a federal review determined protections were not necessary.
Prairie dogs need adequate space, Jackson said.
"A listing of a species like this would have a huge impact on landowners," Jackson said. "It could restrict activities on their property. Prairie dogs are really important. If we didn't have adequate areas for prairie dogs, you could see cascading ecological effects."
Surveys are also underway in other Great Plains states.
"If you want to protect the prairies," she said, "then you've got to protect prairie dogs."