Survey shows larger prairie dog habitat in Colorado than expected

By: The Associated Press
February 20, 2017 Updated: February 20, 2017 at 12:37 pm
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BOULDER, COLORADO - FEBRUARY 15: Prairie dogs peek out of their holes in open space on February 15, 2017 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently completed a survey of black-tailed prairie dog habitat and populations in Colorado and the findings proved positive for these shy prairie dwellers. The most recent survery found that black-tailed prairie dogs occupy about 500,000 acres on the eastern plains. As well they found their numbers abundant in the state. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

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."

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