The Prairie Dog Essay Research Paper The

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The Prairie Dog Essay, Research Paper The Prairie Dog Cynomys ludovicianus, known more commonly as the prairie dog, has more traditionally been viewed as the pariah of the prairie. However within the last year, attention has been drawn to these furry little rodents. They are extremely unpopular?so much so that for decades the Federal Government has tried desperately to eliminate them. What the government doesn?t know is that these creatures are vital to the survival and thriving of several species, and are in fact an asset to our world. Prairie dogs are rodents, closely related to their predator, the black-footed ferret. They live in complicated underground systems, or communities sometimes called ?dog towns?. These dog towns are scattered across the prairie from Canada to

Mexico. They graze, run rampant, and dart from one opening to another in continuous action. This action attracts several other plains animals including bison, burrowing owls, golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, antelope, coyotes, and others. The prairie dog is the center of the Great Plains? animal community. There are only a handful of sites in the entire West where the species is not under eradication. It is speculated that the species has declined 98 percent across its habitat. In national parks, prairie dogs colonies are fragmented, isolated, and downright tiny. Today only seven parks hold prairie dog populations. Four places- Ben?s Old Fort National Historic Site, Scott?s Bluff National Monument, Devil?s Tower National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site- active

dog towns are no more than 20 acres. The other three- Badlands, Wind Cave, and Theodore Roosevelt National park- are larger. But the biggest, the Badlands, is barely 4,200 acres. The total area occupied by prairie dogs isn?t more than 6,000 acres. At the turn of the century, one Texas prairie dog town measured 100 by 250 miles– almost the size of Maine. About 400 million animals lived there. In the 1920?s, it was estimated that the population of North American prairie dogs exceeded 500 billion. As much as twenty percent of the plains may have held these animals. Of all major biomes in North America, the plains have suffered the most, and dog towns have been destroyed for plowing. Systematic poisoning has grown into a fatal threat to the prairie dogs, as well as ?gopher

hunting?, ?dollar-a-dog? contests, and ?red mist? destruction. Some rural towns hold contests for cash prizes for the individual who shoots the most dogs in one day, hence ?dollar-a-dog?. In addition to the target practice is a new killer?sylvatic plague. It is spread by fleas, gradually diffused across the West, and to make matters worse, the little critters have little or no immunity. Once the disease enters a colony, the entire town is usually lost. There are no reserve colonies to repopulate towns that are lost due to hunting, plague, poisoning, or natural events. To tell the truth, the prairie dog ?ecosystems? are as at much risk as the old-growth forests and salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation in Colorado filed a petition in October of

1994 to list the prairie dog as a Category 2 under the Endangered Species Act. This states that federal agencies must be alerted that a species may be in jeopardy unless changes occur. Prairie dogs are considered by scientists to be a ?keystone? species, which means that they are what a recorded 170 other wildlife species depend on. For example, they are the prime source of food for the black-footed ferret and the swift fox. Their abandoned colonies are later inhabited by anything form burrowing owls to rattlesnakes. Without the prairie dog, many dependent species will not survive. Their ecosystems support higher numbers of small mammals , more terrestrial predators, and higher densities, and greater diversity of bird species than grasslands without these rodents. What?s the