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Areas occupied by white-tailed prairie dogs (WTPD; Cynomys leucurus) and Gunnison's prairie dogs (GPD; C. gunnisoni) are not well-known in Colorado (USA) and elsewhere. Suitable methodology for monitoring changes in populations of WTPD and GPD over broad areas also has not been well established. We evaluated occupancy modeling methodology to establish baseline occupancy rates for WTPD and GPD in Colorado. We estimated that WTPD occupied 24.1% (SE = 12.8) of 47,710 0.25-km2 plots and GPD occupied 7.5% (SE = 1.3) of 158,225 0.25-km2 plots in Colorado during 2004 and 2005. Areas reported as colonies in the Colorado Division of Wildlife's database were not good predictors of WTPD and GPD occupancy. Occupancy rates were...
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A plague (Yersinia pestis) epizootic spread through Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni), and possibly other rodent species, in the Moreno Valley in north-central New Mexico between winter 1984-1985 and autumn 1987. We observed the progress of the epizootic and subsequent population recovery at four prairie dog towns within the valley during this period. At two towns (Midlake and Val Verde) the prairie dogs were marked prior to the epizootic. At two additional towns (Vega and South Entrance) prairie dogs were marked following the epizootic. In 1988, a second epizootic occurred at Vega. One hundred thirty-nine serum samples were collected from prairie dogs and other rodents and 1,750 fleas were collected from...
The length of gestation is the number of days between fertilization and parturition, and the length of lactation is the number of days between parturition and weaning. Determination of these lengths is difficult for ground-dwelling squirrels such as prairie dogs, marmots, and ground squirrels that usually copulate, give birth, and nurse offspring underground. For Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni), the mean +1 SD length of gestation is 29.3 ? 0.53 days (n = 124). The approximate length of lactation, estimated from the mean +1 SD duration between parturition and the first emergence of juveniles from the natal burrow, is 38.6 ? 2.08 days (n = 112). Published in Journal of Mammalogy, volume 78, issue 1, on...
Because most animals copulate surreptitiously, estimates of male and female copulatory success are elusive. Here I describe six distinctive behaviors that coincide with underground copulations of Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni): the underground consortship itself, inordinate male attention toward the estrous female, self-licking of genitals, dustbathing, the mating call, and late final submergence of the estrous female. These diagnostic behaviors allowed me to identify sexual partners for 308 females that came into estrus during a 7-year study. Published in Journal of Mammalogy, volume 79, issue 3, on pages 887 - 897, in 1998.
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This study addressed the initial effects of a reintroduction of Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) on resident small mammal and plant communities on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), New Mexico. In spring 1997, 60 prairie dogs (36.8 kg live mass) were introduced onto a former prairie dog colony in a desert grassland site. Small mammals and vegetation were sampled on both a treatment (reintroduction site) and a control site (without prairie dogs) before and after the prairie dogs were reintroduced. We tested for differences in small mammal and plant community change during the 1st year of the colony's existence using repeated measures analysis of variance. Although prairie dog biomass was ca....
I measured rates of growth of individual Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) at three towns in the Moreno Valley, New Mexico; at an established prairie dog town (site I) prior to a plague (Yersinia pestis) epizootic and at two towns reestablished after the epizootic (sites 2 and 3). Populations declined by >99% during rile epizootic. After the epizootic, adults had greater mass, and juveniles grew faster than before. At sites 2 and 3, juveniles had high interyear survival (39%), whereas at site I, prior to plague, survival of juveniles was 17%. At sites 2 and 3, yearlings bred, whereas they did not al site 1. Mean litter size near the end of lactation was 1.5 at site 1 and 5.0 at sites 2 and 3. Application...
Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) are social North American ground squirrels whose social system has been shown to vary with food resource distributions, as predicted by the habitat variability-mating system model. We expanded this model to include the effects of variations in population densities, in addition to resource distributions, on both the social system and the individual mating strategies of Gunnison's prairie dogs. Specifically, we predicted that monogamy would be associated with uniform resources, regardless of population density, giving way to polygyny with increasing resource patchiness at intermediate densities, and to multiple males and females at high population densities. In addition,...
Of the 3 major factors (habitat loss, poisoning, and disease) that limit abundance of prairie dogs today, sylvatic plague caused by Yersinia pestis is the I factor that is beyond human control. Plague epizootics frequently kill > 99% of prairie dogs in infected colonies. Although epizootics of sylvatic plague occur throughout most of the range of prairie dogs in the United States and are well described, long-term maintenance of plague in enzootic rodent species is not well documented or understood. We review dynamics of plague in white-tailed (Cynomys leucurus), Gunnison's (C gunnisoni), and black-tailed (C ludovicianus) prairie dogs, and their rodent and flea associates. We use epidemiologic concepts to support...
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The influence of landscape spatial structure on ecological processes has recently received much attention. Comparisons are made here between the spatial structure of grasslands, and active and extirpated Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni Hollister) towns at the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, U.S.A. The spatial structure of bare ground was quatified using a box-counting technique to extract landscape fractal dimensions, D, and bare-ground patch size. These landscapes are fractal, and active prairie dog towns had higher fractal dimensions, i.e. a more homogeneous spatial structure as D approaches 2, than inactive towns, which had higher fractal dimensions than unmodified grasslands. Morisita's index...
Mating system characterizations have been hindered by difficulties in accurately assigning parentage to offspring. We investigated the relationship between social assemblages and mating relationships in a territorial harem polygynous mammal, the Gunnison's prairie dog, using a combination of behavioral and molecular analyses. We demonstrate multiple paternity and an extraordinarily high incidence of extraterritorial fertilizations (i.e., 61% of all progeny), in combination with the existence of female kin groups. On this basis, we conclude that social assemblages alone provide a poor description of the Gunnison's prairie dog mating system, and suggest several potential reasons for the maintenance of territoriality...
The use of molecular techniques for the assessment of familial relationships among social species of mammals has become relatively commonplace. However, some species represent poor candidates for such studies due to naturally low levels of genetic diversity, leading to unacceptably large standard errors associated with estimates of relatedness. Here, we report on a preliminary study of genetic diversity within two populations of a social species of ground squirrel, Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) using DNA fingerprinting. We observed low levels of diversity in the form of large mean coefficients of genetic similarity among individuals occupying the same population. Overall similarity, determined from...


map background search result map search result map Dynamics of plague in a Gunnison's prairie dog colony complex from New Mexico The Gunnison's prairie dog structures a high desert grassland landscape as a keystone engineer Responses of small mammals and vegetation to a reintroduction of Gunnison's prairie dogs Dynamics of plague in a Gunnison's prairie dog colony complex from New Mexico The Gunnison's prairie dog structures a high desert grassland landscape as a keystone engineer Responses of small mammals and vegetation to a reintroduction of Gunnison's prairie dogs