Forest Service Wants More Prairie Dogs on North Dakota Grasslands


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service wants to increase the number of prairie dogs on the Little Missouri National Grasslands in western North Dakota, while keeping the critters off neighboring private property.

Prairie dogs are considered an important part of the ecosystem because they provide food for other animals including black-footed ferrets, and their abandoned burrows provide habitat for other wildlife such as burrowing owls. But they can be troublesome for ranchers because they dig burrows and eat grass, damaging pasture land and presenting hazards for livestock.

The Forest Service is developing a long-term strategy that goes beyond just poisoning prairie dogs that encroach on private pastures, Dakota Prairie Grasslands Supervisor Dennis Neitzke told The Bismarck Tribune.

“If we can shape development of dog towns on Forest Service land away from the neighbors, that’s a good thing. It’s a better long-term solution,” he said.

The government wants to do that while also increasing prairie dog acres from about 5,200 to nearly 9,000, or closer to 1 percent of the 1 million acres that comprise the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

The Forest Service is taking comments on prairie dog management through Oct. 5. The comments will be considered for a draft management plan that also will be opened for public comment. The agency hopes to have a final decision next spring or summer.



Source:  Associated Press



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