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Prairie dogs as ecosystem regulators on the northern High Plains


Uresk, Daniel W.; Bjugstad, Ardell J. 1983. Prairie dogs as ecosystem regulators on the northern High Plains. In: Kucera, Clair L., ed. Proceedings of the seventh North American prairie conference, August 4-6, 1980, Temple Hall, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri. Springfield, MO: Southwest Missouri State University: 91-94.

The increase in prairie dog populations on the northern High Plains has emphasized the need for additional information on cattle-prairie dog forage relationships. To obtain information on cattle-prairie dog forage relationships, 4 treatments were evaluated over 4 growing seasons. These treatments were: 1) no grazing (prairie dogs eliminated and cattle excluded), 2) grazing by prairie dogs, 3) grazing by cattle and 4) grazing by cattle and prairie dogs. In addition, forage utilized by cattle and prairie dogs was assessed. Standing crop values were obtained on all treatments by plant species under cages, and forage utilization was assessed by harvesting under cages and outside cages. Results indicate major differences among treatments. Peak standing crop values on the prairie dog treatment was 24% higher when compared to the cattle only grazing treatment. Cattle plus prairie dogs was 13% higher than the cattle treatment followed by no grazing, which was about equal with a 2% increase. Grasses showed an increase on both the no grazing, cattle plus prairie dog treatments (4%) followed by a decrease on the prairie dog treatement (-6%) when compared to the cattle treatment only. Forbs increased on the prairie dog treatment (+165%) followed by no grazing (+91%), and the cattle plus prairie dog treatment (+76%) when compared to the cattle treatment. Utilization by cattle and prairie dogs was 37% in June and 56% in August. After 4 years active prairie dog burrows were highest on the prairie dog plus cattle treatment with 95/acre, while on the praire dog treatment 43/acre were present. Data on standing crop values are presented for prairie dog-cattle relationships by treatments and forage utilization.

Keywords: Cynomys ludovicianus, cattle, grazing, foraging, ecosystems, South Dakota


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Prairie dogs as ecosystem regulators on the northern High Plains
Electronic Publish Date: April 21, 2006
Last Update:
April 21, 2006

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