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July 22, 2011

Prairie Dogs Pack up for New, Safer Digs

For such small animals, prairie dogs face surprisingly big challenges. They live in 12 Western states, occupying mere fragments of their once vast range on North America’s Great Plains. Still today, despite the documented legacy of destruction and killing at the hands of humans, the current threats to prairie dogs look eerily similar to the past ones: widespread poisoning, shooting, and trapping; habitat loss; and disease.

But there are attempts to stay some of the ongoing killing and even to restore the animals to some pockets of their former range. In the Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming, we’ve worked with the U.S. Forest Service, Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund, and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance to relocate hundreds of black-tailed prairie dogs from an area where they might have become victims. We began work on this innovative project last summer, and we just wrapped up the second phase of moving the critters.

Take a look at these photos of the relocation project. The team carefully selected a new location on protected land, humanely trapped the animals from their network of burrows, and then released them in their new homes. These animals don’t know it, but they’ve been spared and offered a new chance at life.

The Prairie Dog Coalition is a program of The HSUS, and we are working with our partners on relocation projects, public outreach, and trainings to give these creatures—who are integral to the health of prairie ecosystems—a chance to survive.

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