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August 09, 2012

Prairie Dogs Pack Their Bags for New Homes

While The HSUS’s greatest purpose is to prevent cruelty, we and our affiliates do more hands-on, direct animal care work than any other organization. And it’s every kind of creature you can imagine―from rescuing dogs from fights or puppy mills, to contracepting elephants in South Africa or wild horses on public lands in the West, to saving sea birds with fish hooks in their stomachs.

Last week, The HSUS and our Prairie Dog Coalition assisted tribal wildlife biologist Shaun Grassel and his four technicians with relocating more than 100 prairie dogs from a rancher’s pasture to a wildlife management area on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where they will be protected. We used humane traps and moved family groups together to help these social creatures settle in to their new homes. It’s part of an ongoing partnership between the tribe and the Prairie Dog Coalition to develop and implement non-lethal management solutions for these ecologically important animals.

For years, the prairie dogs living on the grasslands that make up much of these tribal lands were poisoned or shot—but that's changing. Our Prairie Dog Coalition director Lindsey Sterling Krank has made numerous field trips to South Dakota to help protect prairie dogs and reduce land-use conflicts, working closely on this project with the tribe.

Since some individuals leasing tribal land receive fees from people who come to shoot prairie dogs, we're working toward funding special conservation fees instead and forging new agreements to close some areas to shooting. We also donated temporary electric fencing to place along the border between prairie-dog management areas and private land, which will prevent cattle from grazing there so that a tall-grass buffer will deter prairie dogs from crossing this border.

Many types of animals rely on prairie dogs as a key part of the ecosystem, and we’re already seeing more endangered black-footed ferrets, badgers, and burrowing owls starting to come back to these areas. These benefits for the animals and the landscape are why we’re working with communities across the West to help prairie dogs be saved from cruelty and help restore the ecosystems in which they live.

               HSUS staff helping with prairie dog relocation in South Dakota          A prairie dog being relocated in South Dakota

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