Translocation of Gunnison's prairie dogs from an urban and suburban colony to abandoned wildland colonies

Emily J. Nelson, Tad C. Theimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Translocating prairie dogs from areas in or near human developments to wildlands can reduce conflicts with humans or supplement wild populations, but translocation methods differ in cost and fate of translocated individuals is often difficult to assess. We translocated 74 Gunnison's prairie dogs from 1 source colony in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona (urban) and 75 from 1 source colony in lower density housing outside the city (suburban) to 2 abandoned, recipient colonies on open grasslands 50 km north of the city (wildland). We released animals into uncaged, pre-existing burrow entrances (hard release) or into temporary cages over pre-existing burrow entrances (soft release). We captured 15 (10%) marked animals 1 year post-translocation at the 2 recipient colonies, 7 from soft release treatments and 8 from hard release treatments but visual surveys indicated a minimum of 57 adult prairie dogs and 76 pups present. Adult prairie dogs in all photographs taken by automated cameras placed at burrow entrances at each recipient colony had ear tags, suggesting that most animals at these colonies were survivors from translocation and that survival was likely higher than 10%. By 1 year post-release, recipient colonies occupied an area roughly 9-18 times that of source colonies. Urban Gunnison's prairie dogs can be successfully translocated to abandoned wildland colonies without using soft release methods, but animals may disperse widely. Given the cost and effort translocation requires, and the fact that all 6 confirmed mortalities were from human shooting, we recommend temporary restrictions on shooting at recipient colonies until populations have met management goals. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Arizona
  • Cynomys gunnisoni
  • Gunnison's prairie dog
  • survival
  • translocation
  • urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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