Submitted to: Shortgrass Steppe Symposium
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2006
Publication Date: 1/11/2007
Citation: Derner, J.D., Detling, J.K., Antolin, M.F. 2007. Black-tailed prairie dogs affect livestock weight gains in shortgrass steppe. Shortgrass Steppe Symposium. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: The effect of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) on livestock weight gains in shortgrass steppe is an important and controversial question. However, there are few empirical data addressing this. Area occupied by prairie dogs in the shortgrass steppe increased substantially from 1999-2004, exacerbating conflicts with livestock producers. We evaluated the influence of prairie dogs on weight gains of yearling steers during this six-year period. Livestock weight gains decreased linearly with increasing percentage of the pasture recently colonized by black-tailed prairie dogs (C. ludovicianus) at moderate densities, but this decrease was slower than the increase in area of prairie dog colonies. Reductions in livestock weight gains in pastures with prairie dogs resulted in lower estimated economic returns. For example, pastures with 20% of area occupied by prairie dogs reduced the estimated value of livestock weight gain by $14.95/steer (from $273.18 to $258.23/steer) and by $2.23/ha (from $40.81 to $38.58/ha). In pastures with 60% occupancy reduced livestock weight gain lowered estimated value by $37.91/steer and $5.58/ha, or about 14%.