Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320010

Title: Use of ecological sites in managing wildlife and livestock: An example with prairie dogs

item Hendrickson, John
item JOHNSON, PATRICIA - South Dakota State University
item Liebig, Mark
item SEDIVEC, KEVIN - North Dakota State University
item HALVORSON, GARY - Sitting Bull College

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/29/2015
Publication Date: 2/29/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Hendrickson, J.R., Johnson, P., Liebig, M.A., Sedivec, K., Halvorson, G. 2016. Use of ecological sites in managing wildlife and livestock: An example with prairie dogs. Rangelands. 38(1):23-28.

Interpretive Summary: The perception of prairie dogs among Native Americans living on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is mixed. Some Native Americans focus on the loss of forage productivity while others are interested in the cultural and ecological aspects of prairie dogs. The use of ecological sites may provide a mechanism for developing a management framework that would consider both livestock and prairie dogs. The three ecological sites we surveyed had large differences in off-colony standing crop but in two of the three years we surveyed, there were no differences between standing crop on-colony. This suggests that management of prairie dogs on rangelands should focus on limiting prairie dogs on more productive ecological sites with less productive sites receiving less emphasis.

Technical Abstract: Prairie dogs are a native rodent found in the mixed grass prairie of the northern Great Plains. Prairie dogs can have an adverse impact on the amount of forages available for grazing livestock. In the Native American community, prairie dogs are often valued as a cultural resource and as an important part of the ecosystem. Ecological sites are subdivisions of rangeland landscapes and are determined by environmental factors such as soils, relief, climate and disturbance. We determined the impact that prairie dogs have on standing crop biomass and vegetation species richness and diversity at three ecological sites on a Native American owned ranch in South Dakota. Vegetation was clipped to ground level within a 1/8 m2 frame to determine productivity and species richness on areas with (On-Colony) and without (Off-Colony) prairie dogs in each ecological site. Off-Colony biomass differed between ecological sites every year. On-Colony biomass was the same between sites in two of the three years. Prairie dog occupation impacted species richness and diversity but the results varied among sites and years. Length of prairie dog occupation may have influenced species richness and diversity. Our data suggests that controlling prairie dogs on the more productive ecological sites may reduce the amount of forage lost to prairie dog herbivory. Ecological sites should be a consideration when livestock and prairie dog management strategies are developed.