Partnerships key on prairie dog management
Published: Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Wildlife sightings are a daily occurrence for Black Hills rancher Travis Bies.
"Out here we see mule deer, whitetails, prairie dogs, birds—seeing wildlife on the ranch is a sign that we're managing our resources correctly, not only for our livestock, but also for the wildlife," Bies said.
A third-generation commercial cow/calf producer, Bies believes wildlife play an integral role in his ranch's ecosystem. So when it comes to prairie dog management, he works closely with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks (GF&P) to responsibly control the 15 prairie dog towns which reside throughout the 24,000 acres of rangeland he manages.
"I don't think prairie dogs should be eliminated, but they do need to be controlled because they create a lot of erosion issues and many invasive species and noxious weeds thrive on prairie dog towns," Bies said. "I think it's the rancher's obligation to provide habitat for wildlife and controlling prairie dog towns is part of responsible grassland management."
GF&P would agree with Bies, said Mike Kintigh, regional supervisor.
"Prairie dogs have value in South Dakota's ecosystem, but they are so prolific that they can have a negative impact on private lands. According to state law, prairie dogs are considered pests," Kintigh said of the state law which mandates that GF&P manage prairie dogs that move from public lands onto adjacent private lands.
Since 2006, GF&P has partnered with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and together the departments have invested more than $1.3 million on prairie dog control on more than 114,000 acres of private land.
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