Spatial Analysis of Effects of Mowing and Burning on Colony Expansion in Reintroduced Black-Tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)


Address correspondence to M. Andersen, email


Factors governing the rate and direction of prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colony expansion remain poorly understood. However, increased knowledge and ability to control these factors may lead to more effective reintroductions of prairie dogs and restoration of grassland habitats. We present density and directional analyses of the establishment of new burrows on three reintroduced colonies of Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) in southern New Mexico; the study colonies had been subjected to mow and burn treatments in the second year of the study. Our hypotheses were that prairie dogs will preferentially dig new burrows in the treatment plots versus control plots and that the colonies will expand in the direction of the treatment plots. The results support these hypotheses; analysis of burrow counts by site and treatment shows that prairie dogs preferentially colonized both mow and burn treatments compared to untreated areas at the periphery of the colonies. Directional analysis showed a significant posttreatment orientation of new burrows toward the treatment plots for all colonies. Our results show that the direction of expansion of prairie dog colonies can be manipulated. Effective control of the expansion of prairie dog colonies may lead to more successful reintroductions.