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National Wildlife Control Training Program vol. 1.

Prairie Dog Control

Scientific Names Blacktailed Prairie Dog.

Cynomys ludovicianus, Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Cynomys mexicanus, Mexican Prairie Dog

Cynomys gunnisoni, Gunnison's Prairie Dog

Cynomys parvidens, Utah Prairie Dog

Cynomys leucurus, White-tailed Prairie Dog


  • Does Not Hibernate
  • Lives in dry grasslands
  • Diurnal


  • Black-tailed prairie dogs exist in dense colonies and create 30 to 50 6-inch wide burrows and associated mounds per acre.
  • Bean-sized cylindrical droppings at margin of mounds.
  • Grasses and broad-leaved plants clipped at one-inch height or clipped and left on
  • Claw marks may be seen on snow.


  • Short- and long-term damage to grasslands via eating and digging; occasional damage to adjacent fields of growing alfalfa, corn, sugar beet and other croplands.

  • Tree Damage Occasional bark stripping occurs on shrubs within prairie dog colonies.
  • Structural Damage: occasional breach of canals, dikes and earthen dams via digging


Habitat modifications

  • Grassland management. Proper grazing use--rotate livestock through pasture systems, avoid season-long grazing but graze early spring, place salt and water for livestock away from prairie dog towns; exclude livestock for several seasons post control of prairie dogs.
  • No evidence that fencing works.


  • Some minor effects have been shown by placing poles and other perch sites for large hawks and barrier fences, hay bales and other obstacles for that prey upon prairie dogs.


  • Cage traps, raccoon size can be effective but have limited usefulness for large colonies.
  • Body-gripping traps (120 size) are more efficient than cage traps, provided their use is legal and safe in your area.


  • Particularly during breeding season through pup raising (January through June).
  • Condition prairie dogs with a propane cannon to get them accustomed to hearing loud noises prior to shooting.


  • Use poison grain baits followed by fumigants; prairie dogs require fresh, common baits, such as grains first to habituate them to take the toxic bait.
  • Fumigants containing the active ingredient (phosphine gas) are highly regulated. Obtain necessary permits before using.


Fumigants as pellets or tablets
Description: Commonly use Aluminum phosphide as an active ingredient. Read label to see which burrowing rodents can be controlled.
Photo Credits: Dallas Virchow

Gas Cartridges used for burrowing rodents
Description: Follow all safety directions. Use a screwdriver to punch end and stir contents. Insert and light fuse. Seal to contain gases.
Photo Credits: Used with permission from Univ. of CA. Statewide IPM Project, W.P. Gorenzel, photographer

Lighting the gas cartridge
Description: Follow all safety directions. Wooden match sticks or butane lighters work better in winds. Use flexible plastic tube to fully insert cartridge deep into burrows.
Photo Credits: Used with permission from Univ. of CA. Statewide IPM Project, W.P. Gorenzel, photographer

Sealing the burrow
Description: Seal burrow entrances to keep any smoke (gases) from escaping. Best used with high soil moisture and moderate temperatures.
Photo Credits: Used with permission from Univ. of CA. Statewide IPM Project, W.P. Gorenzel, photographer


  • Health Hazard Local colonies of prairie dogs readily succumb to bubonic plague.
  • Safety Hazard Black widow spiders and rattlesnakes are associated with colonies and burrows.
  • Horse and riders and breeding livestock may suffer injury when stepping into burrows.


University Publications


Prairie Dog Information--a prairie dog protectionist site but contains research and photos.

Nebraska Wildlife Species-Prairie Dogs--Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

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