Prairie Dogs And Their Ecosystem

jpeg_food_web.jpgfood web

Abiotic Factors
Biotic Factors
Poisonous gases: they are used to kill the prairie dogs and it also harmfully affects their ecosystem
Prairie dogs

Rocks:Apennine ophiolitic

Burrowing owls
Soil: Contains a large amount of clay, retaining water easily. They are very nutrient rich because of large amounts of biomass (dead animals and plants)
Climate: basically dry. no more than 100 cm of precipitation per year. temperate sub tropical areas with cold winters and hot summers.
Various Grasses

Threats to Ecosystem:
  • Poison used to exterminate the prairie dogs also poisons the plants around the prairie dogs (South Dakota Department of Agriculture produced 150,000 pounds of poisoned oats in 1991 alone)
  • Habitat destruction has shrunk the grasslands that prairie dogs live in. Colonies now are often too small and widespread to support large populations.
  • Deliberate killing of prairie dogs is also a threat to the ecosystem because prairie dogs are a keystone part of this ecosystem. They provide for the other animals of the ecosystem with habitats or food. Abandoned burrows are frequently the home of other animals and their fecal matter makes the soil rich for plants and grasses. So the decreasing prairie dog population is seriously affecting other living things in the ecosystem

Importance of Prairie Dogs to the Grassland Ecosystem

Prairie dogs are called a "keystone" species in grassland ecosystems. In other words, the prosperity of prairie dogs is essential for the well being of other animals. One thing provided by prairie dogs is homes when the prairie dogs leave their burrows. For example, as the population of prairie dogs has decreased, the population of the burrowing owls that live in abandoned prairie dog holes has diminished. These small critters also make soil more nutritious when they dig and they move about 500 pounds of soil for every burrow they create. Then, the nutrition is passed into plants and grazing animals such as deer, elk, cows, and pronghorn. Another way prairie dogs help the grassland ecosystem is controlling the height of plants around them, which gives them an advantage when spotting predators while it allows other plants to flourish and increases plant diversity. Last, prairie dogs are an abundant food source for animals of all kinds. Digging homes, improving the quality of the soil, managing the plant growth around colonies, and providing a constant food source are the main, very important roles of prairie dogs in the grassland ecosystem.

Prairie Dog closeup
Prairie dogs in zoos are so often an attraction like this

These are some Burrowing Owls that share burrows with the prairie dogs

This is a burrow that prairie dogs share with burrowing owls and ferrets

Prairie dogs eat grass, forb, and sedges

This is a baby prairie dog, looking inside its burrow
This is the Mexican Prairie Dog
These prairie dogs have been killed by extermination

This ferret is eating its roommate

Prairie dogs put on weight to survive the cold winters

Conservation Plan:
1) Ban the shooting and poisoning of prairie dogs and have an organization, such as the Colorado Division of Wildlife, accept the role of estimating and controlling the growth of prairie dog populations
- Gather support by not poisoning the prairie dogs which is harmful for the environment: In the last 100 years, millions of acres of land the prairie dogs have lived off of have been wrecked because of unregulated poisoning

2) Restrict the space between prairie dog colonies so that prairie dogs are concentrated in certain areas and a bit of the expanse that once was grassland habitat can be used by farmers while the prairie dogs can still thrive
- The average number of prairie dog burrows per acre is around 35 but there have been up to 100