Major Prairie Dog Die-Off Had Consequences For Other Animals, Wildland

"When plague struck black-tailed prairie dogs in the Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming in 2017, a huge die-off followed. It spelled disaster for the burrowing rodents. But for researchers, it provided an opportunity for a “natural experiment” in the consequences of a single species’ collapse.

What happened next is the basis of a study in the journal Ecological Applications. It follows the fates of not only the prairie dogs but also the land they lived on and the many animals their deaths affected.

Researchers looked at data on prairie dog distributions before and after the plague, along with surveys of the area’s vegetation and its animals — including carnivores such as badgers, foxes and coyotes; deer and elk; and 80 species of birds.

Before the plague, prairie dogs stretched over 10,000 hectares (about 39 square miles) in the grassland. Afterward, they could be found only in an area of less than 50 hectares."

Erin Blakemore reports for the Washington Post January 14, 2023.

Source: Washington Post, 01/17/2023