Prairie dog management

A prairie dog is shown.

This fall may provide some opportunities to accomplish tasks that there is not always time for other years. For instance the dry conditions this fall could provide the opportunity to manage areas with prairie dog populations. Prairie dogs compete with livestock for forage. This can be a concern for livestock producers, especially during dry conditions when grass and other feed supplies are limited.

Prairie dog numbers should be controlled by employing a combination of strategies. Pesticide products, as well as biological, cultural and mechanical controls can all be helpful. Biological control includes improving habitat for predators. Raptors, coyotes, snakes, badgers and ferrets all consume prairie dogs as part of their diet. An example would be the installation of raptor perches that encourage raptor activity in the area.

Cultural control includes grass management. Management techniques such as rotational grazing, which help to keep grass healthy, can help deter prairie dog settlements.

Mechanical controls such as hunting and trapping can also help reduce prairie dog numbers. However mechanical controls are often not effective in reducing prairie dog numbers in heavily infested areas.

The last method to control prairie dogs is by chemical methods. There are five chemical products labelled in South Dakota to control prairie dogs. These include zinc phosphide, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, aluminum phosphide, and gas cartridges. Of these five products, the first three listed are treated grain baits and the last two products are fumigants.

The treated grain baits, zinc phosphide, chlorophacinone and diphacinone, are labelled for use in S.D. during the fall and early winter months (be sure to check the label of each product). If grass is in short supply due to dry conditions, these products will be more effective. Therefore late fall, when conditions are dry, and prior to when the ground is snow covered, can be an ideal time to use the baited grain products. These products are often the products of choice to handle large prairie dog towns. The fumigant products are labelled for use year round and will work better when there is some moisture in the soil.

The first four products listed are restricted use products. This means that anyone purchasing, handling or applying these products needs to have either a current private or commercial applicator license in South Dakota. All products need to be handled with care. It is important to read and follow label directions.

An integrated approach to control prairie dogs that includes more than one of the above methods is encouraged to keep prairie dog numbers down.

For more detailed information on prairie dog management visit the link https://extension.sdstate.edu/prairie-dog-management-south-dakota or email ruth.beck@sdstate.edu; South Dakota State University, South Dakota counties, and USDA cooperating.

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