Is it legal to trap and relocate prairie dogs to other locations?
Yes, but only with a permit from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Securing a permit depends on a number of factors; see below, and review the application form prior to contacting your local District Wildlife Manager. In some cases, it may also require the approval from the receiving county board of county commissioners.
Is it legal to trap prairie dogs and send them to facilities where they will be fed to other animals?
Yes, in some cases it is. In cases in which the use of property is changing, and prairie dogs may legally be killed, and when there is a need for them to benefit either black-footed ferrets (an endangered species) or raptors in rehabilitation programs, permits can be granted to capture the prairie dogs, and transport them to be used as food. A separate permit is required from CPW for each of these options.
Is it legal for landowners to kill prairie dogs?
Yes. Black tailed prairie dogs are classified by the CPW as "other small game," and by the Colorado Department of Agriculture as a "destructive rodent pest." These classifications give them little protection. In addition, landowners, (or an agent of the landowner) may hunt, trap, or kill prairie dogs when they are causing damage to crops, real or personal property or livestock. The current statutes and regulations that form the framework for the application processes can be viewed under the General Provisions and Furbearers and Small Game, Except Migratory Birds sections of Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations.
Why does the CPW allow people to relocate prairie dogs?
Public interest in urban and suburban prairie dog populations is strong in some regions of the state. Especially in suburban and urban areas, where development is planned for old-field communities on which prairie dogs have been living, demand for alternatives to colony destruction can be substantial. These prairie dog communities are valued for numerous reasons, including, but not limited to, the wildlife viewing and educational opportunities they offer, as well as the local ecological contribution - prairie dog colonies often attract other interesting and valued wildlife species such as hawks and eagles. When suitable release sites are available, and there is local support for relocation, prairie dog relocation can be permitted. CPW does require that release site managers have a plan for minimizing or mitigating any potential damage to local properties.
Why aren't more prairie dogs relocated?
One of the biggest challenges for people seeking to relocate prairie dogs is finding available suitable habitat to which they can be relocated. Citizens interested in the conservation and/or management of local prairie dog colonies can contact their city or county planning or open space departments for information about plans to conserve properties for future prairie dog habitat.
Does CPW provide relocation services?
No. CPW can issue a permit for relocation, but does not, itself, directly participate in or provide on-site management of relocation processes. Most relocation efforts are coordinated by local governments or private/non-profit groups, with the actual trapping, transporting and relocation usually handled by contract with a private company or individual with skills in this area.
What are some of the most important things I should note before applying for a wild-to-wild relocation permit?
Applicants must contact the CPW, and consult with their local District Wildlife Manager.
Applicants must have permission from the landowners of both the capture and the proposed relocation or "release" site.
The proposed release site must meet minimum habitat suitability requirements.
Any proposal to move prairie dogs from one county to another requires the approval of the receiving county board of commissioners.
Prior to approving an application, CPW will review and consider both the potential biological and social impacts of the proposed relocation.
Applicants must read, sign, and submit two copies of the permit "Special Conditions" with the application. Special conditions for this permit are fairly detailed, and require compliance with and consideration of a number of human health and wildlife handling guidelines.
Does it cost anything to apply?
Yes, a $40 permit fee for prairie dog relocation permits. The fee is for the issuance of a permit, not for the processing of an application. Similar to other special licensing applications, it is most efficient if an applicant submits their application with a check for $40 made payable to Colorado Parks and Wildlife attached to the application. If an applicant submits an application with the $40 check and the permit is not issued then the $40 check will be returned.
Don't prairie dogs "carry" plague?
Generally, local prairie dog colonies pose little or no real risk to human health. Plague can be transmitted through a type of flea that carries the disease. These fleas are fairly species specific, meaning they will tend to stay close to their "host species," in this case, prairie dogs and other rodents. Domestic dogs and cats, however, that are allowed to run loose in a prairie dog colony, can attract fleas, and could potentially acquire the disease; precautions should be taken. CPW permit conditions have been reviewed and approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and no relocation activity would be permitted in cases in which local health departments express concerns about risk to human health.
Are prairie dogs endangered?
No. CPW and the USFWS have determined that populations of black-tailed prairie dogs on native short grass prairie habitat are not endangered.