Colorado - White-tailed Prairie Dog Habitat

State: Colorado
Region: NW Colorado, NE Utah, Wyoming and central Montana

White-tailed Prairie Dog Habitat

White-tailed prairie dogs are found only in North America.  They are found in NE Utah, NW Colorado, Wyoming, and south central Montana. White-tailed prairie dogs thrive in dry, high altitude areas, anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. Sage is an important form of cover in their habitat. Our native sagebrush/grassland communities require a new focus in the natural resource management balancing act. The majority of their remaining habitat is on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, much of which is leased for oil and gas drilling. Livestock and other native herbivores have intensively grazed the land that is not leased by the BLM. Even though the range of white-tailed prairie dogs has gone down by more than 90%, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the white-tailed prairie dog Endangered Species Act protection in 2010, saying it did not face significant threats from urbanization or energy development. A coalition of conservation groups, lead by Colorado based Rocky Mountain Wild, filed suit in early 2013 to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address the decline of the white-tailed prairie-dog a species that has vanished from 99 percent of its historical habitat. White-tailed prairie dogs inhabit the "Sagebrush Sea" of central and western Wyoming, northwestern Colorado, northeastern Utah, and south-central Montana, and are critical to the health of the sagebrush ecosystem.  The white-tailed prairie dog is an indicator of healthy wildlife populations in the sagebrush sea of the west.

On September 29th, 2014, a U.S. district judge ordered the USFWS to reconsider this decision.  The judgment stated the agency ignored available data and failed to rely on the best available science in deciding whether the prairie dog should be protected. The judge sent the findings back to the agency to fully comply with the law.   “This is a victory for the imperiled white-tailed prairie-dog and the many other species that depend on sage-brush habitat to survive” said Matthew Sandler, attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild, “The Court clearly told the Fish and Wildlife Service shortcuts in the listing process will not be tolerated.”

Due to reduced population levels throughout the West, both sage grouse and prairie dogs have been petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.