Noxious Species of the Month
Blacktailed Prairie Dogs
As we start into the winter season, now is the time to start thinking about your black tail prairie dog management on your ranches. When left unchecked prairie dog colonies will grow exponentially leading to lower carrying capacity, higher livestock injury risk, and increased chance of erosion. You can prevent these issues by implementing management practices that help keep the population in check.
Management practices are important as nature usually does not do an adequate job keeping the animal numbers low enough to prevent degradation of your range and pastures. The plague is one natural method that usually knocks out a large percentage of the population. This cannot be counted on as it is usually only comes in as the population has exploded and caused vast detrimental effects to your property. Plague was confirmed on the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northern Converse County near the Campbell County line this summer and we have seen a vast decrease in populations in that area. Natural predators are not regularly found in dense enough populations to adversely effect the growth of the colony.
Shooting the prairie dogs can be fun and lucrative to some landowners, but generally doesn’t do enough for adequate control. One study shows that as prairie dogs turn cannibalistic on the animals that have been shot, the increased intake of protein actually leads to increased litters and number of pups. This could be the main reason that shooting this varmint doesn’t often result in successful control. This usually leads to a one way avenue, which is the application of pesticides for adequate control of this pest species.
Campbell County Weed and Pest have three products that we sell for control of blacktail prairie dogs. All three are restricted use pesticides that require an applicator’s license to apply and/or buy. The most popular in the last few years has been Rozol Prairie Dog Bait. Rozol costs about 14 dollars for a 30 pound bucket, and can be applied from October 1 toMarch 15. The second is Zinc Phosphide Prairie Dog Bait. ZP Prairie Dog Bait cost about 12 dollars for a 50 pound bag,and it can be applied from July through February. The final option is Fumitoxin/Weevil-cide,which is a fumigant. It cost about 13 dollars for a bottle of 500 tablets or 18 dollars for 2500 pellets, and can be applied year round. The next few paragraphs state some product characteristics and qualities to help you decide which is right for your situation.
Rozol Prairie Dog Bait is food grade wheat that has been treated with an anticoagulant. It is applied at least 6 inches down any active burrow. It is restricted use due to its dangers to non-target species. Some advantages include that it remains toxic for a relatively long period of time (over 10 days), it is placed down the burrow away from most non-target animals, and poisoned non-target animals can be treated with high dosages of Vitamin K. Some disadvantages are that there is extensive carcass search protocol, secondary poisoning is a concern for scavengers, and it has a grazing restriction of 21 days. Overall it is a great product, as stated above this has been the best seller of Campbell County Weed and Pest for the last few years.
Zinc Phosphide Prairie Dog Bait is rolled oats that has been treated with zinc phosphide. It is applied on the ground near active burrows. Prebaiting must be done with untreated rolled oats prior to the application of the product. The product canonly be administered once a year. Once again, the product is restrictive use due to its danger to non-target animals. Some advantages are that there are no grazing restrictions, it has the lowest cost of bait per hole between the three products, and it works quickly usually in less than two days. Some disadvantages include that it is toxic only for a short period of time especially if there is any moisture on the ground, it is applied on the surface making it available to many non-target animals, and prebaiting must be done which adds another step to the application process. This also is a great product that is excellent for areas that have very large infestations.
The final product is Fumitoxin/Weevil-cide, which is a fumigant that gives off a phosphine gas when it reacts with atmospheric moisture. The tablets are placed into the active burrow and then the all burrows openings (active/non-active)are covered with dirt. This product is restricted use for its hazard to human health as the gas is deadly, so extreme caution must be taken when applying this product. Some advantages include that it can be applied year-round, being buried in the hole limits the numberof non-target animals it can come in contact with, and it is the only product that does not need to be ingested. A few disadvantages are its hazard to humans and the increase in time and labor to cover all burrows. This product works well, and is the only option from March 15 to the end of June, but increased precautions must be taken when applying.
These products can help your operation keep your prairie dog numbers in check. If you apply these products correctly (always follow the label) you should see a significant decrease in the number of prairie dogs on your property. Remember when applying the poison baits that the amount of green feed available is important, the more natural food available the less likely the prairie dogs are to take the bait. These products are great control mechanisms. Just like with any other weed or pest infestation, do not expect complete 100% eradication when you start using these agents. Continued monitoring and use of controlling mechanisms, when needed, are necessary to keep numbers down and the health of your rangelands and pastures up. If you have any questions about these products or how to get started managing your prairie dogs, please call or stop by the office.