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Prairie Dog Relocations

2019 Prairie Dog Relocation Updates

Update (December 2019): During 2019, approximately 40 prairie dogs (making a two year total of ~400 animals) were moved from the Nu-West property to Damyanovich receiving site in the Southern Grasslands Preserve, and 561 prairie dogs were moved from the Johnson Monarch/Johnson Dawson colony to the Salstrand/Mesa Sand and Gravel receiving site in the Southern Grasslands. 

Following extensive efforts to trap and relocate prairie dogs from the Nu West and Johnson Dawson/Johnson Monarch property agricultural fields, OSMP will work with a contractor to use in burrow lethal control for any animals remaining on the sites. Lethal control will be accomplished with PERC (Pressurized exhaust rodent control) technology which uses carbon monoxide as the lethal agent. Following the completion of removal efforts, restoration will begin on the properties in 2020 to restore irrigated agricultural use including hay production. All lethal control will be performed in accordance with City of Boulder Urban Wildlife Management Plan and the Wildlife Protection Ordinance (BRC 6-1-11) under a lethal control permit issued by the City Manager. Using lethal control at the end of a relocation project for a small number of remaining prairie dogs is common and consistent with City policies and practices. 

City of Boulder prairie dog relocation efforts

The City of Boulder supervises and/or manages the relocation of prairie dog colonies to Open Space and Mountain Parks-managed areas where they can support intact grassland ecosystems and where they are not in conflict with other land management goals. Goals for prairie dog relocations to city open space include:

  • Ensuring humane treatment of and conditions for prairie dogs;
  • Minimizing disturbances to grassland ecosystems to the extent possible;
  • Reimbursing the public for costs associated with the relocation of prairie dogs from private property; and
  • Addressing conflicts between prairie dogs and other city goals and objectives on city-owned properties.

In all relocation efforts, city staff obtains necessary state permitting to allow a project to go forward. Staff also supervises relocations to ensure that all city regulations and state permitting requirements are being followed. In most cases, the actual work of relocating prairie dogs from a removal site to city open space will be done by contractors. Staff works with contractors to ensure that their relocation methodologies follow the requirements of the city for humane relocation and meet the objectives of relocation projects.

In 2002, the City of Boulder developed a set of procedures that outline how the city will handle activities involving prairie dog relocation from private land within the city onto city-managed land. These procedures also identify how the city handles relocating prairie dogs from city property to other city lands. That document mandates that all costs associated with the relocation of prairie dogs shall be the responsibility of the landowner of the removal site, either a private property owner or the respective city department.

What are some of the challenges associated with relocating prairie dogs?

While the city conducts prairie dog relocations – including recent efforts to remove prairie dogs from development sites, city parks and OSMP agricultural lands – relocations are logistically complicated and expensive. Finding suitable relocation sites is also challenging. There are many plant communities, such as xeric tallgrass prairie, and animal species like grasshopper sparrows that do not thrive where there are active prairie dog colonies, making these grasslands poor choices for relocating prairie dogs.  

Open space relocation sites must also meet specific standards to obtain a relocation permit from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. OSMP’s ability to relocate prairie dogs is further constrained by neighboring landowner concerns about relocating prairie dogs near their property, and state law makes it difficult to move prairie dogs to available sites outside of Boulder County. 

While OSMP has more than 1,050 acres of irrigable agricultural land that overlaps with prairie dog occupation, past relocation projects have only been able to accommodate the removal of up to 70 acres of prairie dog colonies per year because of the cost, time, contractor availability and permitting requirements associated with those projects.