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Armory Prairie Dog Relocation

Prairie dog management working group:  The City of Boulder is seeking applicants for an advisory working group to review the city’s current prairie dog management practices. Through collaborative efforts, the advisory group will make recommendations to the city manager regarding management of prairie dogs and their habitats on city-managed public land. Learn more.

Relocation Progress Reports

October 28, 2016 update pdf

October 14, 2016 update pdf

October 12, 2016 update pdf

October 10, 2016 update pdf   

October 7, 2016 update pdf   

Last update on colony relocation, Oct. 28, 2016: Recognizing community members’ desires to protect the prairie dog colony on the private Armory property at 4750 North Broadway, the City of Boulder in late August reached an agreement with the property owner to relocate the colony to city open space so that he can develop his land on Broadway.

As part of the agreement to relocate the prairie dogs, the Armory property owner retained control over the selection of a contractor and efforts to capture prairie dogs at the Armory site, in accordance with plans reviewed by the city. Currently, 99 percent of the 153-member prairie dog colony has been successfully relocated from the Armory to city open space east of Cherryvale Road and north of Marshall Drive. The relocated prairie dogs have been comfortably settling into their new home on city open space with initial observations showing prairie dogs using natural burrows and artificial nest boxes. They are also eating high-energy food that has been provided for them.

An estimated two animals have so far evaded capture at the Armory, and efforts will be focused on catching those individuals. The capture technique utilized for the remainder of the project will be flushing, also referred to as sudsing. This technique for capturing prairie dogs involves putting gallons of soapy water into a burrow so that the prairie dog runs out of the burrow and to the surface, where someone is waiting to capture it. Learn more about this capture technique. pdf

Flushing will be completed by Sunday, October 30. If prairie dogs still remain on the Armory site in burrows, lethal control in the form of a carbon monoxide (CO) fumigant will be used in advance of construction beginning at the site.

In advance of the relocation, city staff worked with interested community members, the Armory developer, his contractor and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make plans for the open-space receiving site to support a successful, safe and humane relocation of the Armory prairie dog colony. City staff also incorporated many community members' recommendations into the relocation plans. In addition, city staff identified dozens of burrow entrances at the colony’s new home, and mowed the area to improve visibility of burrow entrances and to create better conditions for released prairie dogs, who prefer lower vegetation. 

The City of Boulder also installed numerous artificial nest boxes to supplement the natural burrows as part of the relocation effort.  Learn more about the city’s methodology and relocation plans pdf

A New Home on Open Space: City of Boulder efforts to relocate the Armory Colony

City memos and presentations regarding prairie dog relocation

Relocation Plan and Methodology - Armory to Damyonovich Final Phase (Oct.. 28, 2016) pdf
Final details of Armory prairie dog relocation methodology for the receiving site (Sept. 29, 2016) pdf
Preliminary details of Armory prairie dog relocation methodology for the receiving site (Sept. 12, 2016) pdf
City Council Memo (Aug. 16, 2016): Update on city prairie dog relocation policies and priorities for 2016
Open Space Board of Trustees Memo (July 27, 2016): Prairie Dog Management Update

Staff updates to the Open Space Board of Trustees and the Boulder City Council

City staff response to prairie dog relocation concerns pdf
Boulder City Council, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016 - Update begins at 3:16:24
Open Space Board of Trustees, Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - Update begins at 2:02:04.

Contact: If you have questions about the city’s efforts to relocate prairie dogs to city open space, please call OSMP at 303-441-3440. If you are a member of the media, please contact Phillip Yates at 720-564-2051.

What are the objectives for the relocation?

City staff have been working with the Armory LLC prairie dog contractor for the past few weeks to ensure the methods and techniques used during the prairie dog relocation from the Armory to city property meet the project objectives. The objectives are:

  • Humane treatment of and conditions for prairie dogs
  • A successful relocation
  • Establishing a larger prairie dog population in the city’s southern grasslands, and
  • Minimizing human-induced disturbances to the southern grassland ecosystem to the extent possible, in meeting the above three objectives.

Staff recognizes the importance of allowing the contractor to use techniques, methods and equipment they are experienced with and have found to be successful, if they are reasonable and meet the objectives of the project. The methods that have been established allow for some contractor discretion while ensuring the objectives of the project are met.

How has the City of Boulder helped local prairie dogs and their associated species?

City of Boulder efforts to conserve and sustain protected areas of grassland habitats over the last five decades has helped the city to sustain thriving prairie dog habitats. Today, that work also has played an important role in making city open space one of the best areas in Colorado for nesting birds of prey and sustaining many local grassland bird populations.

Currently, City of Boulder prairie dog management plans, policies, practices and ordinances developed over the last two decades prioritize conservation of prairie dogs and minimization of lethal control. In fact, the City of Boulder is a pioneer in limiting lethal control of prairie dogs and effecting large-scale relocation projects – with more than 1,150 prairie dogs relocated in 2013 and 2014. Today, the City of Boulder’s intense focus on minimizing lethal control is unique among land management agencies in northern Colorado. 

City of Boulder prairie dog management timeline

1967: Boulder residents voted to approve a specific tax to acquire and maintain open space – the first time residents voted to tax themselves for open space. That tax measure allowed the city to acquire thousands of acres of grassland open space where prairie dogs now thrive.

1996: The City of Boulder developed a plan – with the help of farmers and community members – to develop a set of goals for prairie dog management and to create conservation areas for this important wildlife species.

2005: The Boulder City Council adopted a Wildlife Protection Ordinance after a long and intense public process, which limits the use of lethal control on prairie dogs and wild birds by requiring landowners to obtain a permit from the city. In order for a permit to be issued, the landowner must satisfactorily demonstrate that all non-lethal options for managing prairie dogs or wild birds on a site were considered, and are not feasible.

2006: The City Council accepted the Urban Wildlife Management Plan (UWMP), which included work to identify prairie dog protection opportunities in the urban service area and to outline strategies for resolving conflicts.

2010: The City Council accepted the Grassland Ecosystem Management Plan, which reflected the ecological importance of prairie dogs in creating and sustaining distinctive ecological conditions on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) grasslands. That plan provides a framework to conserve prairie dogs and their associates with the other conservation targets by:

  • Establishing viability standards and conservation objectives for all eight targets, including prairie dogs and associated species.
  • Defining land management designations and applying them to every prairie dog colony mapped on OSMP lands.
  • Developing criteria to guide relocation of prairie dogs to, from, and within the OSMP land system.

City of Boulder plans that address prairie dog management
Urban Wildlife Management Plan
Grassland Ecosystem Management Plan

How does the City of Boulder manage prairie dog removal?

When prairie dog removal is necessary, the Urban Wildlife Management Plan emphasizes humane, non-lethal control whenever feasible. Relocation is the primary way to reduce lethal control in areas where prairie dogs are in conflict with other land uses, and is part of the UWMP six-step decision-making process that guides prairie dog removal in Boulder. More information about the UWMP. The relocation of prairie dogs on city open space is guided by the Grassland Ecosystem Management Plan.

On open space land, prairie dogs play an integral role in our grassland ecosystems. However, prairie dog colonies can also conflict with city infrastructure and the city’s open space charter purposes, such as preserving the area’s agricultural uses by, for example, disrupting irrigation systems. Prairie dogs, in some cases, also conflict with our grassland conservation goals and our work to create diverse habitats. Unfortunately, many important plant communities like mesic tallgrass and animal species – such as grasshopper sparrows – cannot thrive in areas where there are active prairie dog colonies.

For years, OSMP has relocated prairie dogs without lethal control to areas where they can support intact grassland ecosystems and where they are not in conflict our land management goals. However, finding relocation sites is an ongoing challenge due to conflicting adjacent land uses, need to maintain prairie ecosystems not associated with prairie dog occupation, State permitting requirements and high levels of occupation across the northern portions of OSMP. 

The ability to relocate is also constrained by public concerns about relocating prairie dogs near their property, and by state and federal regulations that make it difficult to move prairie dogs to optimal, available sites outside of the county. Because of this, in 2016, the city only has 16.5 acres currently available for re-location. 

How much city open space is available for re-located prairie dogs?

The City of Boulder currently has about 3,400 acres of active prairie dog colonies on land managed by the city’s OSMP and Recreation departments. Of that 3,400 acres, the city currently conserves 2,700 acres as prairie dog habitat designated for conservation of prairie dogs. The other 700 acres has prairie dog colonies that are in conflict with open space purposes and land management goals, including irrigated agriculture, planned park development sites, and rare plant habitat.

The city only has 16.5 acres of available open space where it can relocate prairie dogs. The Armory prairie dog colony will be relocated to an area north of Marshall Road on the 16.5 acres of land OSMP has designated for prairie dog re-location.

Has the City of Boulder accepted prairie dogs from private property owners before?

Yes. In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the City of Boulder allowed hundreds of prairie dogs to be transported to city open space. However, by about 2003, the population of prairie dogs increased significantly, and, unfortunately, several colonies began to compromise the integrity and biodiversity of the grassland ecosystem, leading to decline of native plant communities, loss of topsoil, and the need for dust abatement and erosion management on some prairie dog colonies.

In 2003, the city began its current practice of limiting the relocation of prairie dogs from private property to city open space to preserve important grassland ecosystems and to lessen conflict with agricultural operators. The City of Boulder encouraged the Armory developer and concerned community members to find a privately-owned area to relocate the Armory colony. However, no feasible private solution emerged.

After hearing feedback from community members, the Open Space Board of Trustees and the Boulder City Council, the City of Boulder, has reconsidered its long-standing practice of not receiving prairie dogs from private property in this circumstance, and is working to effect a relocation of the Armory prairie dogs to city open space.