City regularly relocates prairie dog colonies

City Regularly Conducts Prairie Dog Relocations

The City of Boulder relocates prairie dog colonies to Open Space and Mountain Parks 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 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.

2021 Prairie Dog Relocation Updates

During 2021, OSMP plans to relocate approximately 47 acres of prairie dogs from irrigated agricultural lands and other areas where they are in conflict with land management goals. These prairie dogs will be relocated to the Waneka site in the OSMP Southern Grasslands Preserve. Learn more about relocation plans for this year in the presentation from the annual meeting.

What Permits are Needed to Relocate Prairie Dogs?

In all relocation efforts, city staff obtains necessary permits from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to allow a project to go forward. Staff also supervises relocations to ensure that all city regulations and state permitting requirements are followed. In most cases, the actual work of relocating prairie dogs from a removal site to city open space is done by contractors. Staff works with contractors to ensure that their relocation methodologies are humane 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 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 40 acres of prairie dog colonies per year because of the cost, time, contractor availability and permitting requirements associated with those projects.