Moving To New Digs!

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Translocation: A Briefing for Developers in Gunnison Prairie Dog Habitat

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  • Since 2000, and the first known translocation of Gunnison's prairie dogs in northern Arizona, we have moved 470 evicted prairie dogs to safe, new homes.
  • The first job on a translocation project is studying the family groups, or "coteries." Prairie dogs fare better when they are moved with their families.
  • Another job that must be finished before we begin capturing is finding the new homes.  Arizona Game and Fish Department must approve all of our release sites, which also must be tested for plague. Abandoned burrows make the best new homes.
  • We use humane traps to capture the prairie dogs, and once they are captured we quickly cover the traps with burlap, which we sometimes spray with a mist from a water bottle, to help keep the prairie dogs cool. They are sensitive to temperature changes and cannot be allowed to get too hot or too cold. Their burrows provide a regulated temperature.
  • At the release site, we open a cage over the burrow entrance and once the prairie dog is secure inside the new burrow, we say a blessing.  The different Blessings we use may be found by Clicking Here.
  • Habitat Harmony volunteers return to the release site at least once a week during the first two months following a translocation, to see if the prairie dogs are adjusting to their new community. Monitoring continues for a full year.

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(But we are sure that we have heard several of the females commenting on the new digs, something to the effect that, "The new place is really more roomy and the neighborhood is soooo quiet!")

Capture and Release Techniques

When prairie dogs are translocated, the best release sites are abandoned burrows.  However, due to the scarcity of abandoned prairie dog colonies that are approved for Gunnison's prairie dog translocation, Habitat Harmony researched releasing prairie dogs into man-made burrows.  This report also includes information on visual barriers.

Click Here to View the Capture & Release Research Report by Chris Campbell

APS Renewable Energy Site Prairie Dog Relocation

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aps-relocation-0Habitat Harmony was contacted by EN3, Professionals, LLC and APS to help manage a colony of Gunnison's prairie dogs living on a 10 acre site designated for a new renewable energy site in Doney Park.

Through humane trapping and relocation techniques, we attempted to remove as many of the prairie dogs living on the site as possible before construction work and ground grading began.

An abandoned prairie dog colony with pre-existing burrows located far away from development was selected as the release site for the displaced prairie dogs and permission was obtained from the land owner and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

2007 Translocation

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2007 100 7458In 2007 the City of Flagstaff built a new fire station on Highway 180 next to the building where the Grand Canyon Trust is housed. The City agreed that Habitat Harmony could capture and translocate prairie dogs at this site prior to development. Both the trapping and the sidsing methods of capture were used. It was during this project that two prairie dogs pups were captured without their mothers. Being too young to release, these two were kept and became our prairie dog ambassadors. 16 prairie dogs were released at the same Game & Fish facility as were the 2005 prairie dogs, and Habitat Harmony has been monitoring their progress.

2005 Translocation

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2005 100 1916In 2005 Habitat Harmony volunteers learned the "sudsing process" to capture prairie dogs.  Lindsey Sterling-Krank of the Prairie Dog Coalition in Boulder, Colo., assisted.  15 prairie dogs were captured at three sites and released at the Game & Fish facility east of Flagstaff.  Habitat Harmony has followed their release and is pleased to note that they have multiplied in numbers.

2003 Translocation Project

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In 2003 The Flagstaff Mall began an expansion onto 90 acres adjacent to the existing mall.  Habitat Harmony and Arizona Game & Fish cooperated to translocate 299 prairie dogs.  Many Habitat Harmony volunteers worked to accustom the prairie dogs to go into traps using peanutbutter and molasses bait.  Habitat interns observed the prairie dogs to be sure they were translocated in family groups.  Volunteers released the prairie dogs at two locations, one ranch east of town and a Game & Fish facility east of town. Westcor, Inc. and the City of Flagstaff cooperated in this large translocation.

2000 Translocation Project

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In 2000 the City of Flagstaff expanded Foxglenn Park into a wildlife corridor used by many migrating wildlife and home to a large prairie dog colony. Prior to development the City agreed to a translocation project for the prairie dogs. This project was a joint effort between Arizona Game & Fish and Habitat Harmony Inc. and was the first transloction of Gunnison prairie dogs in northern Arizona. At the same time, Coconino County developed Peaks Park near Cromer School. Habitat Harmony and Game & Fish also translocated prairie dogs from the county location. Approximately 170 prairie dogs were translocated in this project. Many Habitat volunteers observed the prairie dogs to be sure they were translocated in family groups as well as helping to trap and release them.

Prairie Dog Blessings

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by Ann Weiler Walka

 At the Traps:  close gently and keep the little dog safe
Ah little dogs
Your friends are making prayers for you
Your friends are singing your praises
We bow to you who prosper by staying put
You who tend your garden and shelter your neighbors
You who stand watch
We honor your work:  burrowing, raising fat babies
feeding hawk with your bodies
We thank you for your rich soil and thick grass,
for the circle of lives
We thank you for standing watch for us all
We thank you for standing your ground
Your friends are singing your praises
Your friends are making prayers for you
In your new home, we wish you this again

At Departure
Blessings little dogs on your journey.
May the comfort of home travel with  you.
May you leave this cage in good voice and good health.
May your sharp eyes keep you safe in the new place.
May the desert sun warm you early and late.
May you greet your relations before nightfall.
May you sleep unafraid in your new burrow.
May the hawk and coyotes be fooled by your migration.
May the badgers be taken by surprise.
In your new home may you find companions, sanctuary, seeds.

At Release:  wishes for the new life (to choose from)
May you go safely into this new life.
May you find sanctuary, seeds, solace.
May this ground be your home.
May your relatives arrive soon and thrive with you.
May the coyotes be fat and the badgers lazy.  May the hawks fly off toward the mountain.
May the grasses grow thick and tender.  May the seeds by abundant.  May the leaves be wet and sweet.
May the desert sun warm your back early and late.
May your children grow fat and lively.
May you be in good voice and good health.
May your eyes be sharp and your mind smooth.
May the new dangers be clear.
May your territories be spacious and distinct.
May the desert ground shelter you well.
May your life here be good.  May your death feed the hungry.

A Message to Humans

"I used to be a city fellow.  I grew up with the city noises of cars and trains and machines and humans.  My family lived close to downtown Flagstaff not far from the railroad tracks along Route 66.  What a busy, frightening place it was."
Read My Letter to You

Prairie Dog Life

Click on the burrow images to find out more.

Nursing Chamber

A mother keeps her young pups safe while the other Prairie Dogs investigate the snake.

Entering the Burrow

A prairie dog hears an emergency cry of "snake" and goes to investigate.

Listening chamber

A prairie dog sits listening just beneath the surface of the ground.

The Rattlesnake

The rattlesnake found a prairie dog burrow to sleep in but has been discovered by the prairie dogs.

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