2011 APS Renewable Energy Site Prairie Dog Relocation


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.

A total of 44 prairie dogs were captured and relocated during 11 days of capture efforts, June 25 – July 7, 2011. We deployed between 160 – 175 traps per day for an average of 4.25 hours in the morning, for a total effort of 7,276.25 trap hours. Of the 44 prairie dogs, we captured 16 adults (8 male and 8 female) and 28 pups (12 male and 16 female). A total of 20 prairie dogs were male and 24 were female.

The traps of captured prairie dogs were labeled with a unique trapping area identification code in order to keep prairie dog family groups captured in the same area together and released together in the same burrow or nearby burrows. We attempted to recreate the same geographic layout of the capture site at the release site, so that neighboring prairie dogs would see familiar prairie dogs at the release site as well. The captured prairie dogs were released into 16 abandoned prairie dog burrow entrances at the release site. Based on the capture locations, we tried to release adult females and pups together and give adult males their own burrow whenever possible.

The prairie dogs were observed digging new burrows, opening old burrows, and eating the food we distributed at the release site in the weeks following release. The observations and activity of the prairie dogs indicate that the relocation effort was successful in establishing a new colony of prairie dogs at an abandoned colony and the displaced prairie dogs were doing well in their new home.

In addition to the 30 field days and hours of daily work by the relocation coordinator and technician on the project, Habitat Harmony worked with 22 volunteers who contributed 195 hours over the course of 25 volunteer field days to assist with this relocation effort.

A front page article on the relocation was featured in Flagstaff's newspaper, the Arizona Daily Sun.

Site before relocation and grading. Photo by Tom Beam

Site after relocation and grading. Photo by Tom Beam

Feeding three captured prairie dogs in one trap some carrots until they can be re-released. Photo by Tom Beam

Covering the trap with burlap for shade and labeling the trap with a tag. Photo by Tom Beam

Opening the trap door to freedom at a new home. Photo by Tom Beam

Volunteers help us prepare 200 traps for the relocation. Photo by Tom Beam

Volunteers pick up captured prairie dogs