Effects of predator training on behavior and post-release survival of captive prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus)

  • Published source details Shier D.M. & Owings D.H. (2006) Effects of predator training on behavior and post-release survival of captive prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Biological Conservation, 132, 126-135.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Train captive-bred mammals to avoid predators

Action Link
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
  1. Train captive-bred mammals to avoid predators

    A randomized, controlled study in 2002–2003 on grassland at a captive facility and at a reintroduction site in New Mexico, USA (Shier & Owings 2006) found that training captive-born juvenile black-tailed prairie dogs Cynomys ludovicianus, by exposing them to predators, enhanced post-release survival. Prairie dogs “trained” using black-footed ferrets Mustela nigripes, red-tailed hawks Buteo jamaicensis and prairie rattlesnakes Crotalus viridis had greater survival one year post-release than did untrained prairie dogs (data not presented). During captive trials, only the hawk elicited fleeing behaviour. The rattlesnake caused trained juveniles to spend more time being vigilant and making alarm noises and to spend less time in shelters than untrained juveniles. In spring 2002, eighteen captive-born juvenile prairie dogs were randomly assigned to training or non-training groups. Both groups had four tests/week for two weeks. Each test involved either a predator stimulus for the training group (live ferret, live rattlesnake or stuffed red tailed hawk, each accompanied by prairie dog alarm calls) or a non-predator control for the untrained group (live desert cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii). Prairie dogs were then released into a vacant colony in June 2002. Post-release survival was determined by live-trapping.

    (Summarised by: Nick Littlewood)

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust