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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The effect of coterie relocation on release-site retention and behavior of Utah prairie dogs

Published source details

Curtis R., Frey S.N. & Brown N.L. (2014) The effect of coterie relocation on release-site retention and behavior of Utah prairie dogs. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 78, 1069-1077


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Release translocated/captive-bred mammals into area with artificial refuges/breeding sites Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, before-and-after study in 2010–2011 in two grassland sites in Utah, USA (Curtis et al. 2014) found that translocated Utah prairie dogs Cynomys parvidens released into an area with artificial burrows after the control of native predators tended to leave the release site and spent more time being vigilant than before. Only 50 out of 779 (6%) were still present at the release sites two months after release. After translocation in both family groups and groups of unrelated individuals, prairie dogs spent more time being vigilant (48%) than they had done before translocation (22%). In July 2010 and 2011, prairie dogs (379 and 400) were caught on a golf course using baited Tomahawk wire box-traps. Individuals were marked with hair dye and ear tags and released the same day at two sites with artificial burrow systems, with up to 10 animals/burrow. Each site had four release areas at least 200 m apart, each containing five burrows, 4 m apart. Each burrow consisted of a 30 × 45 × 30 cm box, buried 1.8m deep, and with two entrances (10-cm diameter and 4-m long) made from plastic tubing. Extra holes were left in the box and tubing to allow burrow expansion. Burrow entrances were protected from predators by mesh cages. At each site, two release areas were used for family groups and two were used for non-related groups. Predator removal of coyote Canis latrans and badgers Taxidea taxus was conducted for several weeks before and after prairie dog release. In September 2010 and 2011, prairie dogs were trapped, using 100 traps/site, during two sessions of four days each to determine numbers remaining at the site.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Release translocated/captive-bred mammals in areas with invasive/problematic species eradication/control Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, before-and-after study in 2010–2011 in two grassland sites in Utah, USA (Curtis et al. 2014) found that translocated Utah prairie dogs Cynomys parvidens released after the control of native predators into an area with artificial burrows showed low release site fidelity and different pre- and post-release behaviour. After translocation in both family groups and groups of unrelated individuals, prairie dogs spent more time being vigilant (48%) than they had done before translocation (22%). Only 50 out of 779 were still present at the release sites two months after release. In July 2010 and 2011, three hundred and seventy-nine and 400 prairie dogs were caught on a golf course using baited Tomahawk wire box-traps. Individuals were marked with hair dye and ear tags and released the same day at two sites with artificial burrow systems, with up to 10 animals/burrow. Each site had four release areas at least 200 m apart, each containing five burrows, 4 m apart. Each burrow consisted of a 30 × 45 × 30 cm box, buried 1.8m deep, and with two entrances (10-cm diameter and 4-m long) made from plastic tubing. Extra holes were left in the box and tubing to allow burrow expansion. Burrow entrances were protected from predators by mesh cages. At each site, two release areas were used for family groups and two were used for non-related groups. Predator removal of coyote Canis latrans and badgers Taxidea taxus was conducted for several weeks before and after prairie dog release. In September 2010 and 2011, prairie dogs were trapped, using 100 traps/site, during two sessions of four days each to determine site retention.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Release translocated/captive-bred mammals in family/social groups Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2010–2011 in two grassland sites in Utah, USA (Curtis et al. 2014) found no differences in the release site fidelity or post-release behaviour of translocated Utah prairie dogs Cynomys parvidens released in family groups or in groups composed of non-related individuals. Similar numbers of prairie dogs released in family groups (24 out of 386, 6%) and in non-related groups (26 out of 393, 7%) were still present at the release sites two months after release. Additionally, the post-release behaviour did not differ between groups, but both groups behaved differently post-release than pre-release (data presented as model results). In July 2010 and 2011, three hundred and seventy-nine and 400 prairie dogs were caught on a golf course using baited Tomahawk wire box-traps. Individuals were marked with hair dye and ear tags and released the same day at two sites with artificial burrow systems, with up to 10 animals/burrow. Each site had four release areas at least 200 m apart, each containing five burrows, 4 m apart. Each burrow consisted of a 30 × 45 × 30 cm box, buried 1.8m deep, and with two entrances (10-cm diameter and 4-m long) made from plastic tubing. Burrow entrances were protected from predators by mesh cages. At each site, two release areas were used for family groups and two for non-related groups. Predator removal of coyote Canis latrans and badgers Taxidea taxus was conducted for several weeks before and after prairie dog release. In September 2010 and 2011, prairie dogs were trapped, using 100 traps/site, during two sessions of four days each to determine site retention.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)