Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Len Broberg

Commitee Members

Brady Allred, Dan Spencer


black-tailed prairie dogs, Boulder County, ferruginous hawks, black-footed ferrets, burrowing owls


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are ecosystem regulators, significantly influencing the surrounding ecosystem. On Boulder County, Colorado Open Space and Mountain Parks land, and throughout their range, prairie dogs affect a number of ecological functions including plant dynamics and associated animals. The ability of prairie dogs to promote the wellbeing of associated plant and animal species depends on the condition of prairie dog populations. One way to evaluate the current condition of prairie dogs and predict their future impact on the ecosystem is to evaluate the status of prairie dogs in relation to specific indicators. I address the ecological status of black-tailed prairie dogs on Open Space and Mountain Parks land based on seven selected indicators, encompassing prairie dog living dynamics, associated plant dynamics, and associated animals. Based on available data, I analyze six indicators. I then make management recommendations based on my findings. Future management should consider the ability of prairie dogs to persist in a manner that benefits prairie dog populations and, by association, other native species and ecological functions. Management must also consider the impact and influence of human development on prairie habitat within open space land, and the potential for collaborative management to sustain prairie dog populations and encourage whole ecosystem health. Failure to manage prairie dogs for the health of the prairie ecosystem could result in the decline of prairie dogs, as well as a host of functions and associated species.



© Copyright 2015 Rachel A. Caldwell