Are you wondering why your manicured lawn is suddenly destroyed? Well, you might be dealing with a prairie dog infestation. While these critters look cute, don’t be deceived because they can be very destructive. If you live in the western part of the Mississippi River, you’ll understand how they can be such a nuisance.
The good news is, these little rodents can be eliminated in several ways, although it won’t be that easy it is possible. In no time, your lawn will be vibrantly green and perfect again. So, here are some helpful tips on how to get rid of prairie dogs and some information about them.
What You Need to Know About the Prairie Dog
Prairie dogs can be found in the entire USA, and many people are suffering from prairie dog infestation. However, before you try to get rid of this small, dog-like species, let’s get to know some information about them.
Prairie dogs are generally brown, furry animals with light cream or white bellies. They have four muscular legs with claws and short tails. Their eyes are large and black, located on the side of their head to detect objects. They have relatively tiny ears compared to their body size. Older prairie dogs can grow 14 to 17 inches long and weigh around 1 to 3 pounds. Since there are five different species of this animal, they can be easily identified with their color and tail.
Black-tailed prairie dogs dwell in the Great Plains of North America from about the borders of Canada and Mexico. All five species of prairie dogs favor dry, flat fields of vegetation and grasslands. They like soils that are refined or medium textured so that they can quickly build burrows on the ground. They do not enjoy living in areas with tall grass or places covered with brushwoods. Black-tailed prairie dogs also dwell near creeks and rivers in the Great Plains region.
Prairie Dog Towns
A prairie dog colony is also referred to as a prairie dog town. These so-called towns can be easily recognized by the mounds of soil and holes at the burrow entrances. A single colony can have at least 30-50 burrow entrances in an acre of land. Most of the time, the burrow entrances are cone-shaped that are about 1-3 feet in diameter. The mounds help prevent water from getting inside the burrow and as their lookout points as well. Prairie dog towns have groups of prairie dogs called coteries. A coterie normally has three to four adult females, one adult male, and their young.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are very dynamic during summertime, and like any other species, they spend their time looking for food in the morning and evening. They do not hibernate during the cold months but can be seen underground during bad winter or rainy days for shelter.
What Prairie Dogs Eat
Prairie dogs feed mainly on grasses and seeds. They also eat fruits, stems, roots, leaves, and even insects like grasshoppers, bugs, and beetles. They do not usually drink water, but the water they need to survive comes from the plants they consume. During winter, lactating or pregnant females get their extra supply of water from snow.
Prairie dogs can threaten ranchers’ or farmers’ livelihood because they feed on grass and other vegetation. They may also carry a plague that can affect animals and humans. They also attract rattlesnakes and black widow spiders to rest in their abandoned burrows, which may be deadly to humans when they get bitten.
Different Types of Prairie Dogs
There are five species of prairie dog that are known to humans. However, some of these rodents are now endangered due to the loss of their natural habitat. Knowing which type of prairie dog you are dealing with will help you choose the right pest control method.
Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
They get their name from the blacktip they have on their tail. This species was listed as endangered but was removed from the list in 2009.
Mexican Prairie Dog
Mexican prairie dogs have reddish-brown fur and a black tail tip that covers almost half of their tail. They are included in the endangered list, so be careful when dealing with them.
Gunnison’s Prairie Dog
Compared to other species that have a black tip tail, Gunnison’s prairie dog has a black and white-tipped tail. While not listed in the endangered list, they play an important role in their native habitat and should be treated with care. They are more common in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.
White-Tailed Prairie Dog
The white-tailed prairie dog as the name suggests has a whitetail with tannish-brown fur. They are also not considered endangered.
How to Get Rid of Prairie Dogs From Your Property
Prairie dogs can invade your property without warning. They can easily ruin your garden, yard, field, and sometimes even your shed. While some people may find them cute and adorable, they can be a nightmare to deal with. However, before you attempt to deal with these burrowing rodents, you need to know which type of species you are dealing with as the federal government has the right to decide whether or not you can take action.
This is because the Utah and Mexican prairie dogs are considered endangered species, and just recently the federal government added the black-tailed prairie dog to the list. Currently, it is legal to hunt prairie dogs in the 11 states of the United States.
If you like hunting, you can use your hunting skills to get rid of prairie dogs. However, be mindful of the laws or regulations when it comes to hunting these critters, as hunting prairie dogs is not allowed in some areas. However, most areas consider them as pests, so there is a big chance that your area is one of them. If you don’t like hunting, you can find someone to do it for you. Some hunters would be more than willing to take care of your prairie dog problem.
Another prairie dog control method you can use is by trapping them. This may somehow be a bit challenging since these creatures are highly intelligent. Aside from that you need to cover a lot of places to set up your traps. Aside from that, a permit from your state’s department of conservation may be needed. When setting up your live traps, it’s best to rough it up a bit so they won’t look too shiny. Leave the door open for a couple of days until they feel that it is safe.
You can use some plants as baits like forbs and grasses. Find out what a prairie dog usually gets from your yard and use them as baits. Once they are comfortable around the live trap, you can now set it to capture them. Once you have captured a prairie dog, make sure you release it in an area where it is allowed to do so. Bodygrip traps and cage traps are both effective when capturing a prairie dog.
Poisons and Rodenticides
Before using this method it is important that you know the risks involved. While they are effective, you need to use them with caution as you may also accidentally kill your pets and other wildlife and endangered species like black-footed ferrets. Aside from that, if there are small children in the area, they may accidentally get in contact with the poison.
When using this method, make sure you only utilize those that are intended for prairie dogs. You may get in trouble with federal law if you don’t follow. You must also read the instructions that come with the package and follow them carefully. Read the safety measures as well in case you get exposed to the chemicals. Another thing to remember is that some areas may have restrictions on using rodenticide, such as when you can use it, where you can use it, and what product you can use.
You may find that there are different types of rodenticides. There are anticoagulants that are known as first-generation poisons and second-generation poisons such as bromethalin. The anticoagulants work but may take a while. It works by letting the animal bleed internally until they die. The second generation reacts faster and can usually solve the infestation quicker. Rodenticides with zinc phosphide are also effective. This type of poison works by creating a phosphine gas that is poisonous.
Using poison is effective and is somewhat faster since you can easily target all entrances with less contact with the prairie dog. The downside is collecting the dead animals and removing the dying ones. In addition to that, you need to get an applicator license for the specific pest control you are going to use. An exam will be given and you need to pass it to get the license.
Another option to try is to use USDA gas cartridges. Some landowners toss gas cartridges in the burrow’s entrance to fumigate the tunnels. It works by filling the burrow with carbon monoxide to get rid of the pests. However, you need to be cautious since it burns quickly and can easily catch dry materials near it. Before you use it, block the other entrances first before you light the fuse.
Since this can be very dangerous as aluminum phosphide cartridges are very toxic, most areas do not allow using it or certain restrictions are in place like where to use it. If you are close to a public place or other private residences, you may not be allowed to use aluminum phosphide cartridges.
Hire a Pest Control Professional
If you do not want to deal with the problem yourself, you can always hire a licensed pest control professional to do it for you. It may cost you some money but you’ll have no contact with the animal and you don’t have to deal with collecting carcasses.
How to Prevent Prairie Dogs From Coming Back
Once you are successful with your prairie dog removal, you need to make sure they won’t come back to your property. Here are some of the ways you can prevent them from invading your land again.
Build a Fence
To hide your property from these critters and prevent another infestation, you can build a fence or other objects that will hinder them from seeing your lawn. Reducing their visibility is one way to keep them from coming to you. Aside from the fence, you can also plant some tall grasses around your yard. Indian grass, big bluestem, and other native plants that are tall enough to obscure the view of your property. However, it may take a while before these plants can grow and establish a less inviting place for them. But it can be a good long-term plan to keep them from invading your yard.
If you are looking for a humane way of dealing with a prairie dog, you can use natural repellents to keep them away. There are several repellents that are safe to use and won’t harm the prairie dogs. One good example is using the scent of their predators. One of the prairie dog’s natural predators is the fox. Once they smell them, these rodents will run away. You can use fox urine or coyote urine which you can easily get from gardening stores. However, it may take a couple of applications.
Another natural repellent you can try is by spreading hot peppers or cayenne in their burrows. You can also place them on their food source. Prairie dogs eat local vegetation and once they can’t access their food supplies, they will leave your property alone.
Remove Their Food Source
You need to find out what this animal loves to eat so you can remove them from your place. Once you have identified what their favorite diet is and take it away from them, they won’t have any reason to come and bother you again. Most prairie dogs eat insects, fruits, grasses, stems, and roots.
Since most people do not find prairie dogs to be a nuisance, there are very few repellents that are specifically designed for them. However, you can use repellents made for other rodents such as squirrels since they are closely related. When choosing a prairie dog repellent, check the ingredients and go for the non-toxic ones. They are safer for both humans and other pets you may have at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get rid of prairie dogs in your yard?
Prairie dogs are a nuisance to landowners or farmers. Not only do they ruin the looks of the lawn, but they can also create other problems like soil erosion or damaging livestock. One great way to get rid of prairie dogs is by placing live traps in your yard. You need to put food at the entrance and behind the live trap. You can also add a mixture of dog lures and grass to your food trap to attract them easily. Prairie dogs love the smell of that mixture, making it easy for them to get caught.
What can you use to kill prairie dogs?
You can kill prairie dogs with a trap, gun, or poison. You can kill them with a deadly trap. Just make sure you set the trap correctly. Shooting them with a gun is also an option. It would be best if you have the right rifle to hunt them effectively. Lastly, you can use poison but make sure that you know the law or its restrictions on using it. Killing prairie dogs should be your last resort.
What poison kills prairie dogs?
Rozol is one of the poisons that can kill prairie dogs. It is used to control black-tailed prairie dogs. It has been used for decades to manage different types of rodents. You can use 2 ounces of Rozol per active burrow. Remember that you can only apply it to active shelters. Make sure that you don’t let your pets or kids near the treated areas.
How deep do prairie dog holes go?
Prairie dogs live in enormous colonies known as towns. They live in family groups called coteries, where they build a communal system for shelter and for taking care of the young ones. Prairie dogs live in U-shaped burrows about 30 feet apart. The holes go from 3 to 14 feet deep in the ground and 10 to 100 feet long. A mound marks the entry to the prairie dog hole, measuring around 3 feet tall and 10 feet across. It helps to keep the burrows from flooding.
Why are prairie dogs considered a nuisance?
Since they are social animals that live in colonies, they can easily infest your property. Prairie dogs can cause a lot of damage to a property that may cost a lot of money to repair. They can also be a threat to livestock and local vegetation. Also, they can carry several diseases that can be dangerous to humans. Aside from that, the burrows they build on the ground are a good hiding place for black widow spiders and rattlesnakes.
If you spotted one prairie dog in an area, it is possible that you may be dealing with large colonies already. How to get rid of prairie dogs in your yard can be a lot of work and you need to get as much wildlife species information as you can about them so you won’t get in trouble with the feds. Remember that while they can be a nuisance, prairie dogs play an important role in the ecosystem by providing habitat for other animals, and as a food source for some wildlife.