Behavioral Interactions and Conflict among Domestic Dogs, Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs, and People in Boulder, Colorado

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Interactions among domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), and people were studied at Dry Creek, Boulder, Colorado. Our objective was to develop a basic understanding of the nature of dog–prairie dog interactions in this recreational area, because this is an issue that has high visibility and over which there is conflict in Boulder: There are those who want dogs to run free regardless of their impact on the behavior and lives of prairie dogs and those who want to protect prairie dogs and have dogs restrained or go elsewhere. We found that dogs clearly influenced the behavior of prairie dogs, however, no prairie dogs were known to be caught or killed by any dog during the course of study. Prairie dogs disturbed by dogs were more alert (vigilant) and wary of dogs and played less than undisturbed individuals. However, disturbed prairie dogs were less wary of the presence of humans than undisturbed animals. People tried to stop dogs from harassing prairie dogs only 25% of the time. A survey showed that 58% of people polled at Dry Creek (all dog owners) did not believe that prairie dogs should be protected even if dogs are a problem. Increased human responsibility would likely go a long way towards reducing existing conflict among people wanting to protect prairie dogs and those who do not. Boulder city officials have not yet incorporated our data into their immediate management plans. However, by identifying the nature of dog–prairie dog encounters and specific areas of conflict among people who side either with dogs or prairie dogs, in the future, proactive strategies grounded by empirical data can be developed and implemented so that the interests of all parties can be accommodated.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 1999

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