FWS will not list white tail prairie dog as endangered or threatened, says colonies remain resilient despite threats
75 Fed. Reg. 30362 / Vol. 75, No. 104 / Tuesday, June 1, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2008-0053 / MO 92210-0-0008-B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12–month Finding on a Petition to List the White-tailed Prairie Dog as Endangered or Threatened
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announce a 12–month finding on a petition to list the whitetailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After a review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that listing the white-tailed prairie dog is not warranted at this time. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the threats to the white-tailed prairie dog or its habitat at any time.
White-tailed prairie dogs have the least cohesive social structure of any prairie dog species. Their social system is organized around family groups or ‘‘clans,’’ comprised of several reproductive females, one or two males of reproductive age, and dependent young. According to FWS, white-tailed prairie dog populations exhibit large fluctuations, and are likely below historical levels, though their overall distribution has not substantially changed. Large acreages of occupied habitat exist across the species’ range, particularly in Wyoming. According to the Center for Native Ecosystems, the white-tailed prairie dog forms the cornerstone of the prairie ecosystem - at least nine other species depend on it for food or shelter -- and the species is suffering severe declines, having vanished from 92% of its historical habitat Image and some caption info from Center for Native Ecosystems.
EXCERPT RE: THREATS. We determined that energy development, urbanization, grazing, fire suppression, agricultural conversion, recreational shooting, poisoning, invasive plant species, and plague may impact the species in at least localized areas. White-tailed prairie dogs were impacted throughout history by each of these factors. We believe that, collectively, these activities have resulted in the presumed reduced abundance of white-tailed prairie dog from historical levels. We also believe that the ecological function of this species within western landscapes has been altered from its historical function. Many of these factors (grazing, urbanization, fire suppression, agricultural land use conversion, and poisoning) were at much greater magnitude in the past and are not currently impacting species with the same intensity. Other threats (oil and gas development, climate change, shooting, plague, and invasive plant species) can be expected to continue into the future. Of these, we consider plague and oil and gas development to have the greatest potential for cumulative impacts. Yet some of the most robust and resilient colonies exist in areas where both of these potential threats occur. Therefore, we do not believe these factors will cumulatively threaten the continued existence of white-tailed prairie dog now or in the foreseeable future.
EXCERPT RE: CONCLUSION. Our review of the information pertaining to the five threat factors does not support a conclusion that there are independent or cumulative threats of sufficient imminence, intensity, or magnitude that would cause substantial losses of population distribution or viability of the white-tailed prairie dog that would result in the species being at risk of extinction. Therefore, we do not find that the white-tailed prairie dog is currently in danger of extinction (endangered), nor do we find it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future (threatened), throughout its range. Therefore, listing the species as endangered or threatened under the Act is not warranted at this time.