Ms. Stephanie Baker, University of New Mexico
The Gunnison's Prairie Dog (GPD, Cynomys gunnisoni) is an herbivorous, burrowing rodent that was extirpated from the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in the 1930's by ranchers to make land available for grazing livestock. Currently, the GPD is the subject of a long-term reintroduction experiment overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The burrowing and feeding habits of the GPD influences an ecosystem's biotic and abiotic factors significantly, making this species a keystone ecosystem engineer that plays a vital role creating heterogeneous mosaics of habitat. Their presence is correlated with diverse biological communities and maintenance of grassland ecosystems. To better understand the impact of GPDs on small mammal population and diversity, we compared control sites to prairie dog reintroduction sites using a mark-recapture methodology with live trapping of animals on all plots. After placing Sherman traps on all sites over a four-week period, we compared data from previous trapping seasons to measure the long-term effects of the reintroduction on small mammal populations. We hypothesized that sites with reintroduced prairie dogs would have a higher diversity and abundance of small mammals compared to that of the control sites. Our results demonstrate that diversity and abundance is higher overall in treatment plots than in controls over multiple trapping seasons, confirming the importance of a keystone species in an ecosystem.
Paduani, Melissa Ariella
"Small Mammal Response to the Gunnison's Prairie Dog Reintroduction,"
The Pegasus Review: UCF Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 8:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/urj/vol8/iss2/2