Prairie dogs have returned to Kaufman County.
Mark McDonald, Chief Wildlife Biologist at Beacon Hill on Cedar Creek Lake is proud to announce the arrival of a family of Prairie Dogs to the Community’s Nature Trail.
“We are delighted how quickly the Prairie Dog families have adapted to our Nature Habitat. They have become a welcome addition to our Nature Trail and Birdwatching locations here on the shores of Cedar Creek Lake and we look forward to having our visitors enjoy watching them in action in their new ‘town’.”
McDonald said the release of 40 prairie dogs on the site is part of native prairie restoration on a 23-acre tract.
“We are planting native prairie vegetation and are excited that these interesting and unique animals are back on this property.”
According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department prairie dogs are very social animals. They live as a group in prairie dog “towns” which range from one to over 1,000 acres.
These towns are subdivided into wards that are arranged like counties within a state. Wards are further subdivided into distinct social units called coteries. A coterie usually consists of a single adult male, one to four adult females, and any offspring under two years of age.
Movement between wards is uncommon; however, among family members, prairie dogs greet each other with bared teeth with which they “kiss” as a form of recognition.
“Prairie dogs are native to the western North American plains. In Texas, they may be found in western portions of the state and in the Panhandle. Huge prairie dog towns, such as one that covered 25,000 square miles and supported a population of approximately 400 million prairie dogs, once were reported from Texas. Although prairie dogs still locally are common, today less than one percent of the prairie dog population and habitat remain.”
TPWD noted that prairie dogs have been pushed out of their native habitat ranching and farming activities for the past 50 years or more. As a result, their former range and numbers have shrunk dramatically.
“Although it is true that large concentrations of prairie dogs can damage cultivated crops or compete seriously with livestock, the wisdom of eliminating them entirely from rangelands has not been proven. Ranchers in certain parts of Texas, for example, claim that removal of prairie dogs is related to the undesirable spread of brush. This has had detrimental effects on the livestock industry which far outweighs the damage prairie dogs might do.”
Prairie dogs are now chiefly relegated to the Panhandle and western parts of the state but there are rumors of surviving small towns in East Texas. If anyone has information or photographs of prairie dogs east of Interstate 35 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.