To Catch a Prairie Dog

I’ve received a few questions about what goes into trapping a prairie dog. Nothing would bring me more happiness than to tell you. It goes a little something like this:

See what I did there?

While not quite as exciting and creepy as Chris Hansen catching pedophiles, trapping prairie dogs can be mildly entertaining. And as humorous as it would be – we do not run around pouncing on them like kids catching hogs at a rodeo.

Here’s how it really works:

When we decide on our target dog we usually wait for it to wander into an area with burrows that don’t have too many connections. Prairie dog burrows consist of tons and tons of underground tunnels that connect to as many as 30+ other burrows, so the less connections, the easier it is. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. So when we decide a prairie dog is in a prime location for trapping we have another person run up and scare it into a burrow. While that person is frightening the day lights out of the little guy, the other person is in their tower watching with binoculars to make sure they know exactly which burrow the prairie dog runs to. We then surround that burrow with traps.

Sometimes we even stack them a couple traps high because the dogs will occasionally crawl over them. After the surrounding is set, we shove traffic cones into all of the surrounding burrows that could possibly be connected. We used to bait the traps with oats but have since stopped because the moron ground squirrels get trapped too often. This seems like a fool proof system, yes? No. But it’s the best system. Trapping prairie dogs is ridiculously frustrating. They like to dig out new holes, chew through cones or crawl over the traps. They’re kind of a-holes sometimes. Pretty much the only reason a prairie dog would actually go into a trap is because they’re curious. I would say the most entertaining part of trapping prairie dogs is the waiting. Mostly because it involves a lot of cursing, singing and pulling one’s hair out while watching these goobers flirt with the idea of going into a trap for a few hours.

Here’s Admiral Ackbar realizing that “it’s a trap!” I really have no idea what would possess a prairie dog to voluntarily go into a trap when they obviously have the means of escaping our surroundings. Maybe they’re more stupid than I thought, or maybe they’re just desperate for a little human attention. Whatever it is, it’s quite rewarding when you finally trap one.

Suck it, Admiral Ackbar.

Categories: Animal Behavior, Animals, Conservation, Field Research, Prairie Dogs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “To Catch a Prairie Dog

  1. Genevieve

    Your pic of Admiral Ackbar on Facebook totally sold me on checking out your sweet blog, looking forward to the names of the juveniles…

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