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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Charles Dieter


Over the last century the Northern Great Plains has been altered substantially, largely due to native grasslands being converted into cropland. Over 99% of tall grass prairie and an estimated 70 to 90% of native mixed grass prairie have been lost. In addition, expiring conservation reserve program contracts and decreased government incentives to keep grassland on the landscape has increased pressure on landowners to convert remaining grassland habitat into row crops. Obligate grassland mammal species such as the Richardson’s ground squirrel (Urocitellus richardsonii) and Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii) have suffered declines in abundance and distribution throughout their range due to loss of grassland. However, little is known about the Richardson’s and Franklin’s ground squirrel in South Dakota. During 2013 and 2014, I surveyed eastern South Dakota for sites occupied by these 2 species of ground squirrels. I surveyed a total linear distance of 1,522 km for Richardson’s ground squirrels. Sixty-eight Richardson’s ground squirrel locations were detected along survey routes. Transect lengths varied from 16 to 48 km with an average of 0.05 Richardson’s ground squirrel occupancy locations per kilometer. An additional 35 Richardson’s ground squirrel occupancy locations were detected off of survey routes. Habitat types occupied by Richardson’s ground squirrels were 92% pasture land, 4% hay land, 2% mowed farmyard, and 2% ditch. I trapped 81 sites for Franklin’s ground squirrels of which only 6 locations were occupied. Seventeen FGS locations were visually detected. Primary habitats trapped were 72% tame grasses, 21% reseeded native grassland, 6% remnant native grassland, and 1% forbs. Primary habitat types of capture locations were tame grasses (n=5) and reseeded native grasses (n=1). Lack of long-term monitoring of these species has made it difficult to quantify their status in terms of colonization, extinction, survival, and growth rates. Future research on both species in South Dakota is pertinent due to these unknown population parameters.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 41-46)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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