Off-campus South Dakota State University users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your South Dakota State University ID and password.

Non-South Dakota State University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks


Prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) control has historically consisted of lethal methods to maintain, reduce, or eliminate populations. Non-lethal methods of control for prairie dogs are desired to meet changing management objectives. Use of naturally occurring buffer strips as vegetative barriers may be effective in limiting prairie dog town expansion. Objectives of this study were to evaluate effective width of vegetative barriers in limiting prairie dog town expansion, document characteristics of natural vegetation that affect expansion of prairie dog towns, and examine vegetation characteristics associated with prairie dog towns in western South Dakota. Five study sites were established in western South Dakota on rangelands containing prairie dog towns of adequate size (! 10 ha). Electric fences were constructed to exclude cattle and create buffer strips of naturally occurring grasses and shrubs. Buffer strips were 100 m long and 10, 25, and 40 m wide. Zero meter controls were included on all study sites. Prairie dogs were poisoned to create prairie dog free buffer zones within control areas. Grazing was allowed on both sides of buffer strips. When grazing pressure was not sufficient, mowing was used to simulate grazing. To quantify vegetation characteristics, quadrats (25) were randomly distributed throughout buffer strips. Evaluation of study sites included visual obstruction (VOR), vegetation cover (%), vegetation frequency, vegetation height, and vegetation identification. Burrow density adjacent to buffers was quantified as an index to prairie dog population. Barrier penetration was evaluated by presence of new active burrows behind vegetative barriers (Breakthrough). Breakthrough was minimized with 40-cm vegetation height and 10-cm VOR. The predictive model for vegetation height and buffer width was Breakthrough=exp (2.410-0.004*Veg Height-0.036*Buffer Width). The predictive model for VOR and buffer width was Breakthrough=exp (2.48-0.048*VOR-0.031*Buffer Width). Percent grass cover, percent forb cover, percent bare ground, percent litter cover, and burrow density did not add significantly to the model. Models were used to predict buffer width needed to prevent breakthroughs. Estimated buffer width to minimize breakthroughs ranged from 85.1 – 103.1 m. Vegetation characteristics indicated that visual obstruction was greater on buffers than on controls. Vegetation height was higher on treatment than control plots, and higher on eastern sites than western sites. Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) was greater on eastern than western site. Bare ground was significantly greater on control areas compared to buffer areas. Vegetation characteristics associated with relative percent grass cover, forb cover, and litter indicated minor or no differences between controls and buffer, and eastern sites and western sites. Plant species richness was not different from control to buffer area, but was greater on eastern sites than western sites.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Black-tailed prairie dog -- Control -- South Dakota
Prairie dogs -- Control -- South Dakota
Buffer zone (Ecosystem management)





Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2006 David F. Terrall. All rights reserved.