Wyoming agrees to count its prairie dogs

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Game and Fish Commission agrees to prairie dog count.

DOUGLAS, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioners have agreed to take inventory of the state's black-tailed prairie dog population.
Last December the commission rejected a draft prairie dog management plan, which included an inventory, to protest a lack of federal funding for endangered and sensitive species management.

Thursday, Game and Fish Department Director John Baughman said taking the inventory could be a first step toward developing a broader conservation plan for about 70 species in Wyoming that might one day be considered for the Endangered Species list.

"We don't want to lose the good work in that plan," he said.

Commission President Gary Lundvall said it makes sense to take the inventory and see if prairie dogs really are in jeopardy, as some groups claim.

"We just don't know the numbers now," he said.

Commissioner Kerry Powers said the black-tailed prairie dog is not in imminent danger of being placed on the Endangered Species list, so he does not see a reason to reconsider the plan.

The inventory could be useful, however, he said. After the inventory, the commission might take a look at the plan again, he said.

The plan, created by a 20-member citizens group, would have included a limit on shooting seasons and landowner incentives to conserve the animals.

In Montana, the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission this week approved new regulations that classify the black-tailed prairie dog as "nongame wildlife in need of management" and regulate shooting of the animals on certain federal land within the state.

The new restrictions, which go into effect March 1, do not apply to private or state-owned land.

The plan prohibits shooting black-tailed prairie dogs on federal land in central and eastern Montana during March, April and May.

The goal of both Montana's and Wyoming's plans is to boost black-tailed prairie dog numbers and help prevent the animal from gaining federal Endangered Species Act protection.

In February 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the black-tailed prairie dog was warranted for consideration as an endangered species but other animals in the region had a higher priority for listing.
 

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