Prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) populations have been reduced by 98% compared to historical levels because of widespread poisoning, habitat loss, recreational shooting, and outbreaks of sylvatic plague (Yersinia pestis). Our objectives were to identify habitat correlates of Gunnison's prairie dog (C. gunnisoni) colonies and to develop a predictive logistic regression model to identify potential reintroduction sites for this species. During 2000 and 2001, we examined habitat features at 50 Gunnison's prairie dog colonies and 50 paired random sites in northern Arizona, USA. When compared to random sites, Gunnison's prairie dog colonies had deeper soils, less variability in slope, and less rock ground cover. Our results suggest the importance of deep soils for allowing Gunnison's prairie dogs to establish hibernacula below the frost line. Our model allows prediction of the probability of Gunnison's prairie dog presence at a site based on soil depth, standard deviation of slope, and surface rock cover, and should aid managers in reestablishing this species throughout its historical range.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1