Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) prefer an open view of their surroundings and may abandon areas with visual obstructions. Wildlife managers have attempted to capitalize on this innate behavior by using visual barriers, with varying degrees of success, to induce black-tailed prairie dogs (C. ludovicianus) to emigrate from or abandon a colony or preclude them from colonizing a valued area. We examined the behavior and movements of adult female black-tailed prairie dogs in response to both a visual barrier (SB Tensar® snowfence, Tensar Polytechnologies, Morrow, Georgia) that had a see-through visibility of 60% and no visual barrier on 4 6- to 15-ha colonies in central Nebraska, USA. We applied visual barriers to the centerline of 2 colonies after depopulation of half of each colony. Prairie dogs did not respond to the visual barriers as expected. They did not consistently increase the frequency of vigilant or aggressive behavior, the size of use-areas, or the distance of their use-areas from the visual barriers. The number of prairie dogs within 50 m of visual barrier fences did not decline over a 2-month period. Surprisingly, frequency of foraging behavior increased for prairie dogs in the vicinity of a visual barrier. The SB Tensar snowfence was durable but was not effective as a visual barrier for controlling the behavior, movements, and population of black-tailed prairie dogs.
black-tailed prairie dog