Oil Exploration May|Threaten Prairie Dogs

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Listing of the white-tailed prairie dog as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 12 month status review of the species. In its study, the agency repeatedly noted the absence of data on the stress caused by oil and gas exploration, mineral mining, and urban development.
Although, data indicating that the species is thriving also was not readily apparent.
           The agency’s 2007 90 day finding that listing the prairie dog is not warranted has been reviewed as one of the decisions inappropriately influenced by Bush Administration appointee former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary Julie MacDonald. MacDonald resigned after an inspector general’s report found that she had improperly leaked information to private organizations, bullied staff scientists and broken federal rules.
           Prairie dogs actually are ground squirrels. Five types of the burrowing mammals live in the U.S., and the white-tailed are the least social, living in small underground burrows consisting of a male, his harem and their young. Prairie dogs are notable for the kissing and nuzzling with which they greet members of their burrow.
           The prairie dog was once endemic to the entire Great Plains but it is estimated that 98 percent of their historic range has been converted to farming. Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to prairie dog survival, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife decisions on the black-tailed cousins of the white-tailed prairie dog.
           While the agency recognizes that development was an historic stress on all populations of prairie dogs, it states that current populations seem to be thriving in the more arid areas of their historic range and reproducing at rates sufficient to support the survival of the species for the foreseeable future.

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