Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Although it is known that prairie dog colonies can increase biodiversity in the areas surrounding them, there is extraordinarily little known about the relationship between bats and black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). In a recent study from the Front Range of Colorado, several bat species were found to be consistently flying around prairie dog colonies, presumably foraging due to increased insect diversity and abundance. Despite the importance of prairie dogs to the ecosystem, prairie dog colonies are usually eradicated due to the perception that they adversely impact cattle grazing. If insectivorous bats are attracted to prairie dog colonies in Kansas, it would add to the list of ecosystem services provided by prairie dogs. We conducted acoustic bat surveys, attempted to confirm acoustic detections with mist netting, and sampled insects within and adjacent to prairie dog colonies. We also used new radio tracking technologies to closely monitor bat use of prairie dog colonies. We anticipated that bats, including Western small-footed myotis, would be more active over prairie dog colonies compared to the surrounding grasslands without prairie dog colonies. Our findings support part of this prediction. Significantly more bat calls were recorded over prairie dog colonies compared to non-prairie dog colonies. However, there was no significant difference in Western-small footed myotis calls on or off prairie dog colonies. There was no significant difference between the insect biomass on prairie dog colonies and non-prairie dog areas. Since there is not enough data to support the hypothesis that prairie dog colonies have more insect biomass than non-prairie dog areas, it leaves a gap in knowledge and creates potential areas for further research to be conducted. This study highlights the important ecological relationship between prairie dogs and bats and suggests that higher presence of bats on prairie dog colonies could lead to economic benefits to the agricultural industry through the predation of agricultural pests.


Lorelei Patrick

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type



© 2023 Mario N. Rodriguez


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