Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a burrowing rodent native to the Great Plains currently experiencing large population declines. It is debated whether prairie dogs are keystone species; however, areas with prairie dogs have higher levels of biodiversity and presumably increased biotic interactions. The goal of this study is to quantify the importance of black-tailed prairie dogs, hereafter prairie dog, by comparing abundance and diversity of raptors and small mammals on prairie dog (PD) and non-prairie dog (NON) inhabited prairie. A significant difference was detected between the two treatments (PD and NON) in the number of raptors counts; the PD treatment observed a greater abundance of individuals (n = 192) in contrast to the NON treatment (n = 115). Small mammal richness was low with only the following species detected on each treatment; 2 species (Onychomys leucogaster and Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) on the PD treatment and 5 species (Chaetodipus hispidus, Onychomys leucogaster, Perognathus flavus, Peromyscus maniculatus, and Reithrodontomys montanus) on the NON treatment. Although I did not detect abundance or all species caught in both treatments, other studies have reported higher abundances of small mammals, including Onychomys leucogaster, on prairie dog inhabited land. These data have the potential to influence prairie dog conservation efforts, as well as our knowledge of other vertebrate prairie-specialist species. Species in need of conservation, including ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) and burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), rely on prairie dogs for food, shelter, or nesting sites. These species and others will be forced elsewhere as prairie dog distribution continues to decrease, and might be pushed out of their historical distribution, or towards extinction. It is essential for landowners and agencies to understand the complex ecological associations occurring on the prairie, and realize the black-tailed prairie dog is a “Species of Greatest Concern” in Kansas.


Dr. Greg Farley

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type



© 2014 Nina M. Luna


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