Gunnison's Prairie Dog Relocation Project: Vegetation Cover Data from the Sevilleta National Wildife Refuge, New Mexico (2005-2013)



Prairie dogs are keystone species that impact both animals and plants in grassland habitats. They
are a food resource for secondary consumers such as badgers, foxes, and raptors. Also, the mounds
that they construct are home to many arthropod and reptile species that otherwise might not survive
in grasslands. Both Gunnison’s and black-tailed prairie dogs can increase the number of plant
species in grasslands and landscape heterogeneity with their ecosystem engineering that creates
disturbed patches on the landscape. Gunnison’s prairie dogs, which were native herbivores at the
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) before their populations disappeared, were reintroduced at
the Sevilleta NWR in 1997, 2005, and 2008. In 1998, a Gunnison’s prairie dog colony naturally
established along the northern border on the east side of the Refuge. The naturally occurring
colony and the colony that was reintroduced in 1997 have since then severely declined or gone
locally extinct. Still, with the removal of cattle from the Sevilleta in 1973, the reintroductions
of Gunnison’s prairie dogs in 2005 and 2008 provides an interesting opportunity to study how a
native keystone herbivore affects a grassland habitat without the pressures and competition from

Data set ID: 


Date Range: 

Sunday, April 24, 2005 to Wednesday, April 17, 2013