Prairie Dog Termination



  • It occurs to me that some of you might be unfamiliar with prairie dogs and why they are such a massive problem, so I'll try to educate you a bit on the what, why, and how.

    Here you see a fresh prairie dog mound. The mound itself is usually about 6" to 12" high and about 2-3 feet across. They pile up the dirt like that to keep the rain out. They rip up all vegetation for about 6 feet around the mound. The hole itself is usually around 4-6" in diameter but the mouth of the hole atop the mound can be as much as a foot wide. As the prairie dog family expands, they will often make their mounds significantly larger. This is a very fresh and totally new burrow. It only gets worse for the land surrounding the hole as time goes on.

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    Why is this a problem you ask? Imagine trying to ride a horse through a maze of these holes. A dense dog town will have a hole every 6-10 feet. If the risk of the horse falling in a hole and breaking a leg isn't enough, the area being completely void of vegetation creates ultra slippery mud when wet. If the prairie dogs are eating and ripping up all the vegetation... what are the cattle suppose to eat? Then in addition to removing food for cattle, there is also the risk of cattle stepping into a hole and breaking its leg.

    Once a prairie dog town is established, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. A typical female prairie dog will have 2-3 litters of pups per year, and have an average of 5-6 each time. They reproduce crazy fast! Also... even if you were able to kill them all, you can never get the land back to its natural state again. You have to use an implement to work the ground to try to get it flat... but with the dens being between 4-10ft deep, it is a tough task. That is dependent upon whether the soil is even able to be worked. Some areas simply have too many rocks. Once a burrow has been established, it's very hard to fix it. When a prairie dog town can grow from 3 acres to over 50 acres in a single year, that's the kind of thing epidemics are made of!

    Oh yeah, then there's this this little fact that prairie dogs carry and spread bubonic plague. Yeah, you read that correctly. The very same bubonic plague that was referred to as Black Death that wiped out a third of the human population on the planet during the mid 1300's. Prairie dogs are typically infested with fleas, and if an infected flea gets from the prairie dog onto you, and bites you... the bubonic bacteria enters your blood stream, and from that moment you have basically a 10% to 90% chance of dying, depending upon diagnosis and treatment. So, don't handle prairie dogs. I try to avoid them for the most part. I avoid laying down in the dog town. I always find a perch a hundred or so yards away from the nearest burrow. Luckily where I shoot, there hasn't been a reported instance of plague in the pdog population... but I'm still cautious.

    So now you know why they are so hated and why I have so much fun shooting them. They are vermin of the highest order. Now lets have a look at the critters themselves. I took a picture of an atlas bipod laying next to a pup as well as an average sized adult, so you can get an idea of scale. The pups will start being active outside the burrow when they are small striped gopher size. Adults can get quite fat and large with the big ones standing over a foot tall.

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    Here you can see a prairie dog at 250yds through a Tangent Theta TT525P. As you can see, they aren't much of a target! Often times the head is all you will see, as they peek over their mounds looking for danger. If you wait a while, they will often crawl up and give a much better presentation. That second picture is when I like to take my shots. It gives the most forgiveness for wind call! If you can consistently hit a silver dollar at 300yds, you can really take a toll on a pdog town.

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    Today I zapped around 150 of them with my TS Customs 6 Dasher and my sako quad 22lr. I couldn't possibly get pictures of all of them, but I did walk around to some of the closer holes and get some pictures, just to demonstrate the variety of mounds and sizes. Here you can see a mound at approximately 300yds with my pickup and firing position in the background. It was nice laying in the shade of the truck today. :)

    I shot 5 or 6 off this one mound. I couldn't see the ground, but when they would perch up on top of the mound I could see their bodies. The dasher with 105 hybrids doesn't splatter them around much, but rather pops a hole through them. About 50-60% of pdogs shot end up dragging themselves back down the hole. Fine by me, as they will die shortly and they won't be up top making a mess of flies.

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    Owls, vultures, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and all manner of critters come into the dog towns and feast on all the dead prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are also cannibals, and can be seen eating their dead relatives. Nasty little beasts anyway.

    Here's a bunch of random pics from todays activity!

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    I'll be keeping an eye on this big fella.
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  • I read all this in a David Attenborough voice.



  • @tackyp LOL!



  • During class I thought it sounded like farmers/ ranchers contact you to take care of coyotes. Do they also contact you to take care of prairie dogs? I had never realized how much of a problem they were.



  • I figured the p-dogs were a problem due to the holes tearing up the ground ... but was not aware of the bubonic plague aspect!

    ==
    But tearing up the fields is similar idea to why ranchers in Texas hate the feral hogs ...

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    This is a field which has been "rooted" ... that destroys the crops and also makes the field so rough crop equipment cannot effectively move through the field. The field must be regraded and replanted, further the current crop is lost. For a decent sized operation that can cost thousands if not 10s of thousands of dollars. And unless eradicated in that area, the hogs will come back and do it again.

    The people I go out with say, if you kill 80% of the hogs you see, you will be controlling (preventing expansion of numbers) of the hogs in that area for that season. If you kill every hog you see, you will be reducing the population.
    True eradication requires a team effort over a period of time, and doing it all with rifle bullets is not possible. Poison also needs to be used, but poison must be used carefully as other critters can be affected. Trapping is another method, but hogs are smart and those that get away learn to avoid traps, and on and on it goes.

    And then there are those that purposely allow the hog populations to expand to support a now thriving night hunting business. Net/net I think the hog population in Texas is growing, not declining.

    Fortunately, in Kansas we only have a few hundred down along the Arkansas and Oklahoma borders, in our SE corner. And both AR and OK act as a buffer for the hogs, who also might not like it this far North.
    But while they are challenging to mow down a field full of sounders ... I am glad we do not have them around here (at least not yet).

    Joe and James and 3 sows, 1 piglet. This engagement lasted about 10 seconds ... there were 9 hogs out there.

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    We got 4 of them 16 bullet holes out of 21 rounds fired (10 by me 11 by James). We had POOR fire discipline and we have subsequently discussed how to manage fire discipline more effectively. When you shoot suppressed, they don't know where you are and they scatter in all directions, which is good, but this was a bowling alley shaped field, long and narrow and the ones that got away ran directly across our front and into the woods. But the big problem was we both shot the same large sow in the first volley. That should not have happened. Though you do want to shoot the sows first, that causes the piglet's to be even more disorganized. But we should've got 2 sows in the first volley, not one.

    Any who. There are prairie dogs in Western Kansas, but none around here. But maybe one day we will head West and try it.



  • I stopped in a fancy feed store / boutique that caters to suburbia ranchers that usually have a horse or some pet goats on a ten acre or less "ranch" to look around waiting on a Dr's appointment in Victoria Texas last year. They have a back room that is where they sell pets. Kitty's, puppy's, snakes and you guessed it..... prairie dogs. I saw them all piled up in a cage and thought they were some kind of gerbil but the attendant said they're prairie dogs, ain't they cute? She said they have one customer that has a little harness that she walks hers around in and takes it to town with her. Damn, I've heard it all now. There's no way they could be of the feral variety unless they have been tested for the Plague, I heard that wiped out a bunch of them in Oklahoma some years back and some public places were closed because of it. Don't want no Plague, lime disease scares me to death and we got deer ticks galore in South Texas. I could just see a prairie dog town on my BIL'S place just fifteen miles from that pet store, he would have a fit. When I was a kid I terrorized ground squirrels at my grandparents ranch with a Benjamin air rifle and then set my Dad's steel traps around their holes. I caught those things every summer and had a stash of skins that I tried to smuggle home but didn't make it past my mom, she had a pretty sharp nose. Didn't quite have the tanning process down using table salt. I imagine shooting P'dogs is a lot of fun as long as you don't have to clean up the mess unlike shooting feral hogs that really make a mess if you leave them. I have shot a few feral hogs with no intention of eating them and have about sworn off eating them altogether after observing their habits. The biggest pile of hogs I saw was on our big pasture before it was sold after a helicopter hunt my cousin did several years back. Eighteen cases of buckshot later around 275 pigs were found and loaded on open trailers and one big reefer trailer. I know they didn't find them all, the buzzards did a few days later. I attempted to film a chopper hunt from the ground not too long ago but it got a little tight when the pilot pushed a group of pigs in range of me and my wife so we retreated, not a good idea so most of the footage was from way back and was worthless. They supposedly dropped sixty in that pasture and sent the pickup crew in but they only recovered four or five. This hunt was recreational put on by one of the local outfitters so I question their body count. My cousin has shooters that do this for a living and also a ground crew that shoots and recovers, more efficient than weekend warriors. Anyway, enough rambling. Someone said if it's feral, it's in peril.



  • @orkan said in Prairie Dog Termination:

    It occurs to me that some of you might be unfamiliar with prairie dogs and why they are such a massive problem, so I'll try to educate you a bit on the what, why, and how.
    A typical female prairie dog will have 2-3 litters of pups per year, and have an average of 5-6 each time. They reproduce crazy fast!

    I was impressed by your dog town termination #'s posted in earlier threads, but it also had me curious as to how fast they could re-produce to establish towns of those sizes. Every source I had referenced suggested only one litter per year. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, I just couldn't find a single source that suggested 2+ litters in my brief search.



  • @midwestside
    In five or six months of age a female pig can reproduce. Don't know what a prairie dogs maturity schedule is. If they are similar then a litter could possibly reproduce within the same year as their birth depending on the gestation period. pIgs gestation period is around 120 days. I bet orkan knows but he's probably busy slaying at the moment.



  • Well I don't proclaim to be a prairie dog biologist, so I can't say for certain on how often they breed. However, I can say for certain that a small number of prairie dogs can turn into a HUGE number of prairie dogs within a years time. I suspect how many pups they have and how frequently can be dependent upon how easy of a year it is regarding food and stress.

    Even if it is only once per year, if they have 5 pups then the following year, the mother and all females hatched the year prior are popping out another 5 each. Doesn't take long to see how fast that pyramid fills out.



  • Did the little 55 gr bullets out of the 6br have the handgrenade affect on them? I know you said the wind drift sucked with them and the 105’s justbpoked holes in them. Not to sound sick in the head but the explosive affect the fast varmint bullets have on them is my favorite part of shooting them.



  • Yes, the 55 noslers @ 3200fps did explode them pretty good at closer ranges. Very entertaining out to about 250yds. Past that, they deploy parachute and don't have much on them. If I had another 10 inches of barrel, I think it would help a lot. Yes, it sure does suck in the wind. I'd much rather have a .223AI with 80's than 6BR with 55's as far as 16" barrels go. Simple fact is that most shooting is happening out at 250yds or more. Little bullets with low BC's get pushed around a lot and that makes for lots of missing... I don't care how well you read the wind. When you miss a pdog, it gets educated. With the heavy-for-cal bullets... you can just put more bullets on target because every little twitch of the wind doesn't pull you off the pdog.

    As I previously demonstrated... these are small targets when you get out beyond 300yds. If you misread the wind by the tiniest margin, its a miss.

    Another factor is range. I have a pair of Swarovski EL Range 10x42's. Great for coyotes out to about 800yds... but they do not cut it for prairie dogs past 250yds or so. At that distance, if you're off by 10yds due to hitting the ground behind the dog... that can be a miss. A Vectronix on a tripod is the ticket for high hit percentages in a dog town.



  • @orkan
    Yes I agree on the wind issue, I carried a 16in precision AR last time and it was loaded with 55 gr Nosler varmint bullets. It was hell in the wind, did manage to get a some kills at around 650 yard with that rifle but only early in the morning before the wind got crazy.

    I also couldn’t agree with you more on the range finder, you have know idea of your ranging the pdog or the ground in front or behind it and the further it is the worse it is when it matters the most. That was the first thing I did when I came home from my trip, I ordered Terrapin and sold the G7 I had. The G7 was next to useless anyway, but definitely useless on small targets like the pdogs.

    Great shooting as always, id love to live in area with pdogs close by. Hands down the most fun I’ve ever had with a rifle.



  • There's only about 30 pdogs in this whole town, but they are hidden by tall grass. I setup an elevated position and shot 10 times, killing 12 of them before moving on. I'll come back after the hay is cut and exterminate them.

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  • That's 1/6th of the population right there. A skillet shot as my grandpa would say if it was quail.



  • @bigfoot said in Prairie Dog Termination:

    That's 1/6th of the population right there. A skillet shot as my grandpa would say if it was quail.

    I ended up getting 3 with one shot after I took that picture. It was only 200yds... so it was easy pickins when one of those two standing up at the rear moved in front of the other two.

    I can't confirm if I hit one that was in the grass... so I didn't count it. ... but if I did hit him, then I got 13. ;)



  • @orkan

    3 with one 55gr grenade. Sweet..

    Nice pics. did you take those with your phone.



  • @martino1 I was using 6 Dasher with 105 hybrids. Yes those are phone pics.



  • Sometimes they are 300yds away.

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    Sometimes they are 75yds away.

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    Sometimes they are 23yds away.

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    ... but no matter how far away they are, the TS Customs 6 Dasher finds them. :)

    The one at 23yds got shot straight in the head. I had to hold over close to 3 mils. He fell down the hole, as so many of them do.

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    To the untrained eye, it may appear that this one is taking a nap.

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    This one either got hit just right, or accidentally swallowed a grenade. I'll let you decide.

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    I decided to start keeping track of exactly how many I shoot. I have shot somewhere between 400 and 500 in this town so far. So I started at 400+ and called that good. Today I was only there for almost an hour and half before storms rolled in. Got 42.

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