Prairie dog hunting wyoming



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Prairie dog hunting wyoming-best.jpg

Prairie dogs and rabbits may provide food to some local hunting programs. Wyoming Department of Game and Fish photo

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PR RIE DOG HUNTING WYOMING PROGRAM A few years ago, Wyoming's Department of Game and Fish (DGF) was doing its best to keep prairie dog populations in check. The state estimates there are about a million prairie dogs living throughout the state. But they were having a lot of trouble getting rid of a local problem, which is prairie dogs in the suburbs near cities and towns. They were invading yards, popping up near sidewalks and homes. Some were even coming into the state. The DGF began a program to hunt and kill the pests. The DGF didn't want to kill the prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are not native to Wyoming. They are rodents that can damage grasses, crops and hay fields. To help keep the population in check, DGF set a quota for the number of prairie dogs to be killed each year. Each resident had a chance to shoot up to 10 prairie dogs each year, as long as they could prove they owned that property. DGF set a limit of 60 dogs per year. The goal was to keep prairie dogs within the boundaries of state parks and wilderness areas where they were an acceptable pest and not to kill them. It wasn't very effective. The DGF says the agency had no success killing prairie dogs. But they began to look for other solutions to manage the growing population. DGF used one. There's no way to get rid of prairie dogs in yards or on roads. You just can't get close to them without them running. That's why DGF uses bait and shooting with rifles to control the population. The bait is usually grain or corn. This year, about two weeks before the season opened, the DGF put out some grain-filled water dishes in Wyoming's three national parks and in the wilderness areas. They figured that since prairie dogs tend to like grain more than grasses, the prairie dogs would be willing to come into the park to eat the grain-filled dish. If a prairie dog did come into the park, DGF shot him with a .30-06 rifle. But the prairie dogs didn't come into the park. They didn't even approach the bait. After a few days, the DGF noticed fewer prairie dogs coming into the park. This year, the DGF went back to the bait. And this time, there was lots of grain to attract the prairie dogs. "They like the grain. We put it in the dishes. This year, it worked," said DGF Wildlife Specialist Brad Tatum. "We've never had this kind of success, though. This year, we had the most productive season we've ever had in shooting prairie dogs in parks and in wilderness areas." DGF Wildlife Specialist Randy Kinsinger said the prairie dogs do seem to like the grain. "We always try and use bait before the season. We just had a horrible, dry year in the west, so we figured the pups were going to be smaller and we put out plenty of grain for them to eat," he said. "It definitely is a big difference compared to this year. In every one of our parks, we had the bait dishes put out, and there were quite a few prairie dogs." Although DGF has never counted the pups born in the wild in Wyoming, the average DGF estimates that the pups are about three-quarters of an inch longer than last year. Another factor is the timing of DGF's efforts. Unlike some states, in Wyoming it's permitted to shoot prairie dogs in the spring, when the pups are just a few days old. "We started shooting in the spring, right when the pups were born, and we didn't wait until the pups were born," Kinsinger said. "The prairie dogs tend to go into their dens to protect the pups when they're born." DGF shoots in the spring because of the low population of prairie dogs this year. "Last year, we were shooting through the entire year, because there were that many prairie dogs," Kinsinger said. "This year, with the drought conditions and low population, we were really able to limit it to what's called 'shooting season,' which is the early spring." "Shooting season" begins with one prairie dog shooting session per month. However, the first session of the spring occurs on March 15. "This year, we weren't able to do it until April 3," Kinsinger said. "We were in the middle of shooting season on April 3, and that's when we actually had a shooting day. As soon as the weather gets better and the snow thaws, we can resume hunting." "Shooting season" officially ends after a series of two or three consecutive sessions of prairie dog shooting. However, it can continue until mid- to late June. With DGF's efforts, this year there will be five more shoots in the spring than there were last year. "Last year we had 22 shoots," Kinsinger said. "If the prairie dogs stay at the current numbers this year, we may have another 22, or maybe even 26. If it starts to get higher, we can limit it to fewer shoots."Kinsinger said DGF's prairie dog killing program is the only effort currently being used to manage the species. "The program will hopefully help," Kinsinger said. "The more we kill prairie dogs, the less prairie dogs we have to deal with them." "Shooting season" will also allow the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to capture more prairie dogs as part of their management efforts. However, that's not a simple process. "If we capture them, we have to get a permit and then the animal has to be tagged, de-bloated, vaccinated and released," Kinsinger said. "It takes a lot of time." "Shooting season" begins on April 3 and ends in mid- to late June. Kinsinger said there is no set date to resume shooting, but they will begin shooting again as soon as the weather cooperates. "We have to wait until they thaw out and we can shoot again," Kinsinger said.

Meadow Lake Wildlife Management AreaThe Meadow Lake WMA will be holding its annual prairie dog shoot from April 1 to April 28 this year. With the help of a grant, they will be able to offer a $10,000 kill bonus to shooters. That's a 25 percent increase from last year. Shooters will be able to pay for the $10,000 kill bonus by purchasing an annual prairie dog kill permit for $25. The kill permit will be good for shooting through May 31. The permit will also give shooters the option to buy a kill tag. The kill tag costs $10,000. The buy a kill tag means the permit holder will receive an additional $20,000 for killing more than 250 prairie dogs. The WMA is asking for help in recruiting shooters. Any resident who has the ability to kill a prairie dog from April 1 to April 28 will qualify. If enough shooters participate, the WMA will also offer a limited number of tags for $100. Any hunter can purchase a kill tag. Tags will not be sold at the WMA.

The WMA will also be conducting trap checks from March 20 to March 30. They will be checking for dead prairie dogs that may have been overlooked during the annual shoot. The WMA will be checking along the ridgelines of the prairies. Any traps caught will



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