Tech Talk: Prairie Dog GPS | VideoJerame Novak | 8/30/2012
The researchers are using the GPS technology to map and track prairie dog towns in South Dakota.
The prairie dogs may look cute, but they can be a problem for ranchers.
"They`re problematic to ranchers, mostly. They`re grazers, so they take up the forage and if you look out here, you can tell there they prairie dogs are. And there`s just not good forage for cattle," said SDSU Ag Research Manager Ben Hauptman.
That`s why researchers from the USDA, NDSU, SDSU and Sitting Bull College are doing a five year study east of McLaughlin, South Dakota. They are trying to see how prairie dogs and cattle live together.
"We`re hoping within the next five years to see what the effect is with not only the prairie dogs on the range land but the livestock on the rangeland as well and how they coexist together," said project herdsman Clint Clark.
The team is using technology to map both the prairie dog towns and movements of the cattle.
"With the GPS, we can easily hide them away without any markings on the plots and the cattle would not be very much interested in it," said USDA scientist Jonathan Aguilar.
"So our GPS allows us to track the steers and to see how much time they are spending in prairie dog infested areas," Hauptman said.
Which is important to the project.
"The hypothesis is that where density is the highest, prairie dog density, is the highest, you`re going to have less forage for the cattle. Because the prairie dogs are harvesting the forage that`s there. Therefore, you expect cattle to spend less time on a prairie dog town then off the town," said range and wildlife specialist Jeff Stackhouse.
Forage for a rancher is a lot like fuel for a truck driver, you don`t want to waste it.
"When you get 100 acres of prairie dogs vs. 100 acres of no prairie dogs, that affects the stocking rate in regards to how much livestock you can run out there in a pasture," Clark said.
With the GPS map, the team can pinpoint a location within a centimeter.
The project covers a 2,000 acre area. They estimate that prairie dogs inhabit about 70 to 75 percent of that land.