Abstract - Preliminary Studies of Pronghorn Antelope-Blacktail Prairie Dog Relations in Wind Cave National Park
Lovaas, Allan L. and Bromley, Peter T. 1972. Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Antelope States Workshop, Billings, MT, June 19-22, 1972. p. 115-156.
Range use and food habits of pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) were studied in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota in relation to a town of blacktail prairie dogs (Cynomys ludoviciana). Vegetation on the study area consisted of mixed grass prairie and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests. Observations from a route run regularly year-long indicated that antelope frequented the prairie dog town more during summer and fall than during winter and spring. Information from a behavioral study during the former seasons indicated that some territories of mature bucks overlapped the prairie dog town but none were centered on it, while areas of frequent use by non-territorial bucks and doe bands (does and fawns) also included parts of the town but were not oriented on it. Locations of sightings of antelope during summer and fall indicated that territorial bucks and doe bands frequented the town less, and non-territorial bucks more, than could be expected by chance alone. Vegetation on and adjacent to the prairie dog town was measured by the canopy-coverage method; rumen samples from 10 antelope killed on or near the town during summer and fall were analyzed. Ten of the eleven most important food items for antelope were more abundant outside the town than on the town. Annual forbs, more abundant on the town than off, were minor components of the antelope diet. Cudweed sagewort (Artemisia gnaphalodes) was by for the most important species in the rumen samples. The information contradicts the hypothesis that prairie dog towns enhance grassland areas for antelope.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.