We compared diversity and abundance of small mammals at colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and paired non-colony sites. Of colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs in our study area, >80 were on slopes of playa lakes; thus, we used sites of colonies and non-colonies that were on slopes of playa lakes. We trapped small mammals on 29 pairs of sites. Overall abundance did not differ between types of sites, but some taxa exhibited associations with colonies (Onychomys leucogaster) or non-colonies (Chaetodipus hispidus, Reithrodontomys, Sigmodon hispidus). Diversity and evenness of small mammals did not differ between colonies and non-colonies in 2002, but were higher on non-colonies in 2003. Although we may not have detected some rare or infrequently occurring species, our data reveal differences in diversity and evenness of more common species among the types of sites. Prairie dogs are touted as a keystone species with their colonies associated with a greater faunal diversity than adjacent lands. Our findings contradict several studies reporting greater diversity and abundance of small mammals at colonies of prairie dogs. We suggest that additional research across a wider landscape and incorporating landscape variables beyond the immediate trapping plot may further elucidate interspecific associations between black-tailed prairie dogs and species of small rodents.
Additional Publication Details
Small mammals associated with colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the Southern High Plains