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Prairie Dogs and Plague
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I have a great spot I like to go in the Texas Panhandle for prairie dogs. The owner is friendly and a shooting enthusiast himself. I took my son and two grandsons in late May when we had a great hunt with plenty of targets available.

I was hoping to go back over the Columbus day extended weekend for "another bite at the apple", so I emailed the landowner to see if that would be okay. He responded that plague had apparently hit the colony and had virtually wiped out the otherwise very healthy population.

This happens with some regularity across the plains prairie dog habitat. My question is, how long does it typically take a colony to come back from a bad siege of the plague?
Posts: 12963 | Location: Henly, TX, USA | Registered: 04 April 2001Reply With Quote
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About 2004, the plague hit our spots in the Texas High Plains. A month before our trip pds were everywhere.....but, on our arrival letters were posted two weeks prior, about the plague infestation. Not a rodent ANYWHERE!

At least four years later.....nothing.

We had to move about 60 miles northeast, before finding p-dogs on private land. Even so....within three years the plague progressed to our newly found spots.

I haven't been back, but surely the situation is better by now.

Posts: 370 | Location: Wichita Falls, Texas, USA | Registered: 28 December 2000Reply With Quote
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Take notice,

Back in 1993 when I was teaching in Trinidad State College, CO. a student on summer break was out in a field with his dog. The dog ran around a short time picked up a few flees. Next thing was this man came down with the plague and survived. They think it came from the flees off his dog as he didn't go get out of his truck. He was treated for the plague and was one out of five that caught the plague that summer in Colorado. The other 4 died, so the state ordered him to have more tests to help find out why he was still alive. He came back to school and failed to get the tests, so the state police came to school and picked him up. The local hospital took blood and he returned to school. The guy was in the Air Force and had taken the shots required by the military for the war in Iraq. He appears to be
immune. I don't know if he had any other problems with the infection of the plague. I lost contact with him after I left school in 1994. Be careful out in these PD fields. The state of CO. sent out a notice telling anyone finding a dead animal to call them and they would come and pick up the animal for tests. The plague is out there.
Posts: 965 | Location: Texas | Registered: 19 May 2004Reply With Quote
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Over population will do that, kinda like people and Covid. Big Grin


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Posts: 1085 | Location: Central Alberta, Canada | Registered: 20 July 2019Reply With Quote
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He was treated for the plague and was one out of five that caught the plague that summer in Colorado. The other 4 died, so the state ordered him to have more tests to help find out why he was still alive.

Plague is a bacterial infection that is easily treated with basic antibiotics -- assuming it is diagnosed and treated before it has progressed to the lethal stages. There being no such thing as antibiotics in the Middle Ages (or in prairie dog colonies) about a third of the population of Europe was killed in a couple of separate severe outbreaks. Almost everyone was infected, but as with most pathogens some people were only sickened, some people were asymptomatic, and some curled up and died post haste. As with covid-19, you don't know which group you'll fall into until you get it.
Posts: 12963 | Location: Henly, TX, USA | Registered: 04 April 2001Reply With Quote
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Plague decimated the PD's in Montrose County (central-west Colorado) about 8 or 9 years ago. Around Naturita and Paradox Valley they were wiped out. Richardson Ground Squirrels, aka Wyoming Ground Squirrels, have backfilled around the irrigated hay meadows in a big way. I've shot 6K+ of them the last 3 years and seen nary a white-tail prairie dog in the mix.

The ground squirrels are apparently
immune to the plague.
Posts: 3179 | Location: Western Slope Colorado, USA | Registered: 17 August 2001Reply With Quote
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Plague is endemic across much of the West. Thank gosh it usually hides quietly in the background, but you just don't want to handle the small rodents if at all possible. And yes, a dog could be a vector for infected rodent fleas.

There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.
– John Green, author
Posts: 14845 | Location: Sweetwater, TX | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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This was about eight years ago. I had a hunting spot in eastern Wy that was loaded with PDs. Went there three years in a row and had hot barrel shoots each year. Went back fourth year. There was zero PDs. I walked through the town and could smell rotting dead meat, and most of the holes has cob webs over the entrance.

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Posts: 2525 | Location: Minnesota | Registered: 08 December 2006Reply With Quote
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Here's a bit of info I've seen shooting them for

Dad, being a rancher from Campo used to say:
"the plague is a ranchers friend when it comes
to prairie dogs"

Ok: There used to be a big town south of Pueblo.
Several of us shot 'em up hard a time or two every week for years.
They stayed healthy.

Sure seemed to me when a town was killed off by
50% or more each year they stayed and had lots
of pups.

This land changed hands and the new guy wouldn't
let anyone shoot there. The following year the
plague had cleaned them out.

Now Vestas Tower plant is built on the site.
That ends that for many years. Though I've been
told there's some on the storage lots.

In about 15 years I shot the barrel out of my
Sako .222mag at 'em.

Great advice Les.


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George L. Dwight
Posts: 5564 | Location: Pueblo, CO | Registered: 31 January 2006Reply With Quote
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I read this topic three days ago and then KET/PBS aired a special yesterday on discovering the reason the plague was so severe in the middle ages. They spent quite a bit of time showing the prairie dog studies ongoing with the CDC. That is apparently how they keep track of the level of plague infestation. They are far and away the biggest carriers of the bacteria.

The major study was obtaining teeth from plague victims in Florence Italy and using a technique being developed in Germany they isolated and reassembled a genetic sequence for the entire bacteria genome. They then compared it to the sequence for present day plague bacteria. The modern bacteria carries almost 100 mutations that were not in the bacteria from the original plague. There is a lot of work left, but they think these mutations may be responsible for the current spread through the flea host instead of person to person as was true for most of the cases in the Middle ages.

They also had interviews with a number of current victims who lived. The disease is certainly nothing to fool with. It is true that it can be easily treated with antibiotics, but the window of opportunity is very narrow. This special reported that if not treated in the first two days following the onset of symptoms, death was the most likely outcome. The people who went past this and survived almost invariably lost all their fingers and toes and went into an extended coma which is often fatal. The disease course is frightening.

If you prairie dog hunt it would probably be a good idea to use DEET liberally and seek help immediately if you feel ill after the hunt. This is not the time to wait and see. Infections are rare, but by their nature generally lead to death in 5-7 days or severely ruin your life if you don't get immediate treatment.
Posts: 1227 | Location: Lexington, Kentucky, USA | Registered: 04 February 2003Reply With Quote
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There is also a vaccine for the plague. I was required to have it for my assignment in the Army.
Posts: 690 | Registered: 03 January 2004Reply With Quote
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I had 4 great ranches to shoot PDogs on.

Thousands of Pdogs year after year. Thousands of rounds of ammo.

Then one year I was calling around to making arrangements for that year hunts.

I was told the plague had wiped them out.

The one rancher use to say You can not bring enough ammo.

Said well if you come you only need 10 rounds.

A sad day for sure.

We we always very careful about the plague.
Posts: 18041 | Location: wis | Registered: 21 April 2001Reply With Quote
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