Plague outbreaks in prairie-dog colonies associated with El Niño climatic events
Plague (Yersinia pestis) was introduced to the western U.S. in the mid-20th century and is a significant threat to the persistence of black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) populations. The social, colonial habits of prairie dogs make them particularly susceptible to plague, and many flea species, including known carriers of plague, are associated with prairie dogs or their extensive burrow systems. Mortality during plague epizootics, or outbreaks, is nearly 100% (Cully and Williams 2001; J. Mammal. 82:894), resulting in the extinction of entire colonies. In northern Colorado, prairie ...