Prairie dogs are a keystone species on the high plains. That means others rely on them for food and shelter. The Amarillo Globe-News reported a study is being conducted to keep them healthy by vaccinating them for the bubonic plague.
The plague can decimate an entire prairie dog colony, spread to pets, and occasionally humans. Previously, the treatment was to spray the burrows with insecticide to kill fleas, which transport the disease. The new preventative approach hopes to get out in front of the illness, providing a rodent treatment if an outbreak should occur. The vaccine seemed to work in the lab setting. Now it's time for the practical application.
There are three types of prairie dogs, considered 'at risk', as is the recently introduced black-footed ferret. The Rita Blanca National Grasslands immunization study is part of a larger conservation effort. 18 other western locations are participating in the three-years study. They are located in: Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, and Utah.
The grasslands are located in the Texas Panhandle, about 25 miles north of Dalhart.