Cynomys gunnisoni 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Sciuridae

Scientific Name: Cynomys gunnisoni (Baird, 1855)
Common Name(s):
English Gunnison's Prairie Dog, Ruddy Mongoose

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-09-08
Assessor(s): Cassola, F.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Linzey, A. & Hammerson, G.A.
Listed as Least Concern because it still occupies most of its large historic range, although it is much reduced in colony size and distribution within that range, and its populations are not declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs from central Colorado to central Arizona, including southeastern Utah and much of the northwestern half of New Mexico in the United States. It occurs from 1,830-3,660 m asl
Countries occurrence:
United States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah)
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1830
Upper elevation limit (metres):3660
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The colonies often consist of fewer than 50 to 100 individuals. Relative to the large decline from historical levels, populations may have been more stable in some states in recent decades (USFWS 2006). Populations in all states within the range have declined significantly compared to historical levels (USFWS 2006).

It has been considerably reduced in range extent in parts of Colorado and New Mexico. Subspecies C. g. gunnisoni is extirpated over much of its former range (Fitzgerald et al. 1994). Ongoing studies in Arizona indicate it may be extirpated in about 70% of its former range (B. Van Pelt pers. comm.).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is found on high mountain valleys and plateaus; in open or slightly brushy country, scattered junipers and pines, mainly in areas with high abundance of native plants in northern Arizona. Burrows usually on slopes or in hummocks.

It reproduces slowly, relative to other rodents (Hoogland 2001). Only one litter is produced per year, and only 24% of males copulate as yearlings (Hoogland 2001). All females copulate as yearlings (Hoogland 2001). Seasonal timing of onset of reproduction varies somewhat with latitude, elevation, and year. Gestation lasts about 30 days. Litter size averages about six, but for those females that are successful in weaning offspring, only 3.77 young per female emerge from nursery burrow (Hoogland 2001). The probability of weaning a litter each year is 82% (Hoogland 2001). Parturition occurs in April or early May in northern Arizona (Shalaway and Slobodchikoff 1988). Young stay underground for about one month.

Colonial groups are organized into territories that generally contain one adult male, one or more adult females, non-breeding yearlings, and young of the year; overlap between areas of high use is low between members of neighbouring territories (Travis and Slobodchikoff 1993).

Survivorship is low: only about 50% of females that emerged from burrows as juveniles are alive at the end of their first year, and less than 15% are alive at the end of their second year (Hoogland 2001). Major mortality factors are disease, predation, and disturbance by man. Colonies suffer drastic population declines and are often extirpated during outbreaks of flea-borne sylvatic plague (Rayner 1985).

Feeds on grasses, forbs, sedges, and shrubs. Insects are of minor importance to its diet. Not known to store food in its burrow. It has periods of inactivity during winter, which may last several months; may hibernate in some parts of range.
Generation Length (years):4

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Indiscriminate poisoning, habitat conversion, and plague have drastically reduced numbers and range (Miller and Cully 2001, Cully and Williams 2001). Plague is probably the greatest threat at this time. Hunters shot 91,000 animals in 2001 in Arizona alone (B. Van Pelt pers. comm.).

USFWS (2006) found that a petition to list this species as threatened or endangered did not present substantial scientific information indicating that a listing may be warranted under any pertinent threat factors. USFWS acknowledged that sylvatic plague has been and continues to be the primary mortality factor for Gunnison's prairie dog, especially at specific sites, but concluded that the impact that this disease has had on the overall status of the species is unclear.

This species reproduces slowly relative to other rodents, and survivorship is low (Hoogland 2001).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is unknown whether any occurrences are appropriately protected and managed. To conserve this species, it is necessary to protect existing colonies from poisoning, and to protect several acres per colony.

More information is needed on the impacts of disease, specifically sylvatic plague, and on population status and trends (USFWS 2006).

Errata [top]

Errata reason: This errata assessment has been created because the map was accidentally left out of the version published previously.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
8. Desert -> 8.2. Desert - Temperate
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.3. Agro-industry grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.2. Unintentional effects (species is not the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Yersinia pestis ]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Cully Jr., J. F. and Williams, E. S. 2001. Interspecific comparisons of sylvatic plague in prairie dogs. Journal of Mammalogy 82: 894-905.

Fitzgerald, J. P., Meaney, C. A. and Armstrong, D. M. 1994. Mammals of Colorado. Denver Museum of Natural History and University Press of Colorado.

Hoogland, J. L. 2001. Black-tailed, Gunnison's, and Utah Prairie Dogs reproduce slowly. Journal of Mammalogy 82: 917-927.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-1. Available at: (Accessed: 27 April 2017).

Knowles, C. 2002. Status of white-tailed and gunnison's prairie dogs. National Wildlife Federation and Environmental Defense, Missoula, Montana and Washington, D. C., USA.

Miller, B. G. and Cully Jr., J. F. 2001. Conservation of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Journal of Mammalogy 82: 889-893.

Pacifici, M., Santini, L., Di Marco, M., Baisero, D., Francucci, L., Grottolo Marasini, G., Visconti, P. and Rondinini, C. 2013. Generation length for mammals. Nature Conservation 5: 87–94.

Pizzimenti, J. J. and Hoffmann, R. S. 1973. Cynomys gunnisoni. Mammalian Species 25: 1-4.

Rayner, L. S. 1985. Dynamics of a plague outbreak in Gunnison's prairie dog. Journal of Mammalogy 66: 194-196.

Shalaway, S. and Slobodchikoff, C. N. 1988. Seasonal changes in the diet of Gunnison's prairie dog. Journal of Mammalogy 69: 835-841.

Travis, S. E. and Slobodchikoff, C. N. 1993. Effects of food resource distribution on the social system of Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni). Canadian Journal of Zoology 71: 1186-1192.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006. 90-day finding on a petition to list the Gunnison's prairie dog as threatened or endangered. Federal Register 71(25): 6241-6248.

Wilson, D.E. and Ruff, S. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Citation: Cassola, F. 2016. Cynomys gunnisoni (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T42453A115189620. . Downloaded on 27 May 2018.
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