REDONDO MEADOW HAS COME BACK TO LIFE. From 2013 through 2016, John and the Squad conducted research on Gunnison's prairie dogs (GPDs) at a site called Redondo Meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP), approximately six miles west of our current 2017 site at the Valles Grande in VCNP, where we continue to study GPDs. But after the field season ended in 2016, the Redondo Meadows colony fell victim to plague and nearly every single prairie dog at our research site was dead before John returned to re-mark them two months later.
It was after this plague event that John established the new research site at the Valles Grande. But throughout the 2017 season, the Squad visited the Redondo Meadow site and found two surviving members of the stricken colony: a four-year-old female original resident who they recaptured and marked "Head", and a one-year-old female who'd been born in 2016 and who they recaptured and marked "RAB" (Ring Around the Belly). With a couple more prairie dogs scattered outside the study site, the outlook was not entirely optimistic but still hopeful (always hopeful). We do not know at this point if our survivors were infected with the plague (and perhaps had antibodies or some type of resistance) or managed to avoid infection.
A couple of days ago, after spending the season photographing the new colony at the Valles Grande, Mariana Rivera Rodriguez (field assistant and former squaddie) went back to Redondo Meadow with the goal of capturing and marking any surviving prairie dogs. Gladly, she found Head and RAB not only alive and well, but each mothering a litter of new juveniles. Who the father may be, we cannot say, but he is likely one of the prairie dogs lingering on the edges of the study site and occasionally coming nearer. Regardless, Mariana and John are optimistic about the prospects of a repopulation of Redondo Meadow.
The next couple of weeks, as John and the Squad finish trapping and conducting alarm-call experiments at the Valles Grande, Mariana will be trapping and tagging the mothers and offspring at Redondo Meadow. Let's hope for as many females among the offspring as possible, so that not too many of them disperse.
Plague affects not only prairie dogs but other rodents and other mammals, including of course humans. You can read more about plague at our CONSERVATION page.