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Only Vilas Zoo prairie dog to survive winter transferred to Baraboo zoo

SHELLEY K. MESCH smesch@madison.comMay 18, 2019

Following a brutal winter that killed almost all of the prairie dogs at Vilas Zoo, the lone surviving prairie dog has been transferred to Ochsner Park Zoo in Baraboo.

Intense rains last year caused the water table under the exhibit to rise about 10 feet above normal, said Jess Thompson, Vilas Zoo’s conservation education curator. That limited how deeply the prairie dogs could burrow during the winter, when near-record low temperatures caused most of them to freeze to death despite extra bedding provided by zookeepers.

“As it can be detrimental to disturb the prairie dogs during their denning, we only recently learned of this issue once the time had passed that they would normally have emerged from their dens,” Thompson said.

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