Join conservation efforts for species at risk. Learn something new and make a difference for Sage Grouse, Short-horned lizards and Black-tailed prairie dogs. Contact us for details on volunteer opportunities!

Come help us conserve the black-tailed prairie dogs

Grasslands National Park is conducting an active management program to mitigate crashes in the Black-tailed prairie dog population caused by drought.
If you are passionate about conservation, want to learn something new and are available between August 27 and October 15, 2018, we need your help. No experience is required.

The task:

  • to distribute supplemental feed in assigned prairie dog colonies
  • to assist with a field experiment evaluating the effect of food supplementation on body mass, body condition, overwinter survival and reproduction
  • to assist with sampling of fleas (burrow swabbing) for sylvatic plague surveillance

We will provide:

  • shared accommodation (3 bedrooms, fully furnished apartment. Each room has a bunk bed. Two persons per room)
  • training
  • staff support
  • gloves, snake gaiters, GPS, radio, mosquito jackets.

You will need:

  • a vehicle
  • appropriate clothing for the weather conditions and sturdy shoes for hiking in rough terrain, water bottles, a backpack, sunscreen, insecticide.
  • bedding and personal items
  • food

When you contact us, we will provide you with more information.

Interested? Contact

Canadian Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research Project Volunteer Opportunity

Parks Canada and the Calgary Zoo have partnered in the recovery of black-footed ferrets and the management of black-tailed prairie dogs since 2004, with the Calgary Zoo commencing field work in 2007. The primary objective of this partnership is for the Calgary Zoo to use its scientific and communications/outreach expertise and capacity to work collaboratively with Parks Canada to incorporate scientific research into conservation actions and to inspire Canadians to value Canada’s only Prairie Dog Ecosystem. Furthermore, the Calgary Zoo uses their expertise in species reintroductions to collaboratively further the process and increase the success of ferret recovery in Canada.


Grasslands National Park in partnership with the Calgary Zoo are looking for volunteers willing to participate in field research for the Canadian Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research Project.
Space is limited and will be filled with qualified applicants on a first come first serve basis. We will only be able to accommodate two volunteers for each time period.


Some of the field work might include burrow swabbing, visual counts, burrow counts and vegetation sampling on black-tailed prairie dog colonies in the West Block of Grasslands National Park. In addition, volunteers may be able to observe and participate in live-trapping of black-tailed prairie dogs, depending on scheduling constraints. We will attempt, but unfortunately cannot commit, to accommodate preferences for a specific research activity.

As our field work is heavily dependent on the weather, the schedule of specific field activities will be determined on a daily basis. Field activities are limited on rainy or cold days and will likely be replaced with motion sensor camera maintenance and sorting photographs.


Black-footed ferret reintroductions began in Grasslands National Park in 2009. They are a specialist predator of black-tailed prairie dogs, a highly social and colonial keystone rodent. Two of the biggest threats to the recovery of black-footed ferrets in Canada are sylvatic plague (to which both black-footed ferrets and black-tailed prairie dogs are highly susceptible) and availability of prairie dogs as prey. In addition to plague, a potential limiting factor black-tailed prairie dog populations is availability of forage. The research conducted by this volunteer program will contribute to learning about the distribution and abundance of fleas (burrow swabbing for fleas, which are the vector for sylvatic plague), prairie dog population density and pup production (visual counts and burrow counts) and prairie dog habitat quality and availability of forage (vegetation sampling). All of these research activities will contribute to better understanding the drivers of population dynamics of black-tailed prairie dogs, contributing to making strides in the recovery of this predator - prey system in Canada.


Volunteers are needed for the following times:

  • June 10 to 15, 2018
  • June 24 to 29, 2018
  • July 15 to 20, 2018
  • September 2 to 7, 2018

We will only be able to accommodate a maximum of two volunteers for each time period. Plan to arrive in Val Marie for orientation on Sunday afternoon/evening (specific time TBD), and to be in the field from Monday to Friday.

To request an application for this volunteer event, contact:

Danielle Grant, Volunteer Coordinator
Grasslands National Park
Telephone: 306-298-2353