Utah Prairie Dog Recovery

by OBDK on February 09, 2022

Prairie dogs are rodents that are part of the squirrel family. There are five different species of them:1
  • The Utah Prairie Dog
  • The White-Tailed Prairie Dog
  • The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
  • The Gunnison Prairie Dog
  • The Mexican Prairie Dog 
Today, we’re focusing on the Utah Prairie Dog. The only place they’re found is a small area of Utah. Out of all the prairie dogs, their habitat is the smallest. They are also a keystone species.2
They are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.2 Originally, they were listed as Endangered in 1973. The label was then downgraded to Threatened in 1984. Their decline began in the 1920s and continued into the 1960s. This was due to:1
  • Control programs 
  • Poisoning 
  • Sylvatic plague 
  • Habitat destruction 
  • Drought
The main threats to them now are habitat loss (due to urban expansion, recreation, energy development, etc.), invasive species, and plague.1 
These animals have several natural predators. Included are coyotes, hawks, badgers, and snakes. Utah Prairie Dogs live in burrows in large colonies. This keeps them safe from predators above ground like hawks or golden eagles but are easy spots for badgers and snakes to get into. Prairie dogs will warn each other when predators are near, and some will try to keep the predator’s attention away from the rest of the group.3 
To recover the species, a plan was made in 1991. This first plan’s objective was to establish populations in three different recovery areas. A revision was made in 2012, which focuses on habitat loss, disease, and conservation of the species on private lands. In recent years, the population has grown significantly because of these measures.1 
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  1. https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/utahPrairieDog.php
  2. https://wildearthguardians.org/wildlife-conservation/endangered-species-list/mammals/utah-prairie-dog/
  3. https://www.nps.gov/brca/learn/nature/upd.htm

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