IRON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) — Utah has its very own species that doesn’t exist outside of state lines, and while still a federally threatened species, it appears to be booming from this year’s rain.
Utah has three species of prairie dogs, one of which is named the Utah prairie dog for being unique to this state, according to the Division of Wildlife Resources’ Utah Prairie Dog Team.
The species lives in the southwest portion of Utah and can be recognized by its distinct dark eyebrow patch above its eyes.
This year, officials estimate there are around 65,000 to 69,000 Utah prairie dogs, a 50% increase from last year. And while this does increase chances for human-wildlife conflict, it’s good news for conservancy efforts.
Utah prairie dog fun facts
1. Female prairie dogs have an average of 4 pups a year, however, with the current conditions it’s likely the average is much higher. This means the overall population estimate is likely on the low side.
2. Utah’s exclusive species used to be highly endangered. In the 1970s, it was estimated only 3,300 prairie dogs remained due to their high susceptibility to the plague which came to North America at the beginning of the 1800s, according to the website.
Today, DWR says the Utah prairie dog is considered a federally threatened species and protected under the Endangered Species Act. This means there are some requirements near their population in Iron and Garfield County.
3. DWR offers services to help mitigate human-wildlife conflict. DWR officials offer relocation services to remove prairie dogs from private property and bring them to public or protected land.
In some areas of southwest Utah, prairie dog surveys are required before building on the land to determine if prairie dogs are living there.
4. This year, authorities have already trapped and relocated hundreds of prairie dogs. DWR officials report having relocated 727 Utah prairie dogs to public or protected land in just one month. Last year, 838 were relocated over the course of all three months.
5. Around 2/3 of the Utah prairie dog population are females. Male prairie dogs are more likely to be killed by predators as they are sent away from their home base to establish another. They often are found around a third of a mile away, however, some have been found 10 miles away from the nearest colony.
To learn more about the Utah prairie dog and conservation efforts, visit their new website.