The Utah Prairie Dog 

The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), found only in southwestern and central Utah. The species is one of three species of white-tailed prairie dogs in the United States. While the Utah prairie dog prefers arid grasslands, it can also be found in desert rangelands, sagebrush steppes and edges of Ponderosa pine stands, as well as agricultural fields and urban areas.   

Utah prairie dogs are predominantly herbivores, though they also eat insects. Grasses are a staple of the annual diet, but other plants are selected during different times of the year. There is a preference for alfalfa over grasses when both are present. This is important because many agricultural fields within the range of the prairie dog are planted in alfalfa crops.

Utah prairie dog populations are susceptible to sylvatic plague (Yersinia pestis), a bacterium introduced to the North American continent in 1899.  Plague results in effects local colony sizes and sometimes collapses.  

The Utah prairie dog is a social animal.  They are organized into social groups called clans, consisting of an adult male, several adult females, and their offspring. 

Historic species distribution included portions of Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, Washington, and Wayne Counties (Collier 1975, USFWS 2012). Today, Utah prairie dogs are limited to the central and southwestern quarter of Utah in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Piute, Sevier, and Wayne Counties.  It is estimated that Utah prairie dogs currently occupy less than 10% of their historic range.

The total rangewide spring count for 2016 was 11,484 with 2,579 Utah prairie dogs on public/protected land. The graph below reflects the spring counts from 2012 to 2016 within the West Desert, Awapa and Paunsagaunt recovery units. 



UPD2.jpg Reasons to Love the Utah

a Utah State University Extension Youtube video


The Endangered Species Act

photo courtesy of Brian Slobe

The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), found only in southwestern and central Utah, was listed as an endangered species on June 4, 1973 (38 FR 14678). At the time of listing, the species was threatened by habitat destruction and modification, over-exploitation, disease, and predation. Subsequently, Utah prairie dog populations increased significantly in portions of their range, and on May 29, 1984 (49 FR 22330), the species was reclassified as threatened with a special rule to allow regulated take of the species. This special rule was amended on June 14, 1991 (56 FR 7438) and in 2012, to increase the amount of regulated take allowed throughout the species' range.

Utah Prairie Dogs (UPDs) historically occupied several Utah Counties: south to Iron County north to Millard County and east into Garfield and Wayne Counties. Today, the majority of UPDs are found in Iron, Garfield, Wayne and Piute Counties. Human population growth within the range of the Utah prairie dog has resulted in conflicts between species recovery and land-use practices and development. Several efforts have been implemented to facilitate the recovery of the Utah prairie dog; however, effective coordination among recovery efforts, regional planning and development must be enhanced to facilitate accomplishing desired management goals.