Utah prairie dogs went from near-extinction to conservation success. Here’s why

May 13, 2024, 1:10 PM | Updated: 1:17 pm

PANGUITCH — Utah Prairie Dog Day was held Thursday at Bryce Canyon National Park to celebrate and raise awareness for the once-endangered species, and the large part Utah Prairie Dogs play in the state’s ecosystem.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources coordinated the event with the park, where Petey the prairie dog joined a group of kids and parents. Research Egologist with the United States Geological Survey David Eads spoke and held games with the kids, and drawings from the event of Utah prairie dogs will be displayed in the visitor’s center.

“It’s important I think for adults too. Kids are really fun to teach, and oh my gosh it was amazing watching all the kids today. It was like — the line for all the kids that wanted to do the little prairie dog calling contest was amazing,” said Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Biologist Barbara Sugarman. “I think there’s so much to learn about what can be done with the species.”

Petey the prairie dog at the Utah prairie dog day in Bryce Canyon National Park on May 9, 2024. (Marc Weaver, KSL TV)

According to the National Park Service, Utah prairie dogs are one of five species living in North America. Prairie dogs once scattered an enormous area of the western Great Plains, and Utah prairie dogs were recorded in numbers as high as 95,000 in the 1920s.

As western settlers continued to move in, the number of Utah prairie dogs declined because of pest control, disease, and loss of habitat. By 1972, Utah prairie dogs had been reduced to an estimated 3,300, the DWR stated. In 1973, the mammals were considered an endangered species.

“I know there’s definitely some conflict situations with Utah prairie dogs and we want to make sure we help those folks and also help the species at the same time. We do lots of trapping and translocation efforts in those conflict situations,” Sugarman said.

Sugarman said conservation strategists reintroduced a colony to Bryce Canyon National Park in the 1980s. Sugarman said 153 Utah prairie dogs now live inside the park, making up the largest protected population of Utah prairie dogs.

Range-wide, Sugarman said conservationists counted over 9,500 Utah prairie dogs during the spring count of 2023. However, because of the timing of the count, and the fact that young prairie dogs and newborns will not be seen, DWR estimated a population of over 69,500.

Sugarman said the DWR works with multiple other agencies, including biologists with Bryce Canyon, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and even Utah counties.

She said that due to the communal effort, all units met their recovery goal for the first time in 2023, which was a “huge accomplishment.”

“It’s a really good story of conservation success, Utah prairie dogs are doing really well right now, the population is pretty close to one of the all-time high peaks right now,” Sugarman said. “I like to say it’s a good lesson of partnership and how working together really accomplishes amazing conservation goals.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Axel Thomas Peterson and his father Matthew Peterson placing flags on veteran graves at the Larkin ...

Kiersten Nunez

Honoring Veterans: 3,000 flags placed by youth volunteers

In a heartfelt tribute to the men and women who have served the country, more than 200 youth volunteers from around the Salt Lake Valley gathered to honor military veterans ahead of Memorial Day.

5 hours ago

Joan Eccles and her mother were gifted matching engraved charms. Once lost, Eccles has found the mi...

Andrew Adams

St. George family believes they found long lost charm on eBay

A St. George woman was reunited with a lost family charm in an unexpected place on the internet.

6 hours ago

A yearling bull moose was found in a neighborhood in the foothills of Ogden. (Courtesy: Crey Maxey)...

Carlysle Price

Moose found on homeowner’s porch, what to do if this happens to you

A yearling bull moose was found on a homeowner's front porch Thursday and was safely relocated by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

8 hours ago

The male driver of a silver sedan who police believe had their car stolen by the man accused of kil...

Michael Houck and Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV

Police searching for man targeted by suspect in Sgt. Bill Hooser’s death

Police are looking for a man whose car was attempted to be stolen at a gas station by the man accused of killing Sgt. Bill Hooser.

8 hours ago

The Audi after it was hit by an SUV on May 12....

Carlysle Price

Man facing six charges after car accident that injured two

A man was charged Thursday in connection to a car accident on May 12 that injured two.

9 hours ago

A basketball hoop at the Adaptive Arena in Bluffdale, which is a gym made for kids with some disabi...

Alex Cabrero

Get In The Games: Adaptive Arena welcomes kids with disabilities to play sports

A new gym is welcoming kids with a disability to play sports that are specifically designed for their needs.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Utah prairie dogs went from near-extinction to conservation success. Here’s why