Local Gunnison prairie dogs will be surveyed
In early April, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) will once again survey the Gunnison’s prairie dog in San Juan County and a small area of Grand County.
The survey is part of a multi-state venture in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah in partnership with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
By monitoring this species once every three years, the association hopes to demonstrate to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the Gunnison’s prairie dog is being well-managed by individual states and does not need to be put on the Endangered Species List.
In 2008, the USFWS found that these enthusiastic burrowers did not require listing in Utah, in part because DWR’s surveys in 2007 demonstrated they were being adequately managed by the state. The USFWS found that listing was warranted in portions of central Colorado and north central New Mexico, but the listing was postponed because of higher priorities.
The DWR plans to look for prairie dogs on 125 random 60-acre plots throughout potential habitat on both private and public land in southeastern Utah. The survey does not include tribal land.
If a random plot location falls on private property, the DWR will contact the appropriate landowner and ask permission to access their property.
Utah Farm Bureau has agreed to assist in these contacts, as they did in 2007. Statistical analysis of these data over a period of years will indicate the health of the population over its multi-state range.
The DWR has communicated with the Farm Services Agency about the value of Conservation Reserve Program lands in southeastern Utah to sensitive species and other wildlife. The DWR hopes to see leases of CRP land maintained, because they contribute to the well being of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, burrowing owls, short-eared owls, and long-billed curlews as well as prairie dogs.
Landowners with questions may contact the DWR at 435-613-3716.