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Utah DWR traps prairie dogs in Cedar City and releases them on public land – St George News

CEDAR CITY — A tiny prairie dog is wrapped like a burrito in a specially designed bag, only her nose sticking out. She will soon be free in her new home, but first the experts will weigh her, put a metal tag in her ear and give her an award.

A prairie dog being processed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Cedar City, Utah, July 27, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Multiple traps were set on a 20-acre parcel earmarked for new development, and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources staff hoped to capture, treat and release as many of the prairie dogs that lived there as possible, he said. Barbara Sugarman, Utah prairie dog recovery biologist.

A group of field technicians and biologists scoured the property, collecting traps and looking for signs of prairie dogs. A small amount of peanut butter was placed in each cage to entice rodents into the traps, Sugarman said.

The division keeps track of prairie dog colonies by conducting regular surveys, as the Cedar City News previously reported.

Sugarman said that once trapping season rolled around in early July, she or Utah prairie dog management biologist Patrick Anderson offered to trap owners who obtained the proper documents and paid the required fees. . Whether the division can catch up and how long they have to do so depends on the developer’s timeline, she added.

This file photo shows prairie dogs in southern Utah, date unspecified | AP Photo of Rick Bowmer, St. George News

One of the reasons Sugarman recommends that landowners planning to develop their properties allow trapping is that once work begins, prairie dogs can sometimes migrate to neighboring parcels. He pointed to a farm field that bordered the property.

“I could definitely see them moving around and giving someone else a headache,” he said. “So it’s really cool when they (landowners) have time to allow us to come in here and catch. It’s a win-win for prairie dog conservation and less of an issue when they start a project.”

Additionally, prairie dogs occasionally move into residential gardens, posing a risk to pets. If rodents have fleas and haven’t been treated for plague, pets could get sick or bring fleas into homes where occupants could also get sick. Sugarman stressed, however, that disease risk from prairie dogs is generally not “a big concern.”

Once DWR catches a prairie dog, the animal is given a deltamethrin preventative powder that kills fleas and prevents infestation, Sugarman said.


A prairie dog being processed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Cedar City, Utah, July 27, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

As part of the procedure, the group trapped two animals, covered their cages with burlap to simulate a burrow and prevent overheating, and loaded them onto the truck. They took the prairie dogs to the Cedar City field office, where they were weighed on a spring scale and determined whether they were male or female.

Both were healthy females, Sugarman said, adding that they had recently nursed puppies, a positive sign for their health.

By trapping season, most pups are weaned and can survive independently. And because they tend to be more naive than adults, they are often caught and released early on and then joined by the rest of the colony, Sugarman said.

Once the prairie dog was weighed, they placed a “burrito bag” over the opening of the trap and coaxed it into blowing into it, which was demonstrated by Anderson. After the prairie dog was inside her with his nose sticking out, the field technician attached a tracking tag to her ear and prepared her for release.


Patrick Anderson weighs a prairie dog with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Cedar City, Utah, July 27, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The prairie dogs were given zucchini slices to provide them with supplemental nutrition and hydration to support their health during the stressful catch-and-release process, Sugarman said. Prairie dogs are always released onto public or private land with specific permission from the owner, and these two were assigned to a new home managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Sugarman and Anderson wandered through the field, filled with tumbleweeds and thistles, to find a suitable abandoned den for the two prairie dogs. The previous colony perished after a plague outbreak and would likely be a safe place for the animals to build a new home, Sugarman said.

She was also excited to hear the noise they made when they came out of the traps, describing it as a “cute sound, like an angry kitten.”

Burrows can be built by burying boxes and tunnels in the ground. But Sugarman said these pale in comparison to the complex structures that rodents burrow and that releasing the animals in these locations could increase their chances of survival.

Predator management is important to ensure the animals’ relocation is a success, Sugarman said. Because badgers also dig burrows, they are a big risk to prairie dogs, as are coyotes and birds of prey. One protective measure to keep raptors, such as golden eagles, away from rodents is to place protective barriers, often made of chicken wire, over burrows.

Prairie dogs survey their surroundings, Cedar City, Utah, July 27, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

After finding large, mostly intact burrows, Sugarman and Anderson braced the cages with their feet and tilted them down, encouraging the prairie dogs to climb out. Each one did so quickly, burying themselves in the soft earth, moistened by the recent rains. Once safe, they laughed.

“They seem pretty happy,” Sugarman said. “And if she doesn’t want to stay in this particular warren, there are so many scattered around here. She can explore and meet another quite easily.”

The number of animals caught per day varies based on weather, day, and location, among other factors. Sugarman said technicians at Panguitch caught as many as 54, while fewer are caught in other circumstances.

The catching season began on July 1st and will continue until September 3rd. Those who want to request trapping on their property should plan ahead to ensure the process fits into their schedule, Sugarman said.

A prairie dog in a trap set by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Cedar City, Utah, July 27, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Sugarman said four mechanisms allow the capture of Utah prairie dogs: when the land is used for agriculture; when the plot will be developed; if the owner believes that the development will start in the future; or for human health or safety.

To determine if a survey is necessary, homeowners can refer to the Iron County GIS web page, which contains the Prairie Dog Authorization Map, or call Reed Erickson, Planner and Special Services Coordinator for Building and Zoning Iron County at 435-865-5350.

Homeowners can also contact DWR by phone at 435-691-5700 or by email. [email protected].

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