Trouble began for these little prairie dogs way back in the 1920s. Find out why theyre still trying to dig their way out almost 100 years later.
What’s behind a name? In this case, the first pioneers to settle the western Great Plains decided on the name “prairie dog” when they saw sprawling towns of the observant little rodents peeking their heads above the long grasses.
On this Wildlife Wednesday, we head to Utah to dig up some details about the locals (local prairie dogs, that is).
The home range of these furry little den dwellers is in … Utah. More specifically, they’re found in areas with low-growing vegetation in the southwestern area of the state. This way, when they stand on their back feet in the typical prairie dog pose, they can see what’s around them.
Why are they threatened?
Problems began for these little prairie dogs in the 1920s, when control methods first began. By the 1960s, these methods, combined with drought, habitat destruction, and disease, left their formerly robust population size in shambles.
Current threats include urbanization, poaching by hunters and farmers who fear that the animals will affect their crops, outbreaks of disease, and drought. Their current habitat is also undergoing change; because of grazing livestock, shrubbery has started to overtake parts of their grassland range, resulting in conditions that aren’t very conducive to lookout duty.
However, things might just be looking up for these observant little dirt-dwellers. Since their inclusion on the US Fish and Wildlife List of Threatened and Endangered Species in 1973, their numbers have started to stabilize, allowing them to be downlisted from endangered to threatened.