Friday, October 26, 2012

Utah Prairie Dog

Cynomys parvidens
There are five different species of Prairie Dog, with the Utah being the smallest. They also happen to be one of the most rare, and are listed as Endangered. They have cinnamon colored backs, white tails, and brown spots above and below the eyes.

Unsurprisingly, the Utah Prairie Dog is found only within the State of Utah. They, like all Prairie Dogs, are members of the Squirrel family, and they are most closely related to the White-tailed Prairie Dog. The two species may have once been a single species way back when, though they are now separate and live in different ranges (the White-tailed lives further north and east).

Utah Prairie Dogs build extensive underground burrows, and their large extended families live together within them. They live in these "towns" year round, and remain in them exclusively in the winter, though they don't take part in a true hibernation process. Utah Prairie Dogs are primarily herbivores, preferring to feed on flowers and seeds, but they will eat grasses when necessary, and will also grab the occasional insect.

The Utah Prarie Dog is considered Endangered because their population went on a large decline due to habitat loss and intentional killing. They were causing damage to crops and farmland, which led to shootings and poisonings that decimated populations. Since the 1970s, efforts have been made to move colonies from private to public land, but nearly 70% of the Prairie Dogs still live in unprotected private areas. The population is still on the decline, and it is estimated that there are around 10,000 left.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Utah, United States
Size : Length up to 14in (36cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Rodentia
Family : Sciuridae -- Genus : Cynomys -- Species : C. parvidens

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