Protections for Imperiled Utah Prairie Dogs Improved, but still Lacking
Amendments to Controversial "Take" Rule Do Not Go Far Enough
D.C.– The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published amendments today to
the special rule allowing “take” (which includes killing, disturbance, and
harassment) of Utah prairie dogs, which is listed as “threatened” under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA).
will limit take of Utah prairie dogs to 10 percent of the current annual
population count, with 7 percent allocated to agricultural lands and 3 percent
to lands within 0.5 miles of Utah prairie dog conservation lands. Take is only
allowed from June 15 to December 31 on these lands, and methods are limited to translocation,
trapping intended to lethally remove prairie dogs, and shooting. Incidental
take resulting from agricultural practices such as irrigating, mowing, or
harvesting on legitimately managed agricultural lands are exempted. The revised
rule still allows take through any legal method and at any time to address serious
safety hazards or prevent disturbance to significant cultural or burial sites.
that the Service is setting clearer limits on take of Utah prairie dogs,” said Taylor
Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “However,
these amendments don’t go far enough. The rule still allows lethal control of a
highly imperiled, ecologically important species.”
dogs have not yet recovered from historic population declines that resulted in
an 87 percent reduction in distribution. A victim of historic and misguided
extermination campaigns, Utah prairie dogs are threatened today by sylvatic
plague (a non-native disease against which prairie dogs have almost no
immunity); habitat loss from oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, off-road
vehicles, and urban sprawl; drought and climate change; illegal poisoning; and
both legal and illegal shooting.
allowances for lethal control send a message that any animals perceived as interfering
with agricultural interests is disposable, even imperiled species,” continued
Jones. “It’s time to change our priorities and focus on coexistence rather than
on appeasing special interests that want to wipe out wildlife.”
management of prairie dogs earned a 'C-' in the Report from the Burrow, an annual report card on prairie dog
management published by WildEarth Guardians.