By Kelsey Keener
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently captured several prairie dogs from the Iron County area to fit them with GPS collars and release them on public lands.
DWR Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Biologist Adam Kavalunas said the overall goal of this project is increase the number of prairie dogs on public lands to get them de-listed from the endangered species list.
“In order to get the animal de-listed, we need to increase their numbers on public lands so we take them from private land and try to get them to survive on public lands,” he said.
Another reason for fitting the prairie dogs with GPS collars is to try to increase the success rate with translocation.
“In years past we haven’t realized the success that we’ve hoped for,” Kavalunas said. “So we’re putting these collars on to try to figure out when we release these animals what’s happening to them, where are they going, why are they dying and use that information for future years to increase our success.”
The 19 prairie dogs that were captured on Aug. 29 were taken from residential areas.
“The idea is to move them out of areas where they’re causing conflict with humans and we’ll take them far out on public lands where they can have space to roam,” Kavalunas said.
Processing the prairie dogs involves logging the animals’ age, weight and sex so if they are recaptured after their release, DWR wildlife technicians will know where they came from and what their health is like. The animals also receive ear tags for identification.
BLM wildlife biologists placed the GPS collars on the prairie dogs and marked each individual with ink so the animal can be identified on video footage.
The collaring project will continue throughout the month of September.