This prairie dog measures 12 to
16 inches from head to tail, with another 1.5 to
2.5 inches of tail; it weighs between 1.5 and 2.5
pounds. The coat is buff yellow or light brown in
color, and the tail is tipped with white. Like
other prairie dogs, it has short, rounded ears,
short legs, and feet equipped with claws for
Distribution and Habitat
As its name suggests, the Utah
prairie dog is found only in the grasslands and
flat plains of south central Utah.
Utah prairie dogs live in
groups or families (coteries). Group
members are very sociable and maintain unity
through physical contact. When two prairie dogs
meet, they open their mouths and touch teeth
together. This "kiss" serves to
distinguish a coterie member from a stranger.
Strangers are usually "greeted" with
bared teeth, while coterie members are groomed.
Females usually spend their
entire lives in their birth coteries, while males
generally move away before their first mating
The average Utah prairie dog
town takes up less than 20 acres. Burrow tunnels
are about 3 to 6 feet deep and approximately 15
feet long. Small chambers close to the surface
are used to listen for above-ground activities,
while deeper chambers are used for sleeping and
pup-rearing. Mounds on top of the burrows may be
up to 2 feet high and 10 feet in diameter; these
are used as lookout stations and to prevent water
from getting into the tunnels.
Breeding takes place in March.
Gestation period is about 35 days. Litter size
ranges from 1 to 6 pups. Pups remain underground
for their first six weeks, and reach sexual
maturity after their first winter. Utah prairie
dogs have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years in
Green grasses make up 70 to 95
percent of the diet, with the remainder being
seeds and insects.
In 1900 it was estimated that
there were 95,000 Utah prairie dogs. Habitat
destruction and pest control efforts have,
however, seriously reduced that number, and there
are now believed to be less than 5,000 left in
genus & species Cynomys parvidens
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