|Those who will be shooting prairie dogs in Utah this spring are reminded of three prairie dog take closures.
One closure is in place to lessen the chance of federal listing, while another will help a reintroduced population of black-footed ferrets by helping maintain their primary food source. The third closure protects Utah prairie dogs, a federally listed species.
Known as Coyote Basin, the boundary of the roughly 35-square-mile area begins at the Utah/Colorado state line and Uintah County Road 403 (Stanton Road) northeast of Bonanza; southwest along this road to SR 45 at Bonanza; north along this highway to Uintah County Road 328 (Old Bonanza Highway); north along this road to Raven Ridge (just south of US 40); southeast along Raven Ridge to the Utah/Colorado state line; south along this state line to point of beginning.
Maps of the area are available by calling the Division's Northeastern Region office at (435) 789-3103, or the Division's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.
Prairie dogs are the black-footed ferret's primary food source and the Utah Wildlife Board wants to keep the small Coyote Basin area closed to prairie dog take until further ferret releases are discontinued, or a self-sufficient ferret population is established.
A total of 72 ferrets were released in the area in October and November 1999.
Hunters are reminded that the Coyote Basin area represents only about 2 percent of the prairie dog habitat in the Uintah Basin, and there are plenty of good areas where hunters may shoot white-tailed prairie dogs in the basin this year, said Ron Stewart, conservation outreach manager for the Division's Northeastern Region.
The shooting of Gunnison's prairie dogs is allowed from June 16 through March 31. During the open period, a license is not required and there is no bag limit.
Take of Gunnison's prairie dogs is allowed on private land during the April 1 to June 15 closed period, if prairie dogs are causing agricultural damage or nuisance problems.
Bill Bates, a biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the Gunnison prairie dog take closure is in part a result of a recent lawsuit filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failure to adequately protect the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act.
Concern has been voiced nationwide over the decline of all prairie dog species and the loss of habitat.
While the lawsuit didn't involve Gunnison prairie dogs, the Division felt their needs should be addressed to avoid possible federal listing in the future. Gunnison prairie dogs are found only in southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado, western New Mexico and Arizona.
It's hoped the closure will help avoid the need for federal listing by actively managing to protect breeding populations, and to protect the population during breeding and young-rearing periods.
For more information, call the Division's Southeastern Region office at (435) 636-0260.
As with Gunnison's prairie dogs, landowners can get permission to control Utah prairie dogs that are damaging agricultural lands or crops. However, a permit must be obtained from the Division's Southern Region office in Cedar City before landowners can take Utah prairie dogs that are causing agricultural damage. Permits may be obtained between June 1 and Dec. 31.
Utah prairie dogs may not be taken, for any reason, between Jan. 1 and May 31.
All of the prairie dogs found in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, Washington and Wayne counties are considered Utah prairie dogs and may not be shot.
For more information, call the Division's Southern Region office at (435) 865-6100.
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